Topic: Maya

The Chontal Maya or Putun Maya

The presence of crescent shaped temple mounds in the Florida Peninsula strongly suggests cultural contacts with Maya ethnic groups, who worshiped the goddess, Ixchel. Very few Florida archaeologists have been willing to suggest publicly that Florida, Mesoamerica and South America had direct cultural contacts. Those who did, were all ostracized by their peers. However, the linguistic and architectural evidence is overwhelming for contacts between illiterate Maya merchants and the indigenous peoples in Georgia – which is north of Florida.

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Maya Cultural Traditions at the Ortona Archaeological Zone

One of the several arguments that Southeastern archaeologists have used to dismiss a direct cultural connection between the Southeastern United States and Mesoamerica is that architecture of the respective regions was different. The architecture of the largest and most sophisticated Maya cities WAS more sophisticated and larger scaled than in towns in the Southeast, but the same architectural elements could be found in both regions. The Mesoamerican pyramids were really earthen mounds veneered with stone in some civilizations, left as clay stuccoed mounds in others.

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Opechancanough and Don Luis

Jamestown was founded in 1607 on land recently conquered by the Powhatan Confederacy. Movies about Pocahontas have given the impression that the “Powhatan Indians” were concentrated on the Chesapeake Bay.  They were not. The villages on the coastline of the Chesapeake were the vassals of the Pamunkey Indians, who forged the confederacy. 1Egloff, Keith and Deborah Woodward, First People: The Early Indians of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1992. The capital of the confederacy, Werowocomoco, was originally on the north side of the York River, not near Jamestown. Note that the town’s name ends with “moko” which is...

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Mexican Native Americans

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. 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...

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The Toltecs are associated with a single city, about 100 miles north of Mexico City. It is known today by the Totonac word for town, Tula.  However, that was also the probable name of Teotihuacan.  The city probably had another name.  The problem is now, anthropologists are not even sure what ethnic group lived there.  The city was contemporary with the Totonac and Huastec civilizations, but its architecture bears no resemblance to either.  What the architecture of Tula No. 2 does resemble is the Native American city in southern Illinois now called Cahokia.  Tula’s pyramids are earth and rubble veneered with stone and plaster, while Cahokia’s pyramids were all earthen. Scholars long assumed that the Aztec version of history, in regard to the Toltecs, was accurate.  These Aztecs stated that the Toltecs were originally Chichimec barbarians like themselves, who eventually became great artisans and scholars.  The word means “artisans” in Archaic Nahuatl. Toltec civilization did not quite have the sophistication of the Mayas. The final form of its architecture was simpler and more martial in appearance than that of the Mayas. The Toltecs utilized a logoglyphic writing system that probable was incapable of transmitting complete sentences or verb tenses. According to several Mesoamerican legends, Tula was founded around 900 AD by newcomers to its region.  Neighboring provinces tried to drive the newcomers out. In the Nahuatl version, Cē Ācatl...

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Totonac Civilization

Shortly after the abandonment of Teotihuacan, cities began developing in northern Vera Cruz. The location of Teotihuacan had become quite arid as today, while Vera Cruz benefited from have a lower altitude and proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. The descendants of the builders of these cities called themselves the Totonacs and they claim to have also once been the elite of Teotihuacan. The architecture of these cities, the best known being El Tajin and Cempoala, shared some decorative details with Teotihuacan, but architectural forms and city plans were quite different.  The Totonacs learned how to make pozzolanic concrete. ...

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Late Classic Maya Heartland

The populations of Maya cities and countryside exploded after the mid-Sixth century hiatus. Several cities reached over 100,000 people. According to NASA archaeologist Tom Sever, the Mayan civilization in Mesoamerica was one of the densest populations in human history. At its zenith around 800 AD, the total population was probably in the range of 22 million.  Prior to the analysis by NASA most archaeologists assumed that the total population was in the range of 10 million. Slavery: Paralleling the population growth was general affluence, which enabled the Maya elite to import and export commodities and artistic creations to and from long distances.  The carrying of commodities between cities was all done by slaves.  In fact, virtually all manual labor, except farming, was done by slaves.  At least 20% of the population were slaves; more likely the figure was in the range of 40%. The percentage of slaves in ancient Rome was 40%.  There were many counties in the antebellum South with over half their population being slaves.  In 1710 60% of South Carolina’s population was enslaved.  On the eve of the Civil War, 49% of the population of Mississippi was enslaved. Chontal Maya traders would have required huge inventories of slaves to carry their goods to the cities in the interior and paddle their boats in the ocean and in rivers.  They also would have been in an ideal...

