As mentioned, three major centers of advanced culture blossomed around 900 AD and quickly disappeared around 1150 AD. They were the Toltec capital of Tula, the trade megapolis on the Ocmulgee River in central Georgia, and the cluster of towns connected by canals and raised bed roads around Lake Okeechobee. The causes of their contemporary rise and fall have not been studied by archaeologists and geologists. In fact, very few of these scientists seemed to be aware of the coincidence.
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Etula in northwest Georgia and Ichese in central Georgia continued to prosper for 50 years after the abandonment of the acropolis of Ocmugee. However, both were severely damaged by floods which caused the nearby river (Etowah or Ocmulgee) to cut a new channel across their respective horseshoe bends.
Itza and Putan Maya (c. 900 AD – 1240 AD)
It is quite possible that the Itza Mayas were not ethnically Mayas, but a South American or Central American people who migrated into Mesoamerica. The Itza priests had a secret language they called the language of Zuyva The Classic Mayas said the Itza’s were foreigners who spoke their language brokenly. This suggest that they probably were not native Mayanspeakers and thus not really “Maya.”
The period between 900 AD and 1250 was the Golden Era of the Itza Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula. They ruled their domain from Chichen Itza. There is evidence of an internal revolt by slave or commoners around 1000 AD, when several public buildings were burned. This event may be related to the founding of Etalwa and Ichese about that same time. The Track Rock terraces were possibly settled around 1000 AD also.
The Itza Mayas, by this time, were closely associated with the Putan Maya, or Merchant People, who were descended from the Marsh People of Tabasco. It was a time when Putan Maya merchant boats roamed the extent of their known world. Regional harbors and trading centers were established along the Gulf Coast and Yucatan Peninsula Coast. They became bases for Itza Maya political and cultural influence.
The Putan Maya developed several trade jargons (hybrid dialects) that mixed several languages together. A Totonac-Maya jargon dominated the northern Gulf Coast until Nahuatl became the dominant language within the interior of Mexico after 1250 AD. The Putan Mayas of east central Mexico then shifted to a hybrid Totonac-Nahuatl-Maya trade jargon. Southern Putan trade jargons mixed Itza Maya with Yucatec Maya, Zapotec and Zoque-Mixtec. The presence of Itza Maya, Totonac and Yucatec Maya words in the Creek Indian languages might be explained by the infusion coming from speakers of a Putan trade jargon rather the speakers of a pure language.
The Books of Chilam Balam, written after the arrival of the Spanish, state that an alliance of indigenous Yucatec lords defeated and sacked Chichen Itza around 1240 AD. A little later, Mayapan was established as the capital of Yucatan. Itza Maya quickly disappeared as a language in Yucatan. It survives today as a rapidly disappearing language near one lake in Guatemala, and as individual words in the Miccosukee and Muskogee Creek languages in the United States.
Tamaulipas is the Mexican state immediately adjacent to southern Texas. In pre-Hispanic times it was a province in the coastal plain of that state that was highly influenced by the Putan Mayas. This coastal province went by the name of Am Ixchel, which in northern Chontal Maya means “Place of the Goddess Ixchel.” The region of the Gulf Coast between Mobile Bay and Apalachicola Bay was also called Am Ixchel, when the first Spanish explorers arrive. The Huastecs, a branch of the Mayans, who migrated northward somewhere around 2200-1200 BC, dominated the highlands west of Tampico Bay.
There are several interpretations of the origin of the place name, Tamaulipas. The one that seems most plausible is that it is derived from the Chontal Maya words, Tamauli – pas, which mean “Merchant People – Place of.”
One band of Tamauli took refuge in Chiapas State after their homeland was overrun by Chichimec barbarians around 1250 AD. Today, they are the only indigenous people in Mexico, who celebrate the Greek Corn Festival, eat corn on the cob and start their calendar on the Summer Solstice. They are known in Chiapas as the Tamalte Maya. Tamalte means “Merchant People – People” in Itza Maya.
