The Mayans Went Down to Georgia

The Mayans have been in the news a lot over the past couple of years, particularly due to their (supposed) prediction that the world will end in December of this year. This has been so thoroughly debunked that I hardly need mention it here.

Reminiscent of the response to Harold Camping, there are those who believe the Mayans predicted the end of civilization, but the 2012 crowd just got the date wrong.

The cycle that begins in 2032 and ends in 2052, named Katun 13 Ahau, is the last of the thirteen katuns in the current 256-year cycle which began in 1796. According to Bruce Scofield in his book Signs of Time: An Introduction to Mesoamerican Astrology, the prophecy recorded in the Mayan books known as the Chilam Balam for Katun 13 Ahau is as follows:
This is a time of total collapse where everything is lost. It is the time of the judgement of God. There will be epidemics and plagues and then famine. Governments will be lost to foreigners and wise men, and prophets will be lost.

If we miss a financial or other man-made catastrophe, there are always the extraterrestrial concerns.

In 2004 NASA reported that the asteroid 99942 Apophis was discovered to be on a collision course with Earth. It was originally calculated to impact Earth in 2029 but later calculations disproved that timeline. But these new calculations projected the asteroid would strike on April 13, 2036.

Of course, a good theorist never lets facts interfere with their predictions, according to NASA:

While trajectory knowledge was substantially corrected by the Arecibo data, a small estimated chance of impact (less than 1 in 45,000 using standard dynamical models) remained for April 13, 2036.

The predictions above, along with the concept that Mayans were mining gold in Georgia , are the brainchildren of Gary Daniels,  the creator of the Lost Worlds and  several other websites, all a mixture of real and pseudo-archaeology.

The concept of Mayans in Georgia appears to have come from architect, self styled historian, and self-published author Richard Thornton, who has decided that a lost city of the Mayans has been discovered in the mountains of the state of Georgia at the Track Gap Gap Archaeological Area on Brasstown Bald, the highest peak in the state of Georgia and the site of a large man-made mound.

In 1999 archaeologist Mark Williams of the University of Georgia and Director of the LAMAR Institute, led an archaeological survey of the Kenimer Mound, which is on the southeast side of Brasstown Bald in the Nacoochee Valley. Residents in the nearby village of Sautee generally assume that the massive five-sided pyramidal mound is a large wooded hill.   Williams found that the mound had been partially sculpted out of an existing hill then sculpted into a final form with clay.  He estimated the construction date to be no later than 900 AD.  Williams was unable to determine who built the mound.

Thornton bases most of his theory on linguistic evidence without referencing any actual linguistic experts, merely using his own observations.

The name of Brasstown Bald Mountain is itself, strong evidence of a Maya presence.  A Cherokee village near the mountain was named Itsa-ye, when Protestant missionaries arrived in the 1820s.  The missionaries mistranslated “Itsaye” to mean “brass.”  They added “town” and soon the village was known as Brasstown.  Itsa-ye, when translated into English, means “Place of the Itza (Maya).”

In 2000, a respected archaeologist, Johannes Loubser, was hired to examine the area. Loubster

has been conducting CRM archaeology and rock art work in the United States of America.  His archaeological work in the southeastern United States, primarily as a Principal Investigator with New South Associates, Inc., included a variety of Phase I surveys, Phase II test excavations, and Phase III data recoveries in Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina, and Alabama, specializing in the Woodland  and Mississippian periods.

He has authored or co-authored 83 articles and book chapters in journals such as Cambridge Archaeological Journal, South African Journal of Science, The South African Archaeological Bulletin, Southern African Humanities, Time & Mind, American Anthropologist, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, and Early Georgia. He is

co-chair of Society for American Archaeology Rock Art Interest Group, former Committee Member of Society for American Archaeology Excellence in Analysis Award, and former Vice-President of Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists.  Special awards bestowed on Loubser include the Honorary Title of Distinguished Visitor from the town of Sucre in Bolivia and Merit Award for Archaeology from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.  Loubser is on the editorial team of Time & Mind.

A pdf copy of his paper on the site can be found here. Noticeable by its absence is any mention of the Mayans.

According to the Atlanta Journal,

Loubser, in his report, did not say who he thought erected the structures, although he figured the Cherokees or an earlier tribe were likely candidates. The two areas excavated, according to soil testing, were built somewhere between the years 800 and 1100. Loubser stopped excavation at the rock pile because there was evidence it was a grave.
Some piles could be burial sites of fallen warriors, he said. Also, he notes the area contains springs and a natural underground “vent” that releases warm air in the winter. The report said Indians referred to these “portals to the underworld” and the structures could be ceremonial.

