Having run across it while doing research online awhile back, the Rock Eagle Effigy in Georgia was a natural choice for a detour \ stop on the way to Florida.
The Rock Eagle Effigy Mound is an archaeological site located in Putnam County, Georgia that was likely constructed between 1,000 and 3,000 years ago (1000BC – 1000AD). It is an earthwork that was built up from thousands of pieces of quartzite laid in the mounded shape of a large bird that is 102 ft long (head to tail) and 120 ft wide (wingspan). Though it’s referred to as an eagle, researchers do not know exactly what type of bird this was intended to portray by its creators. The effigy is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and administered by the University of Georgia.
Only two bird effigy mounds have been found east of the Mississippi with the other located 13 miles away and known as the Rock Hawk Effigy. Both are thought to have been created by Woodland Indians, though there is evidence of Archaic Indian occupation of the region. They were likely part of the Adena or Hopewell cultures.
There are several theories as to why these were created ranging from the need for a central burial place in the area, to a message to the gods.
The mound depicts a bird with a large beak and fan tail, with its head facing south by southeast and beak points almost south. Non-indigenous clay has been found at the mound suggesting that materials were brought in from other areas during its construction. Evidence of human cremation has been found on the mound as well as a projectile point. Some scholars believe that the mound resembles a buzzard or vulture more than an eagle… with the buzzard being a symbol of death among indigenous peoples, which would be a fitting image if it was intended as a burial mound.
In 1954 the property was wold to the United States government in association with the University of Georgia and the granite tower was constructed at the foot of the effigy providing an “aerial” view of the site for visitors.
Visitation to the site is free of charge so the next time you are traveling through Georgia, or are a local resident, I highly encourage you to stop and check it out!