Less advanced peoples once lived in the northwestern portion of Tamaulipas. Currently, Mexican anthropologists and historians do not know their identity. Some Chichimecs spoke dialects of Nahua. Others did not. Chichimec is a Nahua word meaning “Coyote or Dog People.” Chichi is also the word for dog in Totonac and the Itsate (Hitchiti) Creek language spoken in Georgia.
Indigenous inhabitants of the Tamaulipas Highlands were apparently were pushed out by Nahua speaking hunter-gatherer peoples from north-central Mexico around 1250 AD. These Nahuatl speakers were pushed out by Lipan Apache raiders in the period beginning around 1400 AD. Several of the branches of the Lipan, closest to Tamaulipas traditionally wear cloth turbans, like the Creek Indians.
The timing of the Chichimec invasion of Tamalipas and northern Vera Cruz seems to relate directly to events in the future state of Georgia. El Tajin, the original capital of the Totonacs was sacked by Chichimec barbarians at some time around 1200 AD – 1220 AD. The Tamauli and Chontal Maya towns on the coast of Tamaulipas shared its fate around 1250 AD. This date coincides with the founding of the Bottle Creek Mounds site on an island in a riverine swamp near the Mobile River. The Bottle Creek Mounds site clearly has the typical plan of a Chontal Maya trading center. An inner harbor allowed large numbers of trade canoes or Chontal Maya sailboats to disembark close to a large plaza, presumably used for market stalls.
All principal mounds of the Lamar Culture in Georgia are oriented to the Summer Solstice. Aspects of the Lamar Culture began appearing in Georgia around 1300 AD, with the arrival of the Kusa at a village site in northwest Georgia, where the Coosawattee and Conasauga Rivers merge to form the Oostanaula River. This period also marks the introduction of lima beans and Mexican purple plums into the Southeast.
The Mexica (Aztecs)
Bands of Nahua speaking Chichimec barbarians began migrating southward from the deserts of northern Mexico during the 500s AD. The Mexica Tenocha, better known to North Americans as the Aztecs, arrived in the Valley of Mexico around 1248 AD. They first lived on and around Chapultepec hill, but were soon evicted by the king of Culhuacan, because the sacrificed his daughter! The time around 1250 AD keeps popping up all over Mesoamerica and the Southeast.
Around 1325 AD the Mexica established a town on a swampy island in Lake Texcoco. In 1372, they elected their first tlatoani (king.) Until 1427 the Mexica province was a vassal of the city-state of Azcapotzalco. In 1428 the people of Tenochtitlan, as part of a triple alliance with the cities of Texcoco, and Tlacopan, overthrew Azcapotzalco. Shortly, thereafter, the new tlatoani, Tlacaelel, ordered all existing books burned. They were replaced with a “new history” of the Mexica people.
For the next 90 years the Mexica quickly became the most powerful state in central Mexico. The son of Tlacaelel created a new tradition, called the Flower Wars, in which the Mexica and their enemies would arrange ritualistic wars from which the Mexica would obtain enemy soldiers for human sacrifice. The Mexica also embarked on wars of conquest in which they forced other nations to become vassal states. The Mexica were unable to substantially expand their empire after 1500 AD. Their demands for tributes and humans for sacrifice had created enemies on all sides, bent on their destruction.
In 1519 a small body of Spaniards commanded by Hernan Cortez formed an alliance of the Mexica’s enemies and began the conquest of the Aztec Empire. Spanish treachery, bravery and ultimately, smallpox brought the Aztec Empire down in 1521. Textbooks give the impression that all the Mexica nobility were killed and the remaining Mexica became serfs. In fact, for the next decade the Spanish treated the Mexica nobility as nobility. However, the Spanish appointed their kings. The Spanish and Mexica even went to war together against the Chichimeca in 1530.
