The scramble to ride on the 2012 coattails is now officially on, and we’re being inundated with “new” Maya news each day when we open our internet browser.
As predicted, so-called experts, pundits and armchair archaeologists are now coming out of the woodwork to make the most of the 2012 phenomenon. Some of it is well intentioned, some of it is blather, and frankly some of it falls under the category of, “I blog, therefore I exist”.
While the flood of Maya information makes our job more enjoyable, it also increases the workload as we wade through an increasing amount of unsubstantiated reports. Because you never know – there may be a gem hidden among the dross and dreck. But be prepared to waste some of your time.
One recent example is the much publicised “discovery” that the ancient Maya migrated north to escape whatever was bringing their civilisation to a close, and made it to the US southern state of Georgia, where they began rebuilding a new society among the peaches.
Seriously, when we first heard the reports our ears did pick up and we began digging deeper before mentioning it here and elsewhere. The initial reports were vaguely plausible, so with that necessary condiment, our ever-present grain of salt at hand, we went to work.
Here’s how it unfolded:
Reports began coming in that on December 21 2011, Richard Thornton, an architect and Maya researcher announced that an archaeological site near Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest peak, could well house the remnants of ancient Maya habitation. The furore, both for and against this claim was predictable; serious archaeologists almost immediately debunked the claim while other people began quoting it as an exciting new explanation for the sudden demise of the Maya empire.
This 3D virtual reality image was made from the Johannes Loubser site plan. There may be many other hidden structures in the ancient site. Credit: VR Image by Richard Thornton
Thornton also claimed that “like most Georgia and South Carolina Creeks, I carry a trace of Maya DNA,” and said that his ancestors came to North America fleeing “volcanic eruptions, wars, and drought.” This was all news to us.
Mark Williams, who led the team of geologists from the University of Georgia working at Brasstown Bald, was less than impressed by the claims, retorting that, “The Maya connection to legitimate Georgia archaeology is a wild and unsubstantiated guess on the part of the Thornton fellow. No archaeologists will defend this flight of fancy.”
In some of the reports, Williams was linked to the Thornton claims, so his pique is understandable.
Our own suspicions about the claims were raised by a few details. The reports were dated 21 December 2011, exactly one year before the pivotal Winter Solstice of 2012, and a time when many Maya tourism promotions and other attention-grabbers were launched. Another clue was the writing style of some of the earlier reports – sorry, they just didn’t have the sound of credibility one sees from, say, professional researchers or academics, and sources were sketchy at best.
But we persevered.
We carefully reviewed the arguments for the Maya migration to Georgia: linguistic similarities between the Maya and local US Native Americans, the arrival of corn in Florida, and other “evidence”. Sometimes the information was in a tidy layout, but the substance was a bit thin.
For example, here’s what one website had to say:
When the Spanish first reached the Yucatan in Mexico they encountered a tribe called Maia (Maya) living in a province called Maiam. Could the Maya have been responsible for bringing corn to Florida?
The migration legend of one Native American tribe, the Hitchiti, suggests this is the case.
The Hitchiti migration legend reference to their ancestors coming from “reeds” suggests they were Maya who left a major city in Mexico and then arrived on the coast of Florida and temporarily settled near Lake Okeechobee before heading upstream and settling in Georgia “for a permanency.”
OK, the fact that the site carries advertising for “Dating Aztec Girls (Beautiful Blond. Short Skirt. High Heels. Discover Aztec Dating Now)” should have stopped us in our tracks, but it was one of the more presentable sites. Honestly.
So why do we mention this at all, you may ask?
As a cautionary tale. In the months to come, there is going to be more and more Maya news and features in the media, and while we are hoping – and expecting – that some new information will come to light, we are asking readers with a genuine interest in this fascinating history and civilisation to summon your inner sceptic when presented with information, ideas, theories and evidence throughout 2012. It may save you some embarrassment at the next cocktail party or gathering (Wow! Did you know that the ancient Maya…”) and, as we’ve always maintained, the true facts about the real Maya civilisation are much more fascinating than the fiction.
We’re not completely discounting that there may well be some connections between the Maya and North American indigenous tribes – far from it. We just hate to see real, credible research being overwhelmed by pet theories presented as fact.
Also, we’ve developed tremendous respect for this amazing civilisation and feel that the Maya name, history and culture has been misrepresented enough. That’s why we will be devoting so much time throughout 2012 to presenting some of the findings and theories coming out of the renewed interest in Maya culture, and this is why Chaa Creek will be hosting more workshops, seminars and lectures throughout the year while continuing to sponsor legitimate research.
So don’t worry – we’ll be posting some amazing, true stories that will be interesting, captivating and will hopefully kindle an interest in people to learn more about the amazing Maya civilisation and their impressive achievements.
We hope you look forward to it all as much as we do.