Mayan Mystery Solved?

One of the ongoing questions in Pre-Colombian studies is what happened to the Ancient Classic Maya after a sudden collapse of their civilization which had reached its height between 300 and 900 A.D.? While indigenous Maya still reside in various parts of Mexico and Central America, some 15 million of their ancestors seem to have abandoned most of their cities and quite suddenly disappeared. Various speculations about this mass disappearance include climate change, deforestation, famine, overpopulation, collapse of trade routes, epidemics, ongoing wars between city states, foreign invaders, top heavy elite, and volcanic eruptions. From a modern perspective it seems reasonable to postulate that this massive social trauma resulted from some combination of known and unknown, man-made and natural catastrophes. Some scholars believe that most of the Mayan population from that era either died out or migrated to other regions. A few New Agers have suggested that the Ancient Maya disappeared into a parallel dimension or even took off with the Sky Gods for some other galaxy. Nevertheless, the Mayan enigma remains timely for this New Year of 2012 given a renewed interest in the cycles of fractal time encoded within the Mayan calendar.

Toward the end of 2011 I was surprised to come upon an article with the title “1,100-year old Mayan ruins found in North Georgia”. ( At first glance this piece by David Ferguson appeared to be a hoax. This startling information, published here and not in an in an archeological journal, was accompanied by an image of the Aztec calendar. While the Aztec took over most of their calendar from the Maya, the two are not identical. The most important difference lies in the fact that the Aztecs did not include the Mayan long count fugue-like chrono-vision which has been a source for a flurry of recent speculation. It is generally believed that the Mayan long count began in 3,114 BC and this current cycle will end on December 21, 2012. However, it is important to understand that this 25,920 year cycle is not even close to the end of the Maya calendar which continues on into much further units of time. Despite an image of the wrong calendar, Ferguson’s article piqued my curiosity because if true, this would be one of the most important archeological discoveries of modern times. His source, I soon discovered, was an article by Richard Thornton (Architectural and Design Examiner, December 21, 2011) who has also written a new book, Itsapa:The Itza Maya in North America, (January 2012).

Thornton recounts activities and findings of University of Georgia’s Mark Williams. A highly respected specialist in American Southeastern archeology, Williams has been excavating the Kenimer Mound site in the mountains of North Georgia believed to be at least 1,100 years old. The ruins there appear to be the remains of a city built by Maya who fled north in order to escape a variety of inhospitable conditions. According to Thorton, Williams began by leading an expedition to explore this Kenimer Mound which turned out to be a large five sided step pyramid dating from approximately 900 A.D. built by methods common to the Central American Maya. The earliest maps of this area show the name Isate, which is what the Itza Maya called themselves. Only the Itza Maya and ancestors of the Creek Indians in Georgia built five sided step pyramids in the Americas and there are dozens of such structures in Central America. A Cherokee village near the mound was named Itsa-ye whichtranslated into English means “place of the Itza (Maya)”.

The Kenimer Mound project was joined by South African archaeologist Johannes Loubser whose firm dug two test pits under stone structures to obtain soil sampleswhich registered radiocarbon dates of 1000 A.D. Loubser also uncovered pottery shards made from around 770-850 A.D. consistent with the time of the Classic Mayan diaspora. Pottery found at the Ocmulgee National Monument (900 A.D.) in central Georgia is virtually identical to Maya Plain Red pottery made by tribal commoners. This could suggest that Maya who immigrated northward to the American Southeast were common folk who then became elite to local indigenous cultures and eventually blended into Creek, Cherokee and various other tribes. If this is true, then the fate of the Mayan elite and ruling classes remains unknown.

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