At least one type of traditional architecture among the Mexica can also be found among the Creek Indians. The folk temples of the God of the Winds, Quetzacoatl, were essentially identical to the traditional Creek chokofa (chukopa in Oklahoma.) They were constructed by arranging entire tree trunks in a teepee form then tying a compression ring at the top. The bases of the large Quetzalcoatl temples and Creek chokofas were buttressed with clay. The last Temples of Quetzalcoatl built by the Mexica were supersized stone replicas of the original timber structures.
To date, no artifacts or linguistic evidence has been found to directly link the Aztecs with the indigenous cultures of the Southeastern United States. There was an interesting parallel development in the Georgia Mountains however. The Kusa began as a weak tribe from northern Mexico, wandering about the landscape of the Mississippi and Alabama-Coosa River Basins, until around 1300 AD. After being allowed to settle within the territory of Etula, they grew rapidiy in size and power. Around 1375, the Kusa apparently sacked the town of Etula (Etowah Mounds.) They immediately began construction of a capital at the site of a small viallge next to the confluence of the Coosawattee River and Talking Rock Creek. The capital’s location is now under the waters of the lower reservoir of Carters Lake.
The original pronunciation of Kusa was Kău-she. Phonetically, the word is identical to the Itza Maya word Kaaxi, which means “Forested Mountains.” At the time of contact with Hernando de Soto, the people of Kusa spoke a dialect of Itsate to the Spanish. The elite, especially the priests, may have spoken another tongue between themselves.
Creek Indian tradition is that Blood Mountain, on the southwestern edge of Union County, GA where the Track Rock terraces are situated, was the boundary between Kusa Creeks and the Itsate Creeks. There is archaeological evidence, however, that the Lamar Culture pottery styles crossed over Blood Mountain and typified the region around Brasstown Bald Mountain by 1400 AD. This may, or may not, be indicative of an eventual Kusa hegemony over the province ruled by the town at Track Rock Gap. Nevertheless, The Migration of the Kashita People describes a separate and powerful province ruled from a large city on the side of Georgia’s highest mountain.
Although there is no evidence that the Kusa practiced human sacrifice they did create an empire almost as large as that of the Mexica’s during the same period. The region that Kusa dominated was over 450 miles in width. Both the Aztec and the Kusa empire was based on hegemony. Individual provinces were self-governing as long as they paid their annual tribute. It is possible that the leaders of Kusa did place relatives of their own leaders as vassal kings.
Both the Mexica and Kusa excelled in agriculture. Both selective cultivated plants to improve productivity and flavor. The Kusa maintained hundreds of acres of fruit and nut orchards near their capital. The capital exported hickory nut oil and butter to other provinces.
The Purepeche today live in the beautiful Mexican state Michoacan. They are believed to originated on the Pacific coast of northwestern South America, and once been part of the Moche Civilization. The first Purepeche are believed to have arrived around Lake Patzcuaro around 900 AD. By 1300 AD they were also trying to build up an empire like the Mexica.
Tourists know them as the Tarascans. Currently, they are the only known indigenous people of the Americas to enter the Bronze Age. The Purepeche began making weapons out of alloys similar to brass and bronze about 20 years prior to the arrival of the Spanish.
The capital of the Purepeche was on Lake Patzcuaro and named Tzintzunzan, which means “Place of the Hummingbirds.” The Purepeche did not build grand structures or trapezoidal stone pyramids. However, the stonework of their complex round and linear buildings is probably the finest in Mexico.
The Purepeche would have probably conquered the Mexica, if the Spanish hadn’t. In 1479, the Mexica suffered a catastrophic defeat by the Purepeche. This was the Mexica’s first major defeat. After an army of 60,000 Mexica soldiers invaded Michoacan, about 90% were killed. Periodic invasions of Michoacan by smaller armies of Mexica always had the same result.
Currently, there is no obvious connection between the Purepeche and the Southeastern United States. However, the architectural details of the Anasazi pueblos strongly resemble Purepeche and Moche architecture. Also, there are stone ruins along the Ohio River, which are contemporary with Track Rock Gap, that strongly resemble Purepeche architecture.