This is Part 3 of the Madisonian Trilogy. See for background . . .
Recent discoveries about the survival of Greco-Roman culture in central Mississippi after the Madisonians left their embattled homes in the Swiss-French-Italian Alps about 525 A.D. has led to a cascade of revelations about several sites and buildings that have confounded scholars for years. It turns out that the Madisonian culture was much more extensive and robust than anyone realized, with its influence stretching from the Ross Barnett Reservoir all the way to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
As you may recall, the ancient Madisonians made their way into the west across the sea, around Florida–which at that time was underwater south of the seaport of Disney World–and along the northern Gulf Coast. Eventually, they came up the Pearl River and discovered the vast Ross Barnett Reservoir, its crystaline water flowing down from the glaciers of Tishomingo County. They knew they had arrived at their new home.
Scholars believe that possibly even before they began building their walled city nearby, the Madisonians built two lighthouses on the rocky, windswept shores of the Reservoir (obviously, they had a Latin name for the Reservoir, but we don’t know what that name was). These two lighthouses, placed relatively close together in the southeast section of the Reservoir and probably originally high up on a dangerous bluff long since worn away, have long puzzled archaeologists, geologists, anthropologists, and maritime historians. Previously, these experts’ best guess, although they kind of kept it hush-hush for obvious reasons, was that perhaps these lighthouses were placed by aliens to guide them in their interstellar journeys.
We don’t know much about Roman lighthouses, but it has always been presumed they were strongly influenced by the Lighthouse of Alexandria, built around 280 B.C. This new discovery, however, on the Bridge Pointe of Madisonia shows that the Romans had evolved a much sleaker and more functional, albeit shorter lighthouse design.
Another intriguing remnant quite a distance from the Reservoir indicates that not only was the Reservoir much larger then, but its shores were home to many resorts and vacation villas.
This archway, now forming the entrance to the intriguingly named Lineage Lake in Flowood, is a dead ringer for Hadrian’s Villa, the suburban retreat of Emperor Hadrian, built in the second century A.D. Was this part of a Madisonian emperor’s seaside villa? Is that the “Lineage” referred to in the subdivision’s name? It seems likely, but research is ongoing.
Just these discoveries alone would be enough to make the career of any archaeologist, even alien archaeologists, but now that a few scholars have realized what a maritime culture the Madisonians had, they’ve made really exciting connections to the most mysterious buildings in Mississippi, the string of six (now five) Roman bath houses along the Mississippi Coast.
It makes sense that the Madisonians, who had undoubtedly noted the clear, clean water of the Mississippi Sound, would soon find their way back here to build beachfront residences, and given their Roman roots, of course, they would built Roman baths on all the big public beaches. Now called “bath houses,” these three-part symmetrical structures all are dominated by the familiar Madisonian (sometimes called “Palladian,” incorrectly since the Madisonians pre-dated Palladio) archway flanked by two rectangular openings. The Romans were known for the innovative use of concrete, and here we see perhaps the apogee of that building technology in ancient times, with each wall poured as a panel and then raised and connected to the other walls for an almost indestructible structural system. Red metal roofs have replaced the original terra cotta flat shingles. Obviously, the old Romans never had to deal with hurricanes or their storm surges, so the Madisonians adapted this time-honored building form to new realities by raising the building on high Roman concrete piers to allow the passage of water underneath, and cleverly disguised this engineering feat with a series of monumental stairs and ramps leading up from the land side. Meanwhile, the back side of the building, back when the Mississippi Sound was much higher, functioned as a diving platform for swimmers.
Due to their innovative raised design, these bath houses have outlasted the Madisonian and Native American cultures, and five withstood the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Meanwhile, down the beach in Biloxi, what do we find? Something that brings us full circle to the earliest Madisonian settlement on the shores of the Barnett Reservoir–a lighthouse. A lighthouse that looks to my eye quite similar to the c.600 A.D. lighthouse at Bridge Pointe in Madisonia. Its sleaker body is easily explained by the later developments of Madisonian culture, while its taller stature was necessary because of its low elevation compared to the two at Bridge Pointe. Is is possible that the Biloxi Lighthouse is centuries older than the 1848 date we have been told? I speculate c.1000 but as always, more research is necessary. And that’s why the expanding field of Madisonian Studies is so exciting!
Postscript: A sixth Madisonian Bath House, located on the Point in Biloxi, took a big storm surge, was slightly damaged, and before anyone knew it, a truck was seen leaving the site in September 2005 with the disassembled building on its bed. This truck has been traced through a series of fake bank accounts to the British Museum, which of course has a history of helpfully removing other people’s artifacts for safe keeping, but so far, the bath house has not been put on display, and the museum denies any knowledge of the building’s whereabouts.
Biloxi Point Bath House being carried away by truck after Katrina, probably to the British Museum.
Categories: Architectural Research