Attractions Near Helen, Georgia

Sautee-Nacoochee Indian Mound

The famous Nacoochee Indian Mound is located at the corner of highways 17 and 75, just before entering the town of Helen.  The legend of the Nacoochee Indian Mound states that Indian lovers from opposing tribes are buried within the mound.  Sautee, a brave of the Chicksaw Tribe, and Nacoochee, the daughter of a Cherokee Chief fell immediately and hopelessly in love when a Chicksaw band stopped in Cherokee territory at a designated resting place.  The two lovers met in the night and ran away to nearby Yonah Mountain to spend a few idyllic days together.  When they later confronted Nacoochee’s father with the idea of creating peace between the two nations, Chief Wahoo ordered Sautee thrown from the high cliffs of Yonah Mountain while Nacoochee was forced to watch.  Almost immediately, Nacoochee broke away from her father’s restraining hands and leaped from the cliff to join her lover.  At the foot of the cliff, the lovers dragged their broken bodies together and locked in a final embrace and died there.  The Chief, overcome with remorse realized the greatness of love and buried the lovers, still locked in death, near the banks of the Chattahoochee River as a burial mound.

In reality, the Nacoochee Mound is a burial site, the graves in most probability having been placed there long before the Cherokee Tribe inhabited the area.  Excavation between May and October in 1915 by a joint expedition of the Museum of the American Indian, Heyes Foundation, and the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution unearthed 75 burials.  The graves were discovered at varying levels, showing that the burials took place over a number of years.  The differences in artifacts found indicate a slight change in the culture, due possibly to the influence of civilization.  Fire-pits were also found throughout the Mound, showing use at varying levels.  In the Mound, none of the remains were in a state of preservation to enable measurement, all of them being so decayed as to be beyond recovery.  Many years later, the Cherokee Tribe used the Mound as a site for their townhouse and ceremonial rites, ignorant as to the original purpose of the artificial hill.  The dwellings of the village proper (some reports state 300 houses) were erected in the surrounding flatlands near the river.

Of the 75 skeletons unearthed, 56 were adults, 7 were adolescents, 4 were children and 3 were unidentifiable as to age.  With respect to orientation, the dead were interred with head directed un varying compass direction; one was buried in a sitting position, two were buried in a face down position.  In regard to age, the direction of the burial bears no special significance.  Flexation of the body, especially of the legs was quite common.  Of the determined burials, 47 were flexed in varying degrees (6 being flexed backward), while only 4 were buried extended full length.  Artifacts were found only 27 of the burials, the others had no accompaniments of any description.

The Nacoochee Mound is located in White County, Georgia two miles south of Helen on property belonging to the L.C. Hardman Estate.  Dr. Hardman was a former Governor of the State of Georgia. During the summer of 1980 Nacoochee Valley, in which the Mound is located, was placed on the National Register of Historical Places as a historical district.

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