Etowah Elites from Cahokia

In 2004 I argued that the site of Etowah Mounds in Cartersville, Georgia was inhabited by elites from Cahokia, a Native American metropolis near St. Louis, Missouri. I made this argument based on the fact that the Etowah site received a large influx of people around 1250 AD at the same time that the Cahokia site was collapsing and experiencing a large decrease in population. Additionally, artifacts discovered in Mound C at Etowah have been shown to have been manufactured at Cahokia. Thus it seemed a logical argument to make even though it contradicted the “official” narrative that the Etowah site was built by the local Muscogean tribes and the Cahokia artifacts were obtained through trade.

Well it seems the official narrative is coming around to my way of thinking. In May 2017 the lead researcher of the Etowah Mounds site gave a talk in which he made the argument that elites from Cahokia settled at Etowah around 1250 AD. The talk was recorded and uploaded to YouTube and I’ve posted the video at the top of this page. Lots of great information in this presentation. Here’s the text that introduces the video:

“The Etowah site is a large town built by Native Americans before the coming of the Europeans in the northern part of the modern state of Georgia. It is a big and impressive place, and it was an important place in the early history of the Deep South. Etowah was a major center in the Mississippian civilization that flourished from as early as 1000 CE to as late as 1600 CE. This forgotten Native American civilization is responsible for large cities, great monuments, and elaborate works of art, just like other civilizations of the world. Etowah’s history was complex and included multi-ethnic beginnings, an unexplained abandonment, the arrival of foreigners, attacks by invaders, and even a visit by early Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. In this presentation, Dr. King discusses what traditional archaeology, remote sensing, and iconographic studies have revealed about the site and the people who built it. Dr. Adam King, Research Associate Professor in the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina, focuses his research on the early history of Native Americans, particularly during the Mississippian Period (AD1000-1600).”



Tulum’s Mayan Lighthouse

The Putun/Poton Maya were Central America’s most advanced mariners. They controlled coastal trade around the entire Yucatan peninsula down to modern-day Panama. One of their important ports was at Tulum in the Yucatan but this port had one major problem: there was only one small opening in the coral reef that lay just offshore. Michael Creamer, an avid sailor, theorized that the building known today as the Castillo was, in fact, a very cleverly designed lighthouse engineered by the Maya to guide mariners through this small gap. He also discovered this ancient lighthouse still works today. Learn more below:

The Castillo of Tulum.

From Galveston to Mexico

A newly passed captain taking a break from ELISSA, swimming in the turquoise Caribbean in front of the pre-Columbian Castillo at Tulum, the maritime historian in me asks, “Why is this building here; so precariously perched on the cliff’s edge?”  The search for an answer results in a National Geographic grant for an investigation by Pilar Luna and her team from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and subsequent documentation by the Discovery & History Channels. Tulum turns out to be the oldest, most sophisticated lighthouse in the Americas.

Tulum may have served as a port city for the Maya site of Coba as there is a sacbe road connecting the two.  However, it was more likely a principal way station along a Putun Maya ocean trade route stretching from Panama in the South to Champoton on the Gulf of Mexico to the North.  Called the Phoenicians of the New World by archaeologist Eric Thompson, the Putun had a monopoly on Western Caribbean sea trade in the year 1000CE (Fig.1). 

Tulum’s location to the Southwest of the principal Putun entrepot of Cozumel Island meant that large, ocean going canoes could depart for Cozumel almost no matter what the weather, nor how strong the Northbound current, which forms the beginnings of the mighty Gulf Stream, was running at the time.  The substantial landside fortifications of Tulum are more in keeping with coastal island’s requirement for a secure port on the mainland (Fig. 2), as the modern municipality of Isla Mujeres maintains Punta Sam and Cozumel formerly administered Playa del Carmen.

The Secret of Tulum was rediscovered in 1982 by amateur nautical archaeologist Michael Creamer.  In 1984, representing the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA)  he joined an expedition led by Pilar Luna of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology’s Nautical Archaeology and History (INAH) funded by a grant from National Geographic. Professor Luna’s team conducted experiments that demonstrated Tulum’s El Castillo served as an aid navigating the narrow gap in the offshore coral reef (Fig. 3) that protects Tulum’s convenient landing beach (Fig 2).  The experiments were later successfully repeated on several occasions and documented on film for Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious Universe –‘The Mysterious Maya for Discovery Channel’ (English) and History Channel (Spanish).

Read the full article here:

Maya Trade with Cuba and Florida?

In his research article “Yucatan Channel and Trade,” researcher Ronald Canter compiled the best available evidence of trade contacts between the Maya and people east of the Yucatan Channel such as Cuba and Florida. Read more below:


This article summarizes some of the evidence for the passage of Maya trade items and ideas eastward, and examines factors affecting canoe navigation across both the Yucatan Channel and the Straits of Florida. The recent tracing of jade artifacts in Antigua to parent mines in Guatemala indicates that there was past trade across the Yucatan Channel. Additional references document trade between Cuba and Florida.

The Yucatan Channel separates Yucatan from the western tip of Cuba. From Punta Sur on Isla de Mujeres to Cabo San Antonio is 194 km, a daunting crossing made worse by the Yucatan Current surging between capes…Nonetheless, a small but steadily accumulating body of evidence suggests direct, though sporadic, trade between the Maya in Yucatan and the Taino in Cuba. There is evidence of indirect trade of Maya articles east through the Taino cultural area, even as far as Antigua. The small amount of evidence suggests sporadic and infrequent contact, rather than sustained.

