Photograph by Elisabeth Hughes, New Georgia Encyclopedia
to the Mississippian Period (A.D. 800-1600), the Singer-Moye site, located in south central Stewart County, is home to eight earthen mounds ranging from three to forty-six feet in height. The well-preserved site, which occupies approximately thirty-five acres of mixed pine and hardwood forest, is named for the families who donated this land in 1968 to the Columbus Museum in Columbus. In 2008 the Georgia Museum of Natural History, at the University of Georgia in Athens, assumed ownership of the property.
The Singer-Moye site doubtless served a significant sociopolitical role in the prehistory of the Chattahoochee River basin and perhaps of the surrounding areas. The fact that the site was occupied, whether continuously or at different times, for a span of more than 300 years attests to its prominence. Singer-Moye's numerous and complex arrangement of mounds, several of which are large and show evidence of later additions, further support the notion that this site was a special place in the local Mississippian settlement system. Exactly what functions and services this site and its inhabitants provided to the peoples of the lower Chattahoochee basin are unknown, but it likely was a place for social governance and periodic meetings and rituals, as well as the year-round home of a sizeable community.
Professional archaeologists first visited the site in the late 1950s, when Joseph Mahan of the Columbus Museum of Arts and Crafts (which became known later as the Columbus Museum) and Harold A. Huscher of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., collected a small number of surface artifacts. From that time until 2007, teams from the University of Georgia and the Columbus Museum intermittently conducted a variety of tests and excavations in Mounds A, C, D, E, and H. Also discovered were extensive cultural remains and middens, or trash heaps, that indicate the presence of a sizeable village associated with the mounds. As of 2008 Mounds B, F, and G had not been excavated.
Mound A, the largest mound, is believed by some archaeologists to have been the home of a powerful chief. Excavations of this mound revealed the remains of a 39-by-39-foot structure on the summit, with copper fragments, mica sheets, stone discoidals (rounded stones used for games), numerous smoking pipes, and a fragment from a painted bottle featuring a human head effigy. Researchers also found evidence that this structure was burned and later covered by a clay cap.
Excavations on Mound C revealed five mound stages, and archaeologists recovered a small sample of ceramics with a high proportion of decorated bottles and beakers, which were used as fine serving wares. Mound D appears to have been built into the existing hillside, where a natural terrace was shaped into a rectangular platform. Six large fire pits were uncovered on the summit of Mound D, along with pottery and pipe fragments, sandstone discoidals, daub, and red ochre.
The majority of Mound E has been excavated, revealing the remains of a wattle-and-daub earth lodge with a red clay floor and white clay daub walls. The excavation of Mound H exposed portions of several structures, a section of palisade wall, pottery (including decorated bottles), mica sheet fragments, and other artifacts. These finds reveal the most complex set of features uncovered at the site as of 2008.
Ceramic collections and radiocarbon dates from the excavations firmly place Singer-Moye within the Mississippian Period of the greater Southeast. These artifacts and dates, however, provide only a fragmented history of mound use, given that several of the mounds and early mound stages have yet to be tested. So far, Mound C has yielded the earliest dates of A.D. 1100-1200, a period known as the Rood I phase, named after the nearby Rood's Landing site. Mounds E and H were used during the Rood III phase, A.D. 1300-1400. The final use of Mounds A and D dates to the Singer phase, A.D. 1400-1450.
Columbus Museum to transfer ownership of an important mound site to UGA
Submitted by Mike Bunn, Associate Curator of History, The Columbus Museum (
Many readers of The Profile have no doubt heard of the recent announcement of the pending transfer of ownership of the Singer-Moye mound site from the Columbus Museum to the University of Georgia. Those that have not will likely want to know how this decision came about, while those with some understanding of it will surely want to know more. Recognizing both this and the interest of this publication’s readership in seeing that archaeologically-important sites in the state of Georgia are properly maintained, I would like to take this opportunity to explain to the SGA membership the arrangement between the Museum and the University.
Before discussing the transfer, however, I would like to first acquaint readers with the Singer-Moye mound site and its importance. The site is located in Stewart County, Georgia, near the town of Lumpkin. A Mississippian-era mound center listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it features eight known earthen mounds surrounding a large central plaza. The tallest of these mounds, known as Mound A, stands over 40 feet high, making it the fourth largest such structure in Georgia behind mounds at Etowah, Ocmulgee, and Kolomoki. Archaeological study has revealed the earliest habitation of the site dates to several thousand years ago, with the Mississippian mound center being built and occupied circa A,D. 1000 to approximately 1450. The mound center was apparently abandoned prior to the arrival of European explorers in the Southeast in the 1500s. Perhaps the most significant feature of the site is its unique setting. Whereas most similar mound centers are located along major waterways, the Singer-Moye site is situated a significant distance from the nearest noteworthy creek and many miles from the Chattahoochee River and the nearly contemporary Rood’s Landing mound site.
Mound A at the Singer-Moye site.
The Singer-Moye mound site has been owned and maintained by Columbus Museum for over 40 years. The property consists of approximately 42 acres, which were donated to the Museum over a period of several years by the Singer and Moye families. A small parcel was donated by the Georgia-Kraft Corporation for the purpose of acquiring an access road to the property. While the acreage owned by the Museum contains the heart of the Mississippian mound center, it should be noted that outlying village areas associated with the site extend for a significant distance, perhaps even miles, from the site. Owing to the recognition of its importance by previous owners, diligent monitoring by recent caretakers as well as its remote location, the site has suffered relatively little from vandalism. It stands today among the bestpreserved sites of its kind in the Southeast.
