Edwards-Pitman Environmental, Inc. (EPEI) conducted a cultural resources survey for Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) proposed safety improvements to the intersection of United States (US) 19/State Route (SR) 9 and SR 60 in Lumpkin County, Georgia (P.I. No. 0009950; HP No. 131227-005). The project proposes to reconstruct approximately .26 mile of US 19/SR 9 at SR 60 from an existing Y-intersection into a roundabout. EPEI’s survey included historic resources survey and Phase I archaeological survey; additionally, ground penetrating radar (GPR) investigation was conducted by Seramur & Associates, PC, with EPEI’s assistance and guidance. Historic resources survey documented properties within the proposed ROW and viewshed that are 50 years of age and older. Archaeological investigations included pedestrian and shovel testing survey. All work was completed under a contract with Gresham, Smith, and Partners, Inc., of Atlanta, Georgia.

Prior to the commencement of fieldwork, reviews of records on previously identified historic properties were conducted, revealing that no National Register listed properties, proposed National Register nominations, National Historic Landmarks, or bridges in the Georgia Historic Bridge Survey (GHBS) were identified nearby, nor were any previously recorded archaeological sites present within 1 kilometer of the survey area. However, GDOT provided information indicating that a prominent local landmark known as Trahlyta’s Grave Stonepile is located within the existing intersection. The feature consists of a large pile of varying sized stones that form a rock mound. A nearby Georgia Historical Commission historic marker recounts a legend in which the rock mound is regarded as the final resting place of a Cherokee “princess” named Trahlyta. Documentary research indicates that the legend and the rock mound date back to at least the late nineteenth century, and that both are related to a late nineteenth to early twentieth century health resort known as Porter Springs, located in the vicinity.

As a result of survey, Trahlyta’s Grave Stonepile has been documented as a historic property and an archaeological site, 9LU327. No other historic properties or archaeological sites were identified within the survey area. Trahlyta’s Grave Stonepile, 9LU327, is a human-made rock mound of unknown temporal origin and function. The legend of Trahlyta’s Grave has no basis in any known American Indian history, Cherokee or otherwise. It is regarded as a romanticized fabrication, possibly invented in the 1870s to spur interest in the nearby mineral springs resort. The rock mound itself may possibly be older. If genuinely a construction of Cherokees or antecedent groups, the pile may indeed contain a grave; presently data is not available to either refute or verify the possibility.

Evaluation of Trahltya’s Grave Stonepile (henceforth also called Stonepile) found it eligible for the NRHP under Criterion A for significance in the area of social history. The Stonepile has been determined to possess significance as the physical illustration of the legend of Trahlyta. This resource has a period of significance that begins in 1875, with the first documented instance of the Trahlyta story, and continues to the present. Based on present knowledge, NRHP eligibility under Criterion D (information potential) remains unknown. Additional, more invasive archaeological evaluation would be necessary in order to satisfactorily determine the feature’s temporal and cultural origin, function, and information potential. Yet because of the possibility of encountering American Indian grave(s) and the need to be respectful of descendant group’s sensitivities regarding exhumation, such intrusive excavations are not recommended.

In lieu of additional investigation, EPEI recommends complete avoidance of the Stonepile and contributing elements during construction of the proposed safety project in order to prevent any adverse effect to this significant historic and potentially significant archaeological resource. The rock mound is the only known contributing feature of this NRHP eligible property. Historic photographs, archaeological survey, and GPR results indicate that much of the area surrounding the rock mound is disturbed and unlikely to contain intact significant features. Yet GPR reflections consistent with potential buried soils were observed within certain areas of the intersection surrounding the rock mound, which may indicate a potential for associated intact subterranean archaeological features. For this reason, archaeological monitoring is recommended in these locations during those construction activities that may cause subterranean disturbance, including grading or resurfacing.

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The Georgia Archaeological Site File

UGA Laboratory of Archaeology

1125 Whitehall Rd

Athens, GA 30602-4702