Some cultural and trade goods occasionally did cross the channel, whether in Maya or Taino canoes is uncertain. A large cake of beeswax, found in easternmost Cuba on Columbus’s first voyage, would have come from Yucatan, the only logical source (Columbus, 1493, pg 161). The common honeybee was unknown in the Americas before contact. Only the stingless bees Meliponini beecheii and M. Yucatanica were suitable for honey production, and the Maya were virtually the only beekeepers. Bartolome de Las Casa, in comments on Columbus’s “Journal of the First Voyage”, noted that the people of Cuba did not keep bees or produce beeswax themselves. Las Casas speculated that the wax had come from a wrecked Maya trading canoe. Given the currents, this seems unlikely, but not impossible.

More significant is Pendergast’s find of a Taino vomit ladle in a grave at the Classic Period site of Altun Ha, Belize. Even if it could float, it could not have drifted across the Yucatan Channel. Anything caught in the Yucatan Current is bound for Florida or beyond. The ladle would have come via canoe (Graham, 2002).

Dicey Taylor and Chris Jones have investigated Taino ball courts. The Mesoamerican ball game seems to have leapt the Yucatan Channel in the Classic and quickly spread eastward from island to island. At La Aleta in the Domincan Republic there is monumental architecture, a ball court, and a cenote containing sacrifices (Beeker, 1999). On Puerto Rico, Dr. Jones found parallel-walled courts near Utuado and at Tibes, 10 courts at each site. All were more recent than 650 AD, and were called “batay”, “a word that seems to appear in Classic Maya inscriptions in reference to ball playing” (Jones, Taylor, 2001).

Most remarkable is the recent tracing by mineralogist George Harlow of Preclassic jadeite “axes” found on the Island of Antigua back to their parent mines – in Guatemala. Antigua is nearly 3000 km east of the Motagua valley as the crow flies, and 3500 km island hopping via Cuba, Hispanola, etc. Rocks don’t float. Only by canoe could they have made their way across the entire Caribbean (Petit, 2006).

A unique and valuable trade item tends to become more valuable as it is traded farther from the source. The incentive is to profit by continuing to trade it until one of three things happens: an owner can’t bear to part with it, it reaches a cultural area where it is not valued, or it reaches the bitter end of the trade route. For the jadeite axes found on Antigua, the second and third may have both applied. Antigua was the far eastern edge of the Taino cultural area and of the Caribbean island chain….

Cornell University’s ornithology site on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker references the Precolumbian Florida-Cuba trade. “Early explorers noted a considerable trade in live birds between peoples of Cuba and peninsular Florida. Native Americans placed great value on these (Ivory-billed) woodpeckers.” Jackson speculated that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker might have entered Cuba through this trade (Jackson, 2004).

Several Timucuan words are Taino loan words. Not being a linguist, I will just quote. The source is Julian Granberry, A Grammar and Dictionary of the Timucua Language, The University of Alabama Press, 1993. The specific words are hinino (from Taino hynino ‘tobacco’) and casino (Ilex vomitoria). It has that three-syllable shape that Taino words tend to have. There is another Timucua term for Ilex, ipopi, which derives from the native term ipo ‘to charm or bewitch, to take medicine’. Ilex was the basis of the quintessential ceremonial beverage in the Southeast, the “black drink,” (still) used as a purgative to cleanse the body before ceremonies.

It is also the secret ingredient in Coca Cola, which started out in Georgia as a medicinal and then became a refreshment, like Smilax (zarza parilla), used as a medicinal (for venereal disease) in the 16th century and which later became the “sasparilla” famously drunk by wimps in Western movies” (Hopkins, 2006).

In the 18th century, at Talahasochte, far up the Suwanee River in northern Florida, William Bartram witnessed the return of an 850 km trade voyage by canoe from Cuba (1700 km round trip), and heard of others to the Bahamas. Their cypress canoes could hold 20 to 30 warriors. The route mostly hugged the sheltered west coast of Florida but ended with the most dangerous and difficult part – a 150 km crossing of the choppy Florida Straits, swept by the powerful current of the Gulf Stream. The trip is less challenging than one from Yucatan to Cuba but still serious. The crossing does have the advantage of large “targets” on either side of the straits: the line of the Florida Keys to the north and the coast of Cuba to the south. Paddlers would still have to angle westward to avoid being swept far to the east while crossing.

In April of 2006 a 15 m dugout canoe was found in the Apalachicola River, in northern Florida. The canoe is not ancient (only about 200 years old) but the design is (Ensley, 2006). It is a pitpan, distinguished by projecting platform ends used as stances for poling. Except for size, its design is identical to ones used from the Preclassic to the present on both Caribbean and Central American waters. Of 55 Archaic canoes examined from Newnans Lake, Florida, four showed similarities to the pitpan design, though not fully developed.



Network of Ancient Canals in Florida

The Ortona Mounds site in the Lake Okeechobee region of Florida features a network of canals for canoe travel:

The casual visitor to this small rural community about 15 miles west of Lake Okeechobee might barely notice the broad indentations that run for seven miles from a cluster of oak-shaded mounds through scrub pine and palmetto to the Caloosahatchee River.

But to archaeologists they are monuments to prodigious engineering skill and hard work — canals that enabled Indians to travel between Lake Okeechobee and the Gulf of Mexico.

Around A.D. 250, Indians inhabiting this area began digging the canals by hand, using wooden and shell tools to create waterways 20 feet wide and 3 to 4 feet deep, said Robert Carr, the Florida archaeologist who directs excavations at the site.

Their goal was not to drain or irrigate land, Mr. Carr said, but to create a waterway to bring dugout canoes to their village, a mile north of the Caloosahatchee. The canals also allowed paddlers to bypass rapids roiling the river.

The two-square-mile village at the center of this watery network was a planner’s dream, with sculptured earthworks (one of them resembling a crescent moon holding a star) and mounds, ponds and geometric causeways. Eventually, the people, known today as the Ortona, added a 450-foot-long pond, shaped like a ceremonial baton and surrounded by a beach they made with white sand.

Read the full story here:

Mayan Super Highways?

Ancient Maya developed super highways network more than 1,000 years ago


Roads of more than 240 kilometers long designed, traced and built by the ancient Maya have been discovered in Guatemala, near the border with Mexico.

