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:

Review: Palenque- Eternal City of the Maya

palenque-bookThere is no better, more thorough history of the Mayan site of Palenque than George and David Stuart’s Palenque: Eternal City of the Maya. The Stuart’s, both experts on the Maya in general and the site of Palenque in particular, manage to condense their expansive knowledge of the site into a relatively brief 243 pages that cover everything from architecture to royal family lineages.

Having said that, the book is not without its flaws. First, the book does not start with the Mayan history of the site. I expected to jump right in and immediately begin learning about the ancient Mayan kings who lived at Palenque and what life was like at the site. Unfortunately the book begins with the history of the European discovery of Palenque after it had been abandoned in the jungle for 1000 years. It next goes on to the history of the archaeological work at the site. It’s not until page 106, over a third of the way through the book, that the reader is finally introduced to the Maya themselves who built and lived at Palenque.

Furthermore, the authors recount this history in a linear, textbook style; i.e., “this happened, then this happened, then this happened,” etc. This makes it a rather dull read, definitely not a page turner. In addition, the book is written in a dry, academic style. These facts make the book one that really requires some work on the reader’s part to trudge through its pages. I found myself re-reading passages in order to fully understand them. Worse, the authors often referred back to previous chapters assuming the reader would remember every detail of its dry, academic facts instead of simply restating what the authors wanted the reader to remember. Considering I had read some of these chapters days earlier it was difficult to remember precisely what the authors were referring to without going back and re-reading these passages.

All of this results in a book that feels more like reading an autopsy of a dead city rather than learning about the vibrant, living city that Palenque once was. This is not a problem unique to this book but to history books in general. It is rare to find one that really breathes life into its subject. Thus if you are a fan of history you will likely find this book no worse than any other book on ancient history.

The biggest oversight comes from a lack of any mention as to the source of Palenque’s great wealth. The book fails to answer two of the most important of the 5 w’s (who, what, when, where, & why) every good book should answer: Why was Palenque such a large and prosperous city and what was the source of its great wealth? Most cities become rich through trade yet no mention of trade found its way into this volume. In fact, the word “trade” is not even in the book’s index. This is quite a glaring oversight equivalent to writing a history of Detroit without mentioning the automobile industry or a history of Los Angeles without mention the entertainment industry or a history of New York City without mentioning the financial industry. Every city has its reason for being yet we never get even the slightest sense of Palenque’s reason for being.

The authors approach the subject of trade on multiple occasions but never dive in. For instance, they note in this passage:

“Palenque’s situation on the border between two enormously different environmental zones, the vast plain on the north and highlands immediately south, gave it the advantage of exploiting both lowland and highland resources. The city also lies on the geographical divide between two drainage systems, one flowing west and the other east. Awareness of both these benefits may well have helped Palenque’s first settlers select the place.”

Yet this passage fails to mention what these resources were or how their exploitation was of any benefit to Palenque. Did this location enable them to become the middle men in a vast trade network? Or was their some local resource that was valuable which the inhabitants of Palenque exported to other localities? Today the primary means of creating wealth is either by being a distributor of other people’s goods (Wal-Mart) or by the creation and export of your own goods (Apple). So which was it at Palenque?

On two other occasions the authors hint at trade but again fail to dig deeper. On pp. 142-143 they note:

“Uk’aychan…may have been reaching westward in order to control lucrative trade routes and resources in the Palenque region….”

Yet the authors make no mention of what items were traded or what resources were such valuable commodities. And on p. 164 they note:

“Another subsidiary community was Xupa, located on the opposite eastern side of Palenque’s domain. Today, it is a moderate and little investigated ruin, with sculpted fragments also in the Palenque mode. Xupa’s location in the fertile Chancala Valley suggests that it was used to control and administer the region’s important agricultural productivity.”

But this passage fails to answer any important questions like what agricultural products were produced and were they used locally or exported? Was this the source of Palenque’s wealth or was there some other source?

The closest the book comes to discussing trade is when it discusses the ceramic record of the city. For instance, the authors note:

“By AD 400, the community had grown considerably….The sudden appearance at this time of pottery from the Peten region to the east helps define the Motiepa phase, a period of some two centuries that witnessed the maturing of the city as a major center– and the beginnings of military conflicts with neighbors to the east.”

Yet once again they fail to dig deeper to explain this transformation of Palenque into a “major center.” Was trade in ceramics the cause of this transformation or simply a result? Another example:

“The 7th century AD corresponds with the renaissance of the kingdom as a major political force….This Otolum ceramic phase reflects both stability and prosperity in the sheer variety of local wares– and a dramatic increase in the importing of fine polychrome vases by the status-conscious elite.”

