Chatata (pronounced SHAY-tay) is the original Cherokee Indian name of a populated area located in Bradley County, Tennessee. This area is close to an idyllic natural spring known as "Blue Hole Spring", which was considered sacred to the Cherokee located at Red Clay State Historical Park. Now a state park, Red Clay was the final Council Grounds in the east for the Cherokee Nation before the forced removal of the Cherokees along the Trail of Tears.
A small community that now exists in this area is known as Tasso, a name that during the 19th and 20th centuries gradually replaced the original Native American name of Chatata for this region. Today the Chatata name survives in references to Chatata Creek, which flows through Bradley County into the Hiwassee River, as well as the moniker applied to a local golf course and country club.
Chatata is an area of significant archaeological, geological, and paleontological interest because of the so-called Chatata Wall excavated there over a century ago. In 1891, Isaac Hooper noticed a line of sandstone rocks protruding from the surface of his farm every 10 meters or so over a gently curving arc about 300 meters long. Unusual symbols seemed to be inscribed on one of these surface stones.
Visiting New York professor Albert Leighton Rawson took an interest in this outcropping of rocks. Rawson (1829–1902) was a historian, writer and spiritualist who was the author of many late 19th century religious tracts and books including Evolution of Israel's God. He had participated in and organized outdoor religious meetings set among areas of striking natural and geological beauty in New York, most notably the 1878 Watkins Glen Freethinkers Convention. Intrigued by the Chatata site, he funded excavations there.
A meter-high three-ply sandstone wall was unearthed with markings located on one surface of the middle layer. Rawson believed these markings to be Hebrew and claimed to translate several chapters of the Old Testament from them, evidence to him that one or more of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel had arrived in Tennessee before Europeans or even the Cherokee. Subsequent visits to the site by other scientists, and samples from the Wall displayed for a time at the Smithsonian Institution, failed to generate support for Rawson's claims. The Chatata Wall faded from the public limelight, and today its exact location is effectively unknown.
Originally believed by A. L. Rawson upon its discovery to be an artificial structure, the Chatata Wall was ultimately judged to be a natural phenomenon. Whether its strange markings were of human, geological or paleontological origin is still a matter of debate.
- Rawson, A.L.; "The ancient inscription on a wall at Chatata, Tennessee." Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, 11 (November 9, 1891): 26-8
- Rawson, A.L.; "The Ancient Inscription at Chatata, Tennessee," American Antiquarian, 14: 221, 1892
- Edwards, A.; "The Mysterious Wall of Bradley County", The People News, October 2004.