El Mirador is a late Maya preclassic city, located in Guatemala, in the heart of the Petén jungle, and it was recently revealed that the first network of super highways in the world was made there by this ancient civilization.

This was concluded in the framework of the “Cuenca Mirador” archaeological project, in which more than 700 square kilometers have been analyzed by experts. In addition, Richard Hansen, director of this program explained that this a one-of-a-kind study ever to be conducted in Mesoamerica.

In total, it is estimated that El Mirador, also known as the the “Kan” Kingdom, covers an area of 2,158 square kilometers within the Maya Biosphere Reserve and is also one of the most important environmental lungs in all the American Continent.

As part of this research, it has been determined that Guatemala has the privilege of being the cradle of the Maya civilization, and has the highest pyramids, in addition to the aforementioned unique road.

Read the full story here:

Earliest Tobacco Use in the Pacific Northwest


The earliest known usage of tobacco in the Pacific Northwest was smoked using a pipe similar to this one, according to Shannon Tushingham, a UC Davis archaeology research associate. Credit: Shannon Tushingham

Tobacco is a plant that originated in South America and slowly over the ages migrated northward. The latest research shows that tobacco had reached the Pacific Northwest by 860 AD. Read the story below to learn more:

(—Native American hunter-gatherers living more than a thousand years ago in what is now northwestern California ate salmon, acorns and other foods, and now we know they also smoked tobacco—the earliest known usage in the Pacific Northwest, according to a new University of California, Davis, study.

“The study demonstrates that tobacco smoking was part of the northwestern California culture very early … shortly after the earliest documented Pacific Northwest Coast plank house villages,” said the study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Testing organic residues extracted from pipes, researchers from the UC Davis Department of Anthropology and the Fiehn Metabolomics Laboratory of the UC Davis Genome Center confirmed tobacco was smoked, and likely grown in the region, by at least A.D. 860.

Read more at:

Mounting Evidence of Maya-Taino Connection

tainoEvidence continues to grow that the Maya seafarers did not just control coastal trade routes in Mexico and Central America but ventured further afield including the islands of the Caribbean and the Southeastern U.S. Just as the Maya-Georgia connection is currently scoffed at by mainstream academics, the Maya-Cuba connection was also once dismissed as well. This was, of course, before hard evidence showing evidence of Mayan ball courts and Mayan gods was discovered on the island. Now the same academics who once dismissed the claims are busy trying to downplay the connections. Read below to learn more about the evidence showing contact between the Maya and the Taino throughout the Caribbean:

The Taínos were accomplished seamen and traveled through-out the Caribbean in their hand-crafted canoas. Some large canoes could carry thirty people. The caciques owned these larger canoes and were thus responsible for public transportation. The importance of the canoes in the daily lives and in the expansion of the Taínos cannot be overstated. Due to their navigating skills, the Taínos were able to travel from their land of origin, the Orinoco Valley of Venezuela, and island-hop from Venezuela to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the Bahamas and Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and as far west as Cuba. This expansion did not occur over a short period of time, but it did guarantee a Taíno presence in the Caribbean. Another important consequence of their navigation skills and their canoes is that the Taínos had contact with other indigenous groups of the Americas, including the Mayas of Mexico and Guatemala.


Read the full article here:

DNA Reveals Chihuahua and Carolina Dog originated in America and Asia

New DNA testing has proven definitively that several Native American dog breeds, including the Chihuahua and Carolina Dog, have been in North America for thousands of years and can trace their genetic heritage back to Asia not Europe as was previously conjectured.

A year ago my research report entitled “Ancient Chihuahuas in Southeastern U.S.?” produced significant criticism when I argued that artifacts found in Mexico as well as the southeastern United States represented the Chihuahua breed. Academics argued here and here that DNA analysis showed that Chihuahuas had no “native American” dog genes and that their closest genetic kin were from Europe. Thus the artifacts that I suggested depicted Chihuahuas were dismissed.

Side-by-side comparison of a dog effigy pot unearthed in Georgia dating to 1325 AD and a modern Chihuahua

Side-by-side comparison of a dog effigy pot unearthed in Georgia dating to 1325 AD and a modern Chihuahua

For instance, I had argued that dog-shaped pots unearthed at the Bull Creek site in Georgia dating back to 1325 AD matched the American Kennel Club’s breed description for only one dog: the ‘applehead’ variety of Chihuahua. Other dog pottery dating back to 1250 AD unearthed at the site of Casas Grandes (aka Paquime) in Chihuahua, Mexico were shown to match the ‘deerhead’ variety of Chihuahua. Coincidentally, modern folklore maintained that the first modern Chihuahuas were discovered running around these very same ruins of Casas Grandes in Chihuahua, Mexico which is the origins of the dog’s name: Chihuahua.

Wheeled toy representing “apple head” Chihuahua  from Tres Zapotes, Veracruz dated ca. 100-200 AD.

Wheeled toy representing “apple head” Chihuahua from Tres Zapotes, Veracruz dated ca. 100-200 AD.

Another depiction of a Chihuahua at the Tres Zapotes site in Mexico dating back to 100 AD showed that the dog breed was present in Mexico for at least two thousand years, long before the arrival of Europeans. As I concluded in my research paper:

“Many theories argue that the Chihuahua is a modern breed created after the arrival of Europeans which resulted from a cross between a Techichi with dogs from China or Europe to achieve the modern toy-size Chihuahua. Yet the appearance of these Chihuahua effigies in Mexico by 100 AD and the dog effigy pots in Georgia by 1325 AD seems to refute those claims and suggests the Chihuahua has purely New World origins.”

Yet none of this physical evidence convinced the skeptics. They attacked the American Kennel Club breed descriptions as faulty and irrelevant. They attacked the comparison of physical traits between the artifacts and living Chihuahuas as fanciful.