Again, was Palenque a center of the ceramic trade or was this increase the result of wealth created from other ventures? The authors fail to provide any deeper insight into the source of Palenque’s wealth and thus the whole underpinning of its existence. Another example:

“The 8th century at Palenque, corresponding generally to the ceramic phase named for the Murcielagos River…half a century of excavation there…has uncovered dozens of what surely rank among the most spectacular examples of ceramic art ever produced by the ancient Maya….These striking objects were locally produced by the hundreds– Rands has identified at least one studio-workshop about 1 km (0.6 mile) east of the Palace….”

But as usual the authors fail to explain why the people at Palenque were producing such fabulous pottery. Were they trading it and thus creating wealth from it or did their wealth come from some other source which then afforded them the luxury of fine ceramics? Another example:

“The final discernible ceramic phase of Palenque, the Balunte (c. AD 770-850), saw increased interactions with communities on the plains to the north…”

Again, the authors explain little about the nature of these “increased interactions.” Were they trade related? Was Palenque exporting ceramics to these communities or importing ceramics from these communities?

And one final example from p. 233:

“The elegantly shaped ceramic vessel is made from a distinctive fine grey paste that comes from the Tabasco plains, to the north of Palenque, which was widely imported during the Balunte ceramic phase.”

Was the clay imported to create vessels for export or were the vessels consumed only at Palenque? Again, the reader is left with more questions than answers and has no better idea the “why” and “what” of Palenque as when they first opened the book.

Amazingly, even though the authors discuss the ceramic/pottery traditions that mark important changes at Palenque, few photos of this pottery were included in the book– a major oversight.

Probably one of the more fascinating topics was the interaction between Palenque and the metropolis of Teotihuacan in central Mexico. The fact that many Mayan sites appear to have been either conquered or greatly influenced by this great city so far away hints at a much more far flung trade network and interaction sphere than most believe was present in the New World before the arrival of Europeans. But again, the authors do not delve too deeply into this subject.

Without this discussion of trade the reader is left with a dry account of buildings and kings and little more. The few mentions of warfare help breathe life into the dead skeletons of Palenque’s history but discussion of trade would have helped even more so.

The author’s did manage to bring in a few nice touches like:

“To this day, many traditional Maya peoples see mountains as the dwelling places of their ancestors, the ‘mothers-and-fathers,’ who exert a profound spiritual influence over the lives of the descendants who hold them in high esteem.”

Passages such as this help connect the present with the past and in so doing helps connect the reader to the humanity of the people they are reading about. The skeletons at Palenque were once living, breathing people with motivations identical to those of people today. The more the authors could have made of that connection between the past and present, the better their book would have been.

But as it stands, Palenque: Eternal city of the Maya is an invaluable reference that I will undoubtedly return to time and time again when I need to research information about Palenque.

Contractor Bulldozes Mayan Temple


Notice the dump truck at the bottom of this pyramid in order to get a true sense of the massive scale of the site.

Over the past 100 years countless archaeological sites have been destroyed to provide road fill for America’s growing transportation network. Sadly, this tradition appears to be alive and well in Belize where a contractor recently bulldozed a Mayan temple at a site known as Noh Mul (“Big Hill”) in order to provide fill for a road in a nearby village. Unlike the many restored and reconstructed Mayan temple sites in Mexico, the site of Noh Mul is still in its “natural” state and appears as little more than mounds upon the landscape covered with trees. Most tourists have no idea that this is what all Mayan sites looked like before they were restored to their former glory. Read more below:

Noh Mul. it’s name means the Big Hill but it’s not so big any more, this once towering and stout ceremonial center in San Jose/San Pablo has been whittled down to a narrow core by excavators and bulldozers. Whodunnit? Contractors who’re using the rich gravel and limestone content to fill roads in nearby Douglas Village.

Now, this was the main temple, the ceremonial center for Noh Mul, at about 20 metres among the tallest buildings in Northern Belize – and it’s not centuries old, it’s millennia, thousands of years old and the thought that it’s rich limestone bricks cut with stone tools in the BC era, the thought that this could be used for road fill is a manifest outrage and a particularly painful one for these Archeologists who were called out to the area today. We were there when they first arrived and got their initial emotional reaction:

Dr. Allan Moore – Archaeologist, Institute of Archaeology
“This is one of the largest bulding in Norther Belize. I am appalled! I was hoping that when I was driving up from the main San Juan road that it would not be this one but when I got closer I couldn’t believe it when I saw all the trucks. This is an incredible destruction.”

