We have spent this month looking at the dirt mounds in nearby Castalian Springs. Those earthen mounds were built by Native Americans as platforms for special buildings in the large village that once stood there.
It is believed that religious structures stood on top of the raised mounds and possibly the huts of the village’s elite. Those would have been the village’s chief and his family, as well as the elders who presided over their religious ceremonies.
If you drive by those mound remains today they are still noticeable despite being 900 years old. But when they were built, they were considerably more impressive!
Dr. Kevin Smith, who has done archaeological work on the site, told me that the main mound would have covered an area as large as a football field! And it would have had two levels. The highest level would have been as high as a two-story building!
Smith’s research leads him to believe that the village held a special place in the ceremonies of the Middle Tennessee mound-builder culture, due to its alignment with naturally occurring eclipses of the sun. That is especially interesting since such an event is due to happen in 2017, with the path of the eclipse passing directly over the large mound at Castalian Springs!
But even more fascinating is the link that the mounds in Castalian Springs have to one of the most important Native American relics in the Tennessee State Museum, one that has attracted global attention and has a Trousdale County connection!
In the state museum in Nashville is a large flat rock with figures of Indians scratched into the surface. Among the figures are two legendary men from the mound-builder culture mythology – and the rock was found in Trousdale County over a century ago!
It is called “the Thruston tablet” and is one of the most interesting Native American artifacts in our state’s history.
If you have never heard of the stone, it may be because for many years it was believed to have been found in Sumner County and was associated with the mounds at Castalian Springs. No one knows for sure who discovered the large rock or even when, but it may have been found around 1870.
And we do know for certain that it was found on “Rocky Creek”!
Despite the fact that Rocky Creek is in Trousdale County, books gave credit for the stone’s origins to Sumner County until recent research clarified its origin.
We quote from a published research paper, “Unfortunately, no record was kept of the name of the donor, nor any particulars of its discovery. The only information now obtainable is that it was found on Rocky Creek, probably at the old Indian settlement near the mouth of Canoe Branch, about 3 and a half miles from Castalian Springs.”
If any readers know more about who may have found the stone while plowing or clearing a field, please let us know. But it happened so long ago that the discoverer’s name is probably long forgotten.
The stone was turned over from one person to another until it came into the hands of Nashville lawyer G. P. Thruston, who was an amateur archaeologist and the first one to examine it and realize its value as a Native American relic. Such large incised stones are rare and today are considered very valuable.
While the stone tablet clearly shows several mound-builder warriors engaged in combat, the stone has taken on global significance due to some other interpretations of what the stone shows.
Several amateur historians have looked at the figures and determined that those are not Native Americans, but are Vikings and that a boat of Vikings is clearly visible in the background. And as if that is not farfetched enough, still another alleged authority has looked at the stone and decided that it actually depicts “aliens” from another planet!
In any case, if you visit the Tennessee State Museum you will see the Thruston tablet clearly on display. While it was probably originally created and used at the Castalian Springs village, it was later moved to the smaller village on Rocky Creek, and that village was in Trousdale County!