Yet the latest genetic analysis has proven definitively that the skeptics were wrong. As noted in the research article “MtDNA analysis confirms early Pre?Colombian origins of Native American dogs”:

“Dogs were present in Pre-Columbian America, presumably brought to the New World by early human migrants of Asian origin. However, the extent to which historical Arctic, North and South American breeds, e.g. the Alaskan Malamute, Inuit, Eskimo and Greenland dogs, Xoloitzcuintli, Chihuahua and Perro Sín Pelo del Peru, are descendants of these original dogs or were replaced by European dogs remains to be assessed.”

The researcher, Mattias Oskarsson of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, analyzed the mtDNA of these native American breeds looking for markers indicative of either an East Asian or European origin. Oskarsson’s research revealed,

“Evidence for a Pre-Columbian origin was found for all… American breeds….[and their genetic markers were] distinct from European [markers], exclusive to America, shared only with East Asia, or identical to ancient American sequences.”

Furthermore, Oskarsson’s research revealed that identical markers between “ancient and modern samples showed geographic continuity over time in Mexico (Chihuahua) and Alaska (Alaskan Malamute).” In relation to the Chihuahua, Oskarsson further stated in his dissertation:

“We can also for the first time present evidence for continuity between the ancient and extant dog population with e.g. exclusive sharing of a haplotype between a modern sample of Chihuahua and an ancient Mexican sample.

Thus the Chihuahua was a purely indigenous dog of the Americas whose presence could be traced back for thousands of years and whose only genetic cousins were in East Asia not Europe.


The Carolina Dog indigenous to the Southeastern U.S.

Additionally, Oskarsson found that the Carolina Dog, a native dog of the Southeastern United States long believed to be indigenous was, in fact, an indigenous dog whose closest genetic relatives were also in East Asia. Oskarsson noted that his research “provide the first DNA-based evidence for an ancient Asian origin of the Carolina Dog, a dingo-like free-ranging population in the USA. Numerous dogs were probably brought from Asia, since totally 13 mtDNA haplotypes among extant and ancient American dogs were distinct from haploypes found in Europe.”

This should put to rest once and for all the origins of both the Carolina Dog and Chihuahua. Both artifactual evidence and DNA prove that the Chihuahua is a native dog of the Americas with a deep ancestry on the North American continent and traces of an East Asian origin suggesting this breed’s ancestors came with Native Americans over 10,000 years ago when they first migrated to North America from Asia.

The Mesoamerican Connection to the Eastern United States

I found the following information in the comments section of a blog that was critiquing the Mayan-Georgia connection. The author of this comment, Bill Tiffee, provides a wealth of information about research made through the years that support a connection between the Native American tribes of the U.S. and their counterparts south of the Rio Grande in Mexico. Read his comments below:

I believe the famous Zelia Nuttall was the first to propose a link between Georgia (Etowah) and the Maya.(Comparison between Etowan, Mexican and Mayan designs in Etowah Papers (1932).
And of course the dominant paradigm prior to the 1970s was that Mesoamerica and the SECC region were closely linked. A handful of scholars, including Timothy Pauketat, Peter Peregrine, Alice Kehoe and Stephen Lekson, have continued to champion theories very close to those of Richard Thornton….

“My research interests in archaeoastronomy and ancient religion have been developed in part through my participation in a working group on pan-American cosmology at the Santa Fe Institute, organized by Linda Cordell, George Gumerman, and Murray Gell-Mann. There and in other ways I have benefitted from working with and learning from Robert Hall, who happens to also have done early work at the Emerald site, the focus on future work and key in what is going to be another radical change in how we understand Cahokia. Via Bob, others at the SFI, and influential figures such as Alice Kehoe, Mesoamerica has reemerged in what Steve Lekson would call a big-historical re-thinking of North America.

Alice Kehoe:
“Mesoamericanists will be interested in the connection I found between Osage priest texts and the Vienna Codex:
Kehoe, Alice B. 2007. Osage Texts and Cahokia Data. In Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms, edited by F. Kent Reilly III and James Garber. Austin: University of Texas Press,
and in this entire volume, which includes my paper suggesting the name Powhatan was a praise name from Maya Pahuatun:
Kehoe, Alice B. 2005 Wind Jewels and Paddling Gods: The Mississippian Southeast in the Postclassic Mesoamerican World. In Gulf Coast Archaeology, the Southeastern United States and Mexico, ed. Nancy Marie White. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Pp. 260-280.

Alice kehoe (wiki entry)
“Kehoe emphasizes that, from these stale and false notions of ancient Native American history, much has been missed in the archaeological record of the Americas that is only just now coming to light. This history is now being reinterpreted through the new knowledge and understanding of peoples who built towns and even cities (e.g. Cahokia) of pyramidal mounds and other forms of monumental architecture surrounding huge ceremonial plazas. For instance, in examining the most recently discovered archaeological evidence of Cahokia, Kehoe suggests that this largest known center of Mississippian culture should best be termed a state. She argues that the Mississippian, often called “mound-building,” culture had close trade and communication links with civilizations of Mesoamerica (Mayas, Aztecs, their predecessors and contemporaries) and that this link is readily apparent from the archaeological record. She argues that trans-Gulf contact between the Mississippi Valley and Mesoamerica was quite likely, with communication and trade occurring either on foot, by canoe, or both, leading to clear similarities in the culture, religion, and art of the SECC, Midwest, and Mesoamerica (Kehoe 2005 Wind Jewels and Paddling Gods: The Mississippian Southeast in the Postclassic Mesoamerican World. In Gulf Coast Archaeology, the Southeastern United States and Mexico, ed. Nancy Marie White. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Pp. 260-280).
Gulf Coast archaeology : the southeastern United States and Mexico /Authors:White, Nancy Marie. | Society for American Archaeology. — Meeting — (2001 : — New Orleans, La.)Published by : University Press of Florida,