Mound B at the Singer-Moye site.
The Columbus Museum, under the direction of retired archaeologist Frank Schnell and in association with several partnering institutions, has conducted extensive archaeological investigation on portions of the site during its ownership. These efforts included the excavation of exploratory trenches, investigation of the summits of two of the mounds, scattered small-scale testing, and intensive examination of Mounds C, E and H. Investigation of Mounds E and H, technically earthlodges, by longtime field archaeologist and site superintendant Don Gordy along with archaeologist Margaret Russell and several volunteers, has yielded the great majority of information known about the origins, development, and use of the mound site. Thousands of artifacts, including pottery sherds, faunal and botanical remains, and a small number of stone tools, have been recovered over three decades of intermittent investigations and are currently curated by the Columbus Museum. Recently, faculty and students from Columbus State University and the University of Georgia have become involved with the site. Between 2004 and 2006, Dr. Warren Church of CSU conducted smallscale field school training, directed students in a variety of volunteer maintenance activities, and supervised interns in the cataloging of artifacts gathered from the site. In 2006, Dr. Mark Williams, assisted by his students at UGA, oversaw the creation of a topographical map of the site (see map).
Mound C at the Singer-Moye site.
At the same time that this research has resulted in an evolution of our understanding of the site, the Columbus Museum itself has undergone change. In the 40 years since the Museum acquired the property, it has matured as an institution and honed its mission to reflect the strength of its collection and its role in the community it serves. The Museum was founded in 1953, and at different times in the past its interpretive thrusts have included a range of types of American and international art, local history, archaeology, and even the natural sciences. As is the case with many similar institutions, the academic specialties and interests of staff heavily influenced its direction regarding exhibitions, publications, and educational programming from one era to the next. Seeking to define more explicitly the purpose and goals of the Museum so that it could sharpen its focus and most effectively utilize its resources, over two decades ago its Board of Trustees formally adopted the mission statement that continues to guide its development:
The mission of the Columbus Museum is to collect, preserve, research and interpret American art and regional culture for the education, enrichment and enjoyment of a broad and diverse public.
This statement was decided upon after careful consideration of the Museum’s ability to sustain vibrant programs that enhanced the lives of its visitors. As a consequence, the Museum has found it impractical to provide for the growing needs of its core programs of American art and regional history and simultaneously maintain a professional archaeological program. Logistical concerns, space requirements and staffing issues were among a number of factors that influenced the decision to cease Museum-funded archaeological investigation. While the interpretation of items discovered through archaeology have been, and will remain, a vital part of the Museum’s interpretive focus, the Museum will no longer be a lead institution in archaeological undertakings or accept unaccessioned archaeological collections for long-term care. All archaeological collections already in the Museum’s possession that materially aid its interpretation of the earliest periods of human habitation of the lower Chattahoochee River valley will continue to be curated.
Don Gordy excavating the earth lodge at the Singer-Moye site.
The Museum at length came to the realization that the ownership of a large, nationally important Mississippian mound site situated over 40 miles from its main campus was no longer in the best interest of either the Museum or the site. Though committed to maintaining this local landmark and ensuring its preservation to the best of its ability, the Museum simply could not develop the site into the type of educational resource it desired it to be with its limited resources. As a consequence, the Museum sought out a regional institution that shared its vision for the site that might be better equipped to provide for its long-term care and development.
Singer-Moye Mound Center, Stewart County, Georgia. Mound locations: black—older map used by Blitz and Lorenz; white—recent topographic map by Wood and Williams. (Overlay map by permission of Wood and Williams.)
In 2005, the Museum decided to approach the University of Georgia about a potential transfer of the property and its associated archaeological collections. It already enjoyed a healthy working relationship with the University and was well aware of the depth of its intellectual and financial resources and how they might work to the benefit of the site. University officials were enthusiastically receptive to the proposal, and after initial negotiations, recommended the site be brought into the University’s care under the auspices of the Georgia Museum of Natural History. Since then, Museum staff and trustees have been working with Dr. Byron Freeman, Director of the Museum of Natural History, and other University faculty and representatives to organize a plan of action. While all involved have consistently recognized the potential of this promising arrangement, progress toward the transfer has been deliberate. In March of 2008, the University’s Board of Regents officially approved the transfer; the move was subsequently approved by the Museum’s Executive Committee. Currently, final arrangements are being made to complete the process.
The Museum believes the transfer of ownership of the Singer-Moye site is in the best long-term interest of the site and we look forward to serving as a partner in UGA’s efforts to preserve and interpret it. In addition to continued preservation and stabilization efforts, mapping activities and possible future archaeology at the site, there is great potential for a variety of types of collaborative research. Zoological, botanical and geological studies conducted by UGA and partnering organizations are among the many possibilities under consideration. The Museum plans to remain involved with the site by periodically conducting tours and continuing to serve as an advocate for its responsible use as a part of a broad collaborative network of scientists, educators, and interested citizens. The Museum believes that under UGA’s leadership, the Singer-Moye mound site will be preserved properly and at the same time become a unique resource for the local community, state and region.
The Columbus Museum extends its thanks to Terry Jackson for inviting me to discuss the transfer of the site in this forum. We welcome your comments, thoughts, and suggestions.