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Tabasco and Chiapas

The southern end of Vera Cruz and all of Tabasco in Mexico are not significantly different in appearance than southeastern Georgia.  Most of the region is level and humid, with many swamps and natural lakes. The coast of Tabasco is lined with tidal marshes almost identical to those of the coast of Georgia.  Although most of the indigenous inhabitants of Tabasco are called Mayas, most are descended from ethnic groups that were not true Mayas, but absorbed varying degrees of Maya culture.  One group, the Tamauli were originally refugees from Tamaulipas State in the northeastern corner of Mexico. This...

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I knew so little back then. I had only the slightest grasp of my Creek Indian heritage.  I couldn’t even begin to answer Dr. Piña-Chan’s questions.  I did tell him that we had a lot of gold in the Georgia Mountains, but our archaeologists said that the Indians didn’t know anything about it.  Even then, however, I agreed with Dr. Piña-Chan. Why would our Indians be so skilled with working copper, which is also abundant in some parts of the mountains, but not work gold? Well, anthropologists knew so little back then, too.  They were just beginning to translate Maya glyphs. They were completely baffled by the abandonment of the Maya cities.  They had no clue that Maya urbanization once covered much of the landscape of the Yucatan Peninsula, Chiapas and the Petan. Fortunately, I kept a journal that summer to jog my memory on what I saw.  However, in addition, the opportunity to meet on a personal basis with a man of his professional stature somehow left an indelible  record in the remote corner of my memory bank. It was a scene in the movie, Apocalypto, however, that brought all those memories back. The recently captured slaves are being marched into the Maya city to be processed.  They passed through a limestone quarry.  All the quarry slaves were wearing white turbans identical to those on the famous marble...

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Mayan and Creek Similarities

Many, many suns ago, I was awarded a fellowship by Georgia Tech to spend a summer studying the indigenous architecture and town planning of Mesoamerica. The grant involved visiting all of the major archaeological sites in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. In addition, I was to photograph at least 2500 professional quality color slides for the Georgia Tech library.  The education I received seemed only a little relevant to an architectural career in the United States, but it would make interesting conversation for dates and parties.  Besides . . . Relaciones Exteriores (their State Department) let me ship home 125 kg (275 pounds) of indigenous textiles, building material samples, a large chunk of fresco, obsidian weapons and utilitarian Pre-Columbian ceramics. They were for educational purposes, mind you! The Mexican Consul in Atlanta was a graduate in architecture from Georgia Tech, so the “red carpet was rolled out for me.”  He arranged for me to be an official guest of the Institutio Nacional de Anthropoligia Y Historia (INAH).  Its director was the world famous archaeologist, Ignacio Bernal.  My curriculum would be based at the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, directed by Dr. Roman Piña-Chan.  Piña-Chan was an equally famous archaeologist.  His mother was Maya. The debut of the fellowship involved a tour of all six floors of the great museum. Only one floor is open to the public.  The Mexican Consul had...

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Discerning Facts and Myths About Track Rock Gap

In general, Loubser treated Cherokee legends as possible facts, while not discussing Creek Indian traditions whatsoever. Loubser first described two interpretations of the stone ruins that were provided to him by the staff of the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s Cultural Heritage Preservation Office.  Both interpreted the stone ruins as being burials. One version of this Cherokee legend is that the piles of stone at Track Rock Gap are the graves of great Cherokee warriors. There may be Cherokee burials at Track Rock Gap.  However, no stone burial cairns are associated with any known Cherokee village sites in North Carolina or eastern Tennessee.  There are many stone cairn cemeteries in the Georgia Piedmont. They are either located in territory occupied by the Creek Indians until the land was ceded to Georgia, or areas that the Cherokees only briefly occupied from the 1780s to the early 1830s.  Archaeologists have been able to date only a few of these cairns.  Radiocarbon dates ranged between the Late Archaic to the Middle Woodland Periods (1600 BC – 750 AD.) Another version provided by the EBC Cultural Heritage Preservation Office was that the stone ruins were the burials of thousands of Creek warriors, who were killed when the Cherokees conquered Georgia. The Cherokees did not conquer Georgia. In 1754, they suffered a catastrophic defeat by an army sent by the Creek town of Koweta, at...