Archaeologist Alice Kehoe(professor emeritus of anthropology at Marquette University), is another prominent scholar who continues to support close ties between American and Mesoamerican cultures. Kehoe notes that the “Tolteca may have traded, perhaps via nations in the Huasteca, across the gulf and up the Mississippi lacks hard evidence (other than filed human incisors), but hard evidence for Highland Mexico itself in this period is relatively limited and subject to much debate…Evidence for contacts, for shared conceptualizations, does exist in similarities between Early Postclassic Mexico and contemporary Mississippian (e.g. Carlson 1981; Hall 1984; Gillespie 1991). Some of the strongest parallels are in iconography (especially if mound-and-plaza architecture is counted as iconography)…. Phillip’s tenacity in rejecting Mississippian-Mesoamerican contacts even when evidenced on Gulf of Mexico shells transported to eastern Oklahoma, is a strong example of the power of core beliefs in this discipline.”

“the principle of actualism, not to mention Occam’s Razor, posits Cahokia to be a market hub, and one that was likely to ship goods downriver. Downriver from Cahokia leads into the gulf of Mexico and the ports of the Huastec and Maya. Huge platform pyramidal mounds constructed around great plazas-the central theater of power signaled by an imposing wall-neighbored by relatively well-constructed (wall-trench) houses with a variety of finely polished open bowls, cups, and jars, amid miles of hamlets among raised fields of maize and squashes? This form for a metropolis was standard in Mesoamerica…The parsimonious hypothesis is that Cahokia’s pyramidal mounds and plazas and ‘green city’ farmsteads and hamlets, which replicate the general Mesoamerican pattern of the urbs, embody architectural conceptions originating in Mexico.” (Assembling the Past; studies in the Professionalization of Archaeology at 169).

Among archaeologists, there is a maxim that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, yet this lack of evidence is offered as the primary grounds to dismiss decades of careful analysis of the links between the Mesoamerican and North American pyramid building cultures, even to the extreme of stating that such contacts can no longer be “seriously hypothesized.” The real question is whether there are plausible explanations for the lack of evidence of trade, and history is replete with examples of closed trading systems(US gunboats under the command of Commodore Perry shelled Japanese ports in 1853 in order to force them open to trade).

Given the number of wars in history that have their roots in trade conflicts, the two cultures may have also simply agreed to trade in their own exclusive zones(the Mesoamerican one obviously extended into the southwestern United States). A state of hostile relations between the two cultures could also account for the lack of trade. The absence of evidence means very little in terms of what influence the two cultures had on each other, a link that may well go back to 3000 BCE, the Maya creation era of 3114 BCE.

The Mexican Connection and the far west of the American Southeast
Nancy White
American Antiquity
© 2008 Society for American Archaeology
73(2) 2008 227-277
New World archaeologists have long agreed that there was prehistoric cultural interaction between the southeastern United States and Mesoamerica, but seldom are the details of such potential relationships discussed, especially recently. The farthest westward extent of Southeastern cultural influences, as shown through the distributions of fiber-tempered pottery, Archaic and Woodland mounds, later platform mounds, ceramic styles, and other material culture, seems to be east Texas. Only a few Mexican artifacts have been found at the edges of the Southeast-obsidian at Spiro and coastal Texas, asphalt-covered pottery extending northward from Mexico into southern Texas-though general ideological connections, not to mention the sharing of maize agriculture, seem obvious. In northeast Mexico, outside the Mesoamerican heartland, Huastecan people made artifacts similar to types in the Southeast. But long-distance interactions overland or via the Gulf of Mexico were apparently sporadic, despite some common cultural foundations. Strong Southeastern cultural identities plus the presence of the north Mexico/south Texas desert may have discouraged movement into the Southeast of many important Mesoamerican traditions, such as cotton growing and beer drinking.”

In less enlightened times during the post-World War II era, it was commonplace for scholars to suggest links between the Mesoamerican cultures and those of southern America, particularly Spiro, where the most prized treasures of SECC art were found. According to David Sutton Phelps:
“Mesoamerican influence on the culture of the eastern United States has long been recognized and variously discussed in the literature of the past 60 years. While the majority of these discussions have recognized the existence of relatively direct diffusion from Mesoamerica to the Southeastern United States, they have dwelled primarily on attempts to correlate traits and establish the possible routes of contact…The cultural exchange between Mesoamerica and the Southeastern United States may have begun as early as 3000 B.C.” (“Mesoamerican Glyph Motifs on Southeastern Pottery,” by David Sutton Phelps, International Congress of Americanists, 1965).

As late as 1968, Robert Silverberg would write that “Beyond much doubt the basic Mississippian ideas stemmed from Mexico, for they follow Mexican thought in many ways…Though the Mexican influence on Hopewell and Adena is still a matter for conjecture, there is little doubt that Mexican thought underlies the Mississippian Tradition.” (Silverberg; Mound Builders of Ancient America: The Archaeology of a Myth, 296)

There is also a long history linking Spiro to the Huastec Indians, and recent research lists Tula, Hidalgo as a Huastec rather than a “Toltec” site.

MacNeish (1947) gave a list of traits “which he believes connects Spiro and the Southeast with Mesoamerica, particularly into the Huasteca area of northeastern Mexico.” (James Griffin; An interpretation of the Place of Spiro in Southeastern Archaeology, 1950).

Wicke (1965) noted that various scholars have considered the problem of Mesoamerican cultural influences in the eastern United States. They “agree in general on a Mesoamerican origin for temple mounds. Eastern temple mounds are larger than the earliest ones from Mesoamerica and, like them, are characterized by groups of four around a plaza, superimposed construction, frequent eastward orientation of the principal platform of a group, and capping by a temple structure. The Huastec region of northeastern Mesoamerica seems to show the closest architectural similarities to the southeastern United States.” (Wicke; Pyramids and Temple Mounds: Mesoamerican ceremonial architecture in Eastern North America; American Antiquity, vol 30, April 1965 at 409).