The other archaeologist who has been involved in the site, Dr. Mark Williams Sr., Academic Professional Director, Georgia Archaeological Site Files Director, Laboratory of Archaeology expressed his opinion. Again quoting the Atlanta paper

“This is total and complete bunk,” Williams wrote on Facebook. “There is no evidence of Maya in Georgia. Move along now.

With cool aplomb, Thornton dismisses the men who actually worked at the site:

Williams is a highly respected specialist in Southeastern archaeology so there was a Maya connection that he did not know about.

An appeal to authority is not necessarily the best argument, but ignoring and dismissing two accepted authorities out of hand is undoubtedly worse.
Thornton also claims that most Georgians have Mayan DNA, another claim to which he attaches no reference. This is not totally unreasonable, however, as  rather than mysteriously disappearing as he claims, the descendants of the Mayans are still living in Mexico and Central America.

To say that the Maya civilization disappeared is not only an inaccuracy, but a great disservice to more than 6 million Maya living today in Guatemala, Mexico and Belize. While the city-states of the Classic period lowlands may have been abandoned in the tenth century, the Maya people did not disappear any more than the Italians when the Roman Empire fell.

It is unlikely that even if true, it could be verified as DNA testing has not developed to that level of detail, and certainly in the past 1100 years there has been considerable movement of peoples worldwide.

I’ll give the final word to Williams as quoted in Art Info

“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.”

5 Responses to “The Mayans Went Down to Georgia”

  1. I have also found evidence of a Mayan presence in Florida and Georgia. Corn, a native crop of Mexico, shows up first in Florida around 200 AD. Around the same time Mayan glyphs show up on pottery in these areas and enormous earthen pyramids were constructed at Letchworth Mounds in Florida and Kolomoki Mounds in Georgia. These sites are associated with the Hitchiti-Creek Indians who, I’ve found, have multiple Mayan words in their language. The French and Spanish made eye-witness accounts of Indians mining gold in north Georgia. The French recorded the name of the tribe doing the mining as Potanou. The Spanish said they lived in a province called Ocala and one of their towns was named Uqueten. Interestingly, the Poton Maya lived in a province in Mexico named Acala and were also known as the Yokot’an (which is where the Yucatan gets its name.) Are these all coincidences? Learn more at my website:

    http://lostworlds.org/maya-mining-gold-georgia/

    • As I said in the article, perhaps if you had the support of some linguistics experts and professional archaeologists your arguments would be more convincing. Similar sounding words do not necessarily define an common etymology. According to a quick look at the history of the domistcation of maize, it spread throughout much of North and South America before 1000 BCE. This suggests that it could have spread to Georgia and Florida overland gradually. As far as the pôttery is concerned, pesenting your evidence to a body of professional archaeologiosts would be a good step in esstablishing the legitimization of your ideas.

  2. John:

    The father of modern linguistics, Dr. D. G. Brinton, noted over 100 words of Mayan origin in the Natchez language, a Muskogean dialect (Hitchiti is also a Muskogean dialect). From my latest article:

    In his article, “The Natchez, an offshoot of the civilized nations of Central America,” Dr. D. G. Brinton noted over 100 words of Mayan origin.15 In his article “Maya stock and Mexican languages,” Berendt also compared Maya with Natchez. In Miscellanea Maya in the Berendt Linguistic Collection, No. 179, Berendt showed similarities between Natchez, Apalachee, and Mayan16.

    In his article, “On the Language of the Natchez,” Brinton later backtracked somewhat from this position and noted, “It is very evident…that the Natche is a dialect of the Maskoke or Creek…with a small percentage of totally foreign roots.”17 But then notes, “The body of roots wholly dissimilar from any I have been able to find in the Chahta-Maskoke dialects, embraces a number of important words, and makes up a sufficiently large percentage of the language to testify positively to a potent foreign influence.”18 He refused to speculate as to whom this foreign influence might be but it seems reasonable to assume that the Maya are one likely candidate.

    You can read the entire article here:

    http://lostworlds.org/mayan-words-georgias-indians/

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  • John Underhay

    John Underhay, also known as Peicurmudgeon, is just your average atheist, left leaning, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, biker. He lives on PEI and spends some of his time attempting to point out the flaws and or dangers in promoting ideas that run contrary to the laws of physics, chemistry, or biology. He has a BSc (Biology) and an MSc (Pharmacology) from the University of Prince Edward Island, and is currently retired. You can read more of his posts at http://peicurmudgeon.wordpress.com/