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Interpretation of the Track Rock Gap Petroglyphs

As a major portion of its professional services to the U.S. Forest Service in the year 2000, Stratum Unlimited, LLC prepared graytone renderings of the six main boulders at Track Rock Gap. These renderings will be of incalculable value to the citizens of the United States in the future.  Because they remained exposed to the elements, the petroglyphs deteriorated at an accelerating pace in the early 21st century.  Acidic rainwater is the primary culprit.  The renderings of the Track Rock petroglyphs are presented on a website sponsored by the USFS. Johannes Loubser provided only generalized interpretation of the images on the Track Rock boulders. There are abstract animals and portions of the human body which are obviously that.  As he stated, there is substantial evidence that several ethnic groups carved images on the boulders over a period of many years.  Some images were carved on top of others.  It is his interpretation, or lack of interpretation, of the abstract images, which is questionable.  He provides an explanation that these are merely graffiti created by Cherokee hunters! All of the abstract images on the Track Rock petroglyphs are either standard symbols, utilized by the Creek Indians, or else are Itza Maya glyphs. Most can be seen on the art found around Etowah Mounds and also the Judaculla petroglyphs near Cullowee, NC. The images at Track Rock that are found around...

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Other Missing Stone Archaeological Sites

Inexplicably, Loubser did not mention a major field stone structure complex in Union County that can be seen from the acropolis of the Track Rock terraces in his Appraisal of a Piled Stone Feature Complex report.. This archaeological zone is known as Fort Mountain. It is not the same site as Fort Mountain State Park in Murray County, GA.  It is located at the edge of the Nottely River Valley in the Choestoe Community.  The two sites align on the azimuth of the Winter Solstice sunset.  The plaza of the acropolis is also aligned to this azimuth.  Draw a line from the stone altar on this plaza. Iit will pass through the center of Fort Mountain in Union County, then end up at the center of the Ladds Mountain stone enclosure in Cartersville, GA. Aligned to Track Rock Gap on the azimuth of the sunrise of the Winter Solstice is the Aleck Mountain stone enclosure in the Nacoochee Valley. “Alek” is the Creek word for a medical doctor.  This stone circle was not mentioned in the Loubser Report even though it has been studied by University of Georgia archaeologists. A report about this site was published. Native American occupation of the Track Rock terraces was almost exactly the same as that at Etowah Mounds National Landmark in Cartersville, GA. Etowah is slightly older. Both sites contain fieldstone retaining walls. There...

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Track Rock Gap Archaeological Survey

In the year 2000 the district office of the U. S. Forest Service in Gainesville, GA contracted with South African archaeologist Johannes Loubser to study the Track Rock Petroglyphs. Loubser operates under the professional name of Stratum Unlimited, LLC. Loubser’s published paper on the Track Rock survey was co-authored by Dr. Douglas Frink of Worcester State College in Massachusetts. This article is a brief analysis of that survey.

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The Track Rock Terrace Complex

In mid-July, a member of the Unicoi Turnpike Preservation Association,  telephoned me after reading an article that I had written in the Examiner. That particular column was about archaeological sites in western North Carolina.  He was also a member of the Towns County, GA Historical Society.  The Union County-Towns County line runs across the peak of Brasstown Bald Mountain, which contains Georgia’s highest elevation.  Brasstown Bald is immediately to the east of Track Rock Gap. The outdoor enthusiast was primarily interested in what I knew about the use of the Unicoi Turnpike during the Trail of Tears Period (1836-1838.)  The Unicoi Turnpike was a 19th century road that improved an ancient Native American trade path between the headwaters of the Savannah River in northeast Georgia and the confluence of the Tennessee and Little Tennessee Rivers near Loudon, TN.  He wanted to know if I thought it was used to move Cherokees to prison stockades in the summer of 1838. I wanted to talk about the evidence that I had found which indicated that Spanish explorer, Juan Pardo, had used the Unicoi Trail in 1567. I thought perhaps Spanish Jews had followed the trail to settle the Georgia and North Carolina Mountains.  He was only mildly interested that subject, and was primarily focused on preserving the sections of the Unicoi Turnpike that might have been traveled by Cherokees. The Unicoi...

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