On the other side of the border fence, modern Mexican scholars such as Alfredo Austin and Leonardo Lujan have no difficulty connecting the Mexican cultures to the “American” natives: “The
Huastecs also had contact with the Mississippi Basin in the southeastern US, as shown by the similarities in the motifs on luxury items in both place.” (Mexico’s Indigenous Past; Austin et al at 264).

Huastec art figures “frequently sport extensive and complicated tattoos” (just as the Tula encountered by de Soto had tattoos around the nose and mouth), and “many of the sculptures have adornments identifying them with Quetzalcoatl or with death gods.”(at 264). They also note that Huastec ceramics have been found at Tula Xicocotitlan in the state of Hidalgo, and list Tula as a “Huastec” site(at 264), which supports recent scholarship which views Tula Xicocotitlan not as a “Toltec” culture but rather as Huastec. Aztec myths also speak of a “Huastec Lord” at Tula(Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas; ed. Bruce Trigger et al, 184 )

Cahokia-Moundville-Etowah Artifacts Unearthed at Mayan site in Mexico

Over the past year there has been much debate about the possible presence of Maya in America, specifically in Georgia. Certain academics were quite vocal in their opposition to this idea stating emphatically that there was “no evidence” of a Maya presence in Georgia. So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this article from the magazine Archaeology dated to 2010. It clearly states that pottery from the Etowah site in Georgia had been found at the Mayan site of Tamtoc in Mexico. So why all the denials by academics over the past year that there is “no evidence” of a Mayan presence in Georgia? Were they unaware of this major research article in Archaeology magazine? Unlikely.

Furthermore, are we to believe that the inhabitants of Etowah went south but no Maya came north? The article below suggests just this sort of sillyness. The mental gymnastics academics will go through to avoid having the Maya in America is astounding as if there was some type of force field on the Rio Grande River that prevented people a thousand years ago from crossing it. But if this was a trade relationship then the influence likely went back and forth not just in one direction. Read an excerpt below from the Archaeology article to learn about the evidence of artifacts from Etowah (as well as Cahokia and Moundville) at the Mayan site of Tamtoc in northeastern Mexico:

This view looks eastward from the top of one of the long mounds above Tamtoc’s ceremonial plaza. The large ritual mound Cerro del Cubilete is on the left. (Courtesy Tom Gidwitz)


by Tom Gidwitz

These projectile points, unearthed at Tamtoc, share a style common to points from the Mississippian culture that was prominent in what is now the Southeastern, Eastern and Midwest United States. (Courtesy Patricio Davila and Diana Zaragoza)

For decades, archaeologists have theorized that North America’s Late Woodland and Mississippian cultures drew inspiration from the Huasteca, but Davila and Zaragoza’s excavations at Tamtoc in the 1990s convinced them that cultural influence, and perhaps actual migration, spread from north to south. They unearthed objects that seemed to come from the American Southeast in about A.D. 900—a fragment of a sheet of hammered copper, a pointed metal hand tool, a piece of engraved shell, a cache of a dozen whole and twenty fragmented Cahokia projectile points, and pottery that could have come from sites to the north such as Etowah, and Moundville. When they dug into a terrace beside the site’s western mound, they found that, like the mounds at Cahokia, it had been piled up layer-by-layer in basket-sized loads, with dirt from pits that became the lagoons around the site.

“We dug and dug and dug,” says Davila, “but I understood nothing.” Then he read Garcilaso de la Vega’s La Florida del Inca, an account of the 1539 Hernando de Soto expedition to the Southeast. It describes huge Indian trade and war canoes that plied the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the rivers of the Southeast. “We think there was a migration by sea,” says Davila.

Scholars have long recognized that both the Southeast and Huasteca had towns with artificial lagoons and platform mounds with thatched structures on top, engraved shell jewelry, imagery of feathered dancers, stone pipes, and ghostly pots that represent the dead with closed eyes, open mouths, and filed teeth. They have theorized that the cultural influence flowed from Mesoamerica northward, but the Tamtoc artifacts, other mounds in the Huasteca, and the region’s incised shell gorgets, post-date their earliest North American counterparts.

University of South Florida archaeologist Nancy White says that major cultural influences, as well as people, may well have traveled north to south. “We know other things may have moved from North to South America, things that may be considered less important or equally important, like tobacco.” The Mississippian motifs of the Late Prehistoric period that appear in the Huasteca do indicate that “at this late time people were probably moving around and sharing these ideas, but just a few things.” In the field, Martínez and Córdova want to see for themselves.

Read the full article here:

Did Mayan Astronomers Create the Forsyth Petroglyph?

Does the Forsyth Petroglyph record the same astronomical event recorded in Temple XIX at Palenque and also depicted on the Mayan Blowgunner Vase?

Abstract: The hieroglyphic platform in Palenque’s Temple XIX records a comet breakup and impact event in 3300 BC. The same event was recorded on a Maya vase known as the Blowgunner Vase, which has been interpreted as a star map. The Forsyth Petroglyph appears to contain information found in both the Temple XIX inscriptions as well as the Blowgunner Vase and likely alludes to the same event. Additionally, the use of a Mayan glyph(s) (CHUM and/or YEH) and mythological symbol (CIPACTLI) on the Forsyth Petroglyph further links it to its Mayan counterparts and strongly suggests it was carved by Maya or Maya-influenced astronomers.

In a previous paper I argued that the Forsyth Petroglyph was a star map that recorded a comet breakup and impact event in 539 AD that coincided with a severe climate downturn at that time recorded in both historical records and the Greenland ice core.1 I have since found connections between the Forsyth Petroglyph and Maya “mythological” accounts of an event which happened near the end of the last Maya calendar that is also consistent with a major impact event. Evidence for this event is found in ice core, climate, and sedimentary records.

