Searching for Swift Creek Tribe; A South Georgia Research Team Plans to Dig for Ancient Artifacts

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Byline: CAROLE HAWKINS

ST. SIMONS ISLAND - Before Muskogee (Creek) Indian tribes inhabited Georgia, a more mysterious native culture known only by its archaeological name, the Swift Creek, walked the same land. They left behind elaborate paddle-stamped ceramics, which represent the earliest complicated stamped pottery in the Southeast.

Now, a group of professional archaeologists hopes to find a few remaining traces of the Swift Creek culture in Glynn County. The South Georgia Archaeological Research Team plans to conduct a one-day dig in April or May on St. Simons Island at a site where the Swift Creek are believed to have once lived.

"To be able to do any kind of work in Glynn County any more is exciting to me," said team member Fred Cook, who had requested permission from the county to perform the dig.

"So much of the coastal area has been developed. Archaeological remains have either been destroyed or rendered inaccessible," he said.

Between A.D. 500 and 800, the Swift Creek occupied an area that extends from the St. Johns River, north into McIntosh County, upstream along the Altamaha River and back south toward the Gulf Coast, according to Georgia archaeologist Frankie Snow, who has devoted his life to studying the tribe.

Because they didn't stay very long in one area, few permanent remnants of their civilization were created. But archaeologists know them by the designs they stamped into their clay pots. A wooden paddle wrapped with cord was used to create recognizable shapes out of multi-tracked lines.

"They look like human masks, serpents, insects, all kinds of objects that were part of the everyday lives of these people," said Snow.

Some of these same symbols are found in the work of descendent tribes. Such tribes were known by the first white pioneers, who recorded information about the world view these images represented. Snow believes Swift Creek belief systems can be inferred from this. He also believes there was trade between the Swift Creek peoples as far as the St. …