Read the full story here:

Maya architecture not borrowed from Olmecs


Structure A-3 at Seibal. Courtesy Wikipedia.

The standard story of the origins of Maya civilizations has them evolving from the “mother culture” of Mesoamerica, the Olmecs. Yet the latest research shows that this may not be the case and the Maya likely originated their own ideas about how to construct a city. Read more below:

Deep Dig Shows Maya Architecture Arose Independently of Olmec’s

The origins of the Maya civilization remain one of archaeology’s longest-running mysteries. The Maya continually renovated their imposing pyramids and plazas, burying the earliest architecture under thick layers of stone. So researchers have long wondered, did the Maya inherit much of their civilization from the Olmec people in southern Mexico? A study published this week in Science on new data from the Maya city of Ceibal in Guatemala strongly suggests that one key element of Maya civilization—the arrangement of urban ceremonial space—owed little to the Olmec.

Read the full article here:

Early Ceremonial Constructions at Ceibal, Guatemala, and the Origins of Lowland Maya Civilization

The spread of plaza-pyramid complexes across southern Mesoamerica during the early Middle Preclassic period (1000 to 700 BCE) provides critical information regarding the origins of lowland Maya civilization and the role of the Gulf Coast Olmec. Recent excavations at the Maya site of Ceibal, Guatemala, documented the growth of a formal ceremonial space into a plaza-pyramid complex that predated comparable buildings at other lowland Maya sites and major occupations at the Olmec center of La Venta. The development of lowland Maya civilization did not result from one-directional influence from La Venta, but from interregional interactions, involving groups in the southwestern Maya lowlands, Chiapas, the Pacific Coast, and the southern Gulf Coast.

Read the full article here:

Oldest Maya Sun Observatory Hints at Origin of Civilization

The oldest ancient Maya ceremonial compound ever discovered in the Central American lowlands dates back 200 years before similar sites pop up elsewhere in the region, archaeologists announced today (April 25). The recently excavated plaza and pyramid would have likely served as a solar observatory for rituals.

The finding at a site called Ceibal suggests that the origins of the Maya civilization are more complex than first believed. Archaeologists hotly debate whether the Maya — famous for their complex calendar system that spurred apocalypse rumors last year — developed independently or whether they were largely inspired by an earlier culture known as the Olmec. The new research suggests the answer is neither.

“This major social change happened through interregional interactions,” said study researcher Takeshi Inomata, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona. But it doesn’t look like the Olmec inspired the Maya, Inomata told reporters. Rather, the entire region went through a cultural shift around 1000 B.C., with all nearby cultures adopting similar architectural and ceremonial styles.

Read full story here:


First physical evidence of tobacco in a Mayan container


A Mayan vessel holds the first physical evidence of tobacco in the ancient culture. Credit: Library of Congress

Tobacco was one of the most important substances among Native American tribes in the New World. At the time of European discovery this agricultural product was widespread throughout the Americas. How and when tobacco arrived in different regions throughout the New World is one of the questions those of us who are interested in long distance trade and cultural contacts are interested in answering. One of the ways of tracking long distance trade is to track the earliest appearance of trade goods in various regions. New techniques for doing this have been established in recent years and have helped fill in the picture of ancient trade routes. The earliest physical evidence of tobacco in the Maya world can now be securely dated to 700 AD. (Of course we suspect from various artwork that depicts smoking and artifacts such as pipes that were used in smoking that tobacco arrived much earlier than this.) Read the article below to find out how researchers were able to securely arrive at the earliest date for tobacco in Mesoamerica:

A scientist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an anthropologist from the University at Albany teamed up to use ultra-modern chemical analysis technology at Rensselaer to analyze ancient Mayan pottery for proof of tobacco use in the ancient culture. Dmitri Zagorevski, director of the Proteomics Core in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) at Rensselaer, and Jennifer Loughmiller-Newman, a doctoral candidate at the University at Albany, have discovered the first physical evidence of tobacco in a Mayan container. Their discovery represents new evidence on the ancient use of tobacco in the Mayan culture and a new method to understand the ancient roots of tobacco use in the Americas….

To make their discovery, the researchers had a unique research opportunity: a more than 1,300-year-old vessel decorated with hieroglyphics that seemingly indicated the intended contents. Additionally, the interior of the vessel had not been cleaned, leaving the interior unmodified and the residue protected from contamination. The approximately two-and-a-half-inch wide and high clay vessel bears Mayan hieroglyphics, reading “the home of his/her tobacco.” The vessel, part of the large Kislak Collection housed at the Library of Congress, was made around 700 A.D. in the region of the Mirador Basin, in Southern Campeche, Mexico, during the Classic Mayan period. Tobacco use has long been associated with the Mayans, thanks to previously deciphered hieroglyphics and illustrations showing smoking gods and people, but physical evidence of the activity is exceptionally limited, according to the researchers.