The event known as the Maya Flood Myth is the basis of much of Maya religion and mythology.2 The event is recorded in an inscription in Temple XIX at Palenque3 as well as on a Maya vase known as the Blowgunner Vase.4 The Blowgunner Vase has been argued to be a Maya star map.5 Coincidentally, it contains the exact same constellations in the same configuration as those on the Forsyth Petroglyph. Since the Forsyth Petroglyph and Blowgunner Vase show the most similarities I will compare them first.

The traditional interpretation of the Blowgunner Vase6 is that it illustrates a Maya myth wherein a figure known as Jun Ajaw, “One Lord” or “One Sun” uses a blowgun to shoot Itzam Yeh (“Itzam Revealed”), the Celestial Bird, out of the sky.7 The Celestial Bird is represented as a Quetzal bird. The glyphs on the vase below the blowgun read, “Itzam Yeh Descends (from) the Sky.”8


Others have taken the interpretation further and argued that not only does the vase record a myth but also serves as a star map.9  According to this interpretation, the tree in which Itzam Yeh is perched represents the bright band of stars of the Milky Way. The scorpion at the bottom of the tree represents the constellation Scorpio located in the sky next to the bright band of the Milky Way. The Serpent on the far right of the vase rollout is thought to represent the constellation Draco.

Blowgunner Vase as a star map: tree represents the Milky Way, scorpion represents Scorpio constellation and serpent represents Draco constellation.

These star groups match the star map that I have argued exists on the Forsyth Petroglyph. The constellation Draco is unmistakably represented on the far right of the Forsyth Petroglyph just as on the Mayan Blowgunner Vase. The claws of the constellation Scorpio are represented on the left side of the petroglyph just as on the Blowgunner Vase.

Interpretation of the symbols on the Forsyth Petroglyph including the constellations Scorpio & Draco as well as a comet and comet fragments.
Scorpio constellation on petroglyph Pincers of the Scorpio constellation
Draco constellation on petroglyph Draco constellation

Yet I’ve also argued that a comet is also represented on the petroglyph and this comet breaks into fragments. Does anything similar exist on the Blowgunner Vase?

In fact, there is. The Celestial Bird in the top of the tree likely represents a comet. The use of a Quetzal bird to represent this Celestial Bird is quite telling. The Quetzal is a bird from southern Mexico that has extremely long tail feathers. A bird flying across the sky with a long tail is a perfect symbol for a comet.10 The Chinese actually referred to one type of comet as a “long tailed pheasant star” showing that they, too, related birds with long tail feathers to comets.

The blowgunner, Jun Ajaw, shooting the Quetzal from the top of the tree thus represents the comet impacting earth. The Mayan glyphs below the blowgun read, “Itzam Yeh descends (from) the sky.” Thus the blowgunner scene is a clear reference to a comet which falls from the sky similar to the comet breakup recorded on the Forsyth Petroglyph. Curiously, the glyph for YEH, “revealed,” is nearly identical and in the same location (between Scorpio and Draco) as the incomplete star symbol on the Forsyth Petroglyph. I’ve interpreted this as a supernova on the petroglyph thus the Mayan verb YEH, “revealed,” is a fitting description of a star that appears out of nowhere.

Blowgunner Vase as both a star map and account of comet impact event.

This same symbol on the Forsyth Petroglyph also closely resembles the glyph for the Mayan word CHUM, “enthronement.” This is an important aspect of the Mayan Flood Myth as recorded in Palenque’s Temple XIX. The first event that takes place in this myth is the “enthronement” of God GI in the sky on March 10, 3309 BC. Curiously, the myths surrounding GI have him being born and enthroned multiple times. This has confused scholars but makes sense when one realizes that his enthronement in the sky is best explained as the appearance of a supernova in the sky.11  Supernova can brighten becoming visible and dim becoming invisible multiple times before they explode. Thus GI’s multiple births becomes explicable via an astronomical interpretation.

Classic version of Mayan CHUM glyph meaning “to seat” on Palenque Temple XIX
Possible CHUM glyph on Forsyth Petroglyph

Just as YEH, “revealed,” was a perfect description of a supernova so is CHUM, “enthronement.” Most stars are always in the sky night after night thus they don’t “come to power.” They are simply always there. Only a supernova appears out of nowhere and takes its position in the sky, i.e., is “enthroned.” The fact that supernovas are usually so bright they are even visible during daylight hours is likely another reason they are said to be “enthroned,” since they are the “king” of the stars during their short reign in the sky.

A berrylium-10 spike shows up in the ice core records around 3300 BC12 which is the same time that God GI was enthroned in the sky. Such spikes are known signatures for supernova explosions thus the physical evidence supports this astronomical interpretation of God GI.

The most important symbol in the Temple XIX Flood Myth is the decapitation of a cosmic crocodile. In my book chapter, “Decoding the Mayan Flood Myth,” I argue that the cosmic crocodile represents a comet.13 Like a comet a crocodile has a head and a long tail. The decapitation event was likely a phenomena known as a “tail disconnection event” when a comet’s tail is torn off by a coronal mass ejection from the sun. In 2011 Comet Elenin exploded after being hit by a CME.

Interestingly, the blowgunner Jun Ajaw, “One Lord” or “One Sun,” is shown with three spots on his body likely representing sunspots. Sunspots only appear on the sun during active periods, which is also when solar flares and coronal mass ejections are possible. Perhaps Jun Ajaw’s blowgun represents the sun shooting a coronal mass ejection at the comet, which is responsible for bringing the comet down to earth?

On the Forsyth Petroglyph there is a symbol on the far right of the stone that is very similar in design to representations of Cipactli.14 Cipactli is the Aztec version of the decapitated crocodile and is always represented as a disembodied crocodile head with a distinctive crest above his eye.15 The Maya Cosmic Crocodile also always features a distinctive crest above his eye. The Forsyth Petroglyph also includes this distinctive crest.

“Cipactli” or decapitated “Cosmic Crocodile” featuring distinctive curl over its eye on the far right side of the Forsyth Petroglyph
One version of Cipactli which looks most similar to the Forsyth Petroglyph design.

The impact events represented in Palenque’s Temple XIX and the Blowgunner Vase happened around 3300 BC while the event recorded on the Forsyth Petroglyph likely happened around 539 AD. Yet scientists have noted that two major ammonium peaks in the Greenland ice core, signatures of cosmic impacts, stand out in the ice core record: one at 3300 BC and one at 500 AD. Thus the 500 AD event was similar to the 3300 BC event and likely revived the memory of this older event.

The fact that this “myth” was recorded at Palenque sometime after 500 AD further supports the idea that the 539 AD event revived the memory of this ancient catastrophe and resulted in it being recorded in various mediums including the vase and hieroglyphic platform. It appears this Mayan record of an ancient catastrophe was also recorded on the rock petroglyph known as the Forsyth Petroglyph in Georgia. The use of Mayan glyphs and mythological symbols on the petroglyph as well as the similarity in layouts between the petroglyph and the Maya Blowgunner Vase strongly suggest it was carved by Maya or Mayan-influenced astronomer-priests.

[This article is based on the research paper: Comparison of Forsyth Petroglyph, Mayan Blowgunner Vase and the Mayan Flood Myth from Palenque Temple XIX.]

References Cited

[1] Daniels, Gary C. “Possible Astronomical Symbols on the ‘Sculptured Rock from Forsyth County, Georgia.’” Accessed online 20 August 2012 at <>.

[2] Roys, Ralph, trans. “The Creation of the World.” The Chilam Balam of Chumayel. Accessed online 16 August 2012 at <>.

[3] Garcia, Erik Velasquez. “The Maya Flood Myth and the Decapitation of the Cosmic Caiman.” PARI Online Publications. The Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute. Accessed online 14 August 2012 at <>.

[4] Daniels, Gary C. “Decoding the Mayan Blowgunner Vase.” Mayan Calendar Prophecies: Predictions for 2012-2052. CreateSpace: 2012, pp. 110-116.

[5] King, Timothy David. “The Blowgunner Vase as a Star Map.” The constellation system of the ancient maya. Stanford University.

[6] Kerr, Justin. Blowgunner Vase. Accessed online 16 August 2012 at <>.

[7] Freidel, David and Linda Schele. Maya Cosmos. Harper Collins. New York: 1993, p.70. Accessed online 16 August 2012 at <>.

[8] Zender, Marc. “The Raccoon Glyph in Classic Maya Writing.The PARI Journal.  The Precolumbian Art Research Institute. Spring 2005: Volume V, Number 4. Accessed online 16 August 2012 at <>.

[9] King, Timothy David. “The Blowgunner Vase as a Star Map.” The constellation system of the ancient maya. Stanford University.

[10] Daniels, Gary C. “Comet Machholz and the Return of Kukulkan.” Mayan Calendar Prophecies: Predictions for 2012-2052. CreateSpace: 2012, pp. 53-54.

[11] Daniels, Gary C. “Supernova or Galactic Core Explosion?” Mayan Calendar Prophecies: Predictions for 2012-2052. CreateSpace: 2012, pp. 104-105.

[12] LaViolette, Paul. Earth Under Fire. Bear and Company.

[13] Daniels, Gary C. “Decoding the Mayan Flood Myth.” Mayan Calendar Prophecies: Predictions for 2012-2052. CreateSpace: 2012, pp. 90-109.

[14] Cargill, L. A. “Aztec or Mayan star glyph – Native American rock carving.” Accessed 19 August 2012 at <>.

[15] Stuart, David. The Inscriptions at Temple XIX at Palenque. The Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute. San Francisco: 2005, p.71. Accessed online 16 August 2012 at <>

Language Evidence of Mesoamerican Trade Contact in Southeastern U.S.

Linguist David Kaufman at the University of Kansas has found compelling linguistic evidence of trade contact between Mexico and the Southeastern U.S. In a lecture given on November 2, 2012 Kaufman presented evidence of this linguistic connection between the  Totonacs and Maya and various tribes in the Southeastern United States.

For instance, the Totonac word for “maize (corn)” was kuxi. (The ‘x’ represents a sound similar to ‘sh’ in English.) This was similar to the word for maize in several Southeastern U.S. languages. In Caddo the word for “maize” was kisi and among the Catawba it was kus. The Totonac word for “corn sprout” was chaxa. In Alabama/Koasati the word for “corn sprout” was chassi and in Alabama chasha-lokba referred to an “old type of corn.” In the Mobilian Trade Language the word was chashe and in Chitimacha it was chasa. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the word for “corn” was xilo. In Cheroke it was selu. In Mayan the word for “corn tassle” was tz’utuj. In Atakapa tso’ ots meant “corn seed.”

Words related to corn were not the only borrowings. In Mayan, chompati meant to “buy to resell.” In both the Mobilian Trade Language and Choctaw chompa meant to “buy.” In Mayan b’ul meant “bean.” Bala meant “bean” in the Mobilian Trade Language and Choctaw. In Mayan t’e meant “wood/tree” and in Atakapa te meant “bow.”

In Totonac, tamaw(an) meant “place to buy/plaza.” In the Mobilian Trade Language and Choctaw tamaha meant “town.” In Totonac chiki meant “house” and chiki also meant “house” in Creek and “sit-settled” in Alabama. (I discussed this very connection in my article, “Mayan Words Among Georgia’s Indians.“)

Kaufman goes on to make comparisons between the Totonac site of El Tajin in Veracruz, Mexico and the Bottle Creek Mounds site in Alabama. Learn more here: “Possible Language Evidence of Gulf  Maritime Trade Between Mesoamerica and Eastern North America. (A preliminary study.)