Read more at:

Cal State L.A. pays homage to Michael D. Coe

2013 symposium brings together scholars, academics in Mesoamerican studies

michael-coeLos Angeles, CA – Featuring 15 distinguished scholars who are leaders in the field of Mesoamerica, Cal State L.A.’s Art History Society presents “Jaguars, Eagles and Feathered Serpents: Mesoamerica Re-explored,” on Friday and Saturday, April 12-13.

The 2013 Mesoamerican Symposium, which pays homage to the life and work of renowned archaeologist Michael D. Coe, will take place in the Golden Eagle Ballroom on the CSULA campus. Coe will be presented with the Tlamatini Award for lifetime achievement during the Saturday program. Tlamatini is a Nahua word that means wise man or teacher.

One of the most prestigious Mayanists of all time, Coe is a Charles J. McCurdy Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Yale University.  His research interests focus on the pre-Spanish civilizations of Mesoamerica, especially the Olmec and Maya; and on the Khmer civilization of Cambodia. He has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1986. Coe’s books include The MayaMexicoThe True History of ChocolateBreaking the Maya CodeReading the Maya Glyphs, and Angkor and the Khmer Civilization.

The sessions at the two-day event will cover the following topics:

*  “The Nunnery Quadrangle at Uxmal: Kingship, Court, and Cosmos in a Puuc Palace Complex,”

 “Myth and Ritual of Access to Power in the Central Part of the Codex Borgia: A Proposal,”

*  “The Toltec Ballgame: Rewards, Titles and Position in Postclassic Society,”

*  “The Millenialist Utopia of the Indian Jerusalem: Indian-Christian Art and Transculturation in 16th Century Mexico,”

*  “The Bonampak Murals: A Performance at the Maya Court,” and more.

Among the renowned cast of scholars at the symposium are Robert H. Cobean, director of the Tula Archaeological Project and a member of Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History), and Mary E. Miller, dean of Yale College at Yale University and the highly-esteemed author of The Art of Mesoamerica, and An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya (co-authored by Dr. Karl Taube).  In addition, Oswaldo Chinchilla of Yale; Jeff K. Kowalski of Northern Illinois University; Stephen D. Houston of Brown University;Guilhiem Olivier of UNAM; Juan Miro of University of Texas, Austin, and many others will be participating.

For more about the symposium, go to

Admission is $15, and $10 for students. This is cosponsored by the Department of Art and the College of Arts and Letters at Cal State L.A. To register, please

The University is located at the Eastern Avenue exit, San Bernardino Freeway, at the interchange of the 10 and 710 Freeways. Public (permit dispensers) parking is available on the top level of Parking Structure C. For campus maps and directions:

“Mayan Blue” film explores history of Maya civilization

mayanbluefilmMayan Blue’ is a documentary film that follows the journey of an ancient Mayan site recently discovered beneath the waters of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Through the investigation of the 2000-year-old city of Samabaj, the film explores the Mayan view of the cosmos and their ancient mythologies. The findings reveal a catastrophe the likes of which the Mayans could never have imagined, reshaping everything they believed about Earth and the origins of their underworld.

Mayan Blue Trailer with Intro from Standoff Studios on Vimeo.


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:

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 <>

Sacred Mayan Journey 2012

The Maya of the Postclassic era considered the sea as a source of food and a navigable resource but it was also the cause of devastation and death, as the marine world was linked to the Xibalbá or underworld. And so, a sea crossing meant a transition to the afterlife or a rebirth.

Ports like Xamanhá, today´s Playa del Carmen, and mainly Ppolé, modern day Xcaret, served as the starting point for the pilgrimages that came from the most remote cities of the Mayan world on their way to the sanctuary of the goddess Ixchel in the island of Cuzamil, today’s Cozumel.

The Spaniard conquest, the evangelization of indigenous cultures and the punishment for the worship of idols, among others, were the reasons for this kind of ritual to fall into disuse.

On the 5th Anniversary of the Sacred Mayan Journey, we want to keep on reenacting this ritual of the ancient sailors with your participation. Dance, ceremonies, commerce and the physical effort of the oarsmen are key elements of the pilgrimage toward Cozumel in search of the message that stems from the oracle of Ixchel; goddess of the moon, the tides and floods, medicine, pregnancy, weaving and regeneration cycles. An appreciation for the rich culture left by the Maya as a legacy is what brings us together once again.

Takes place May 17,18,&19 2012. Learn more at: