The Maya in North Georgia Goes Viral!

Update:  Comments can be found at the end of the article.

Many people, in the search to solve the mysteries of the Central American cultures, put forth hypotheses to answer questions such as these.  

It is reasonable to consider that Mesoamerican indians traded with other cultures, perhaps Cuba and if Cuba, why not the pendulous peninsula now called Florida?  Why may they not have traveled North through Mexico?

Certainly, if  Mesoamerica and the Carribean were populated by immigrants through Beringia, there is no reason to think there was no trade.  Of course, compressing the macro-timeline into the, perhaps, 4000 year timeline of interest here requires evidence.  There is certainly evidence that the Aztecs traveled and traded with Mesoamerica but the details of northward migration need evidence to complete the details of the story. – Carlos

1,100-year-old Mayan ruins found in North Georgia

By David Ferguson, Thursday, December 22, 2011

Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of an ancient Mayan city in the mountains of North Georgia believed to be at least 1,100 years old. According to Richard Thornton at Examiner.com, the ruins are reportedly what remains of a city built by Mayans fleeing wars, volcanic eruptions, droughts and famine.

In 1999, University of Georgia archeologist Mark Williams led an expedition to investigate the Kenimer Mound, a large, five-sided pyramid built in approximately 900 A.D. in the foothills of Georgia’s tallest mountain, Brasstown Bald. Many local residents has assumed for years that the pyramid was just another wooded hill, but in fact it was a structure built on an existing hill in a method common to Mayans living in Central America as well as to Southeastern Native American tribes.

Speculation has abounded for years as to what could have happened to the people who lived in the great Meso-American societies of the first century. Some historians believed that they simply died out in plagues and food shortages, but others have long speculated about the possibility of mass migration to other regions.

When evidence began to turn up of Mayan connections to the Georgia site, South African archaeologist Johannes Loubser brought teams to the site who took soil samples and analyzed pottery shards which dated the site and indicated that it had been inhabited for many decades approximately 1000 years ago. The people who settled there were known as Itza Maya, a word that carried over into the Cherokee language of the region.

The city that is being uncovered there is believed to have been called Yupaha, which Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto searched for unsuccessfully in 1540. So far, archeologists have unearthed “at least 154 stone masonry walls for agricultural terraces, plus evidence of a sophisticated irrigation system and ruins of several other stone structures.” Much more may still be hidden underground.

The find is particularly relevant in that it establishes specific links between the culture of Southeastern Native Americans and ancient Mayans. According to Thornton, it may be the “most important archeological discovery in recent times.”

UPDATE: Raw Story contacted another UGA Scientist, Dr. B. T. Thomas of the Department of Environmental Science, who indicated that, while it is unlikely that the Mayan people migrated en masse from Central America to settle in what is now the United States, he refused to characterize Thornton’s conclusions as “wrong,” stating that it is entirely possible that some Mayans and their descendants migrated north, bringing Mayan building and agricultural techniques to the Southeastern U.S. as they integrated with the existing indigenous people there.

(Photo of Mayan calendar via Flickr Commons)

David Ferguson
David Ferguson is a writer and radio producer living in Athens, Georgia. He hosts two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and has blogged at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/12/22/1100-year-old-mayan-ruins-found-in-north-georgia/

Comment 1/12/12

Mayan Ruins in Georgia? Archeologist Objects, Debate Breaks Out Online
By NED POTTER | Good Morning America - 
Thu, Jan 5, 2012
http://news.yahoo.com/mayan-ruins-georgia-archeologist-objects-222330576--abc-news.html

The textbooks will tell you that the Mayan people thrived in Central America from about 250 to 900 A.D., building magnificent
temples in Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and southern Mexico.

But could they possibly have left stone ruins in the mountains of North Georgia? Richard Thornton thinks so. He says he's an
architect and urban planner by training, but has been hired to research the history of native people in and around Georgia since
2003. On Examiner.com, he wrote about an 1,100-year-old archeological site near Georgia's highest mountain, Brasstown Bald, that he said "is possibly the site of the fabled city of Yupaha, which Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto failed to find in 1540."

This might all be fairly arcane stuff, except that an archeologist he cited, Mark Williams of the University of Georgia, took
exception. In the comments section after Thornton's piece, he wrote, "I am the archaeologist Mark Williams mentioned in this
article. This is total and complete bunk. There is no evidence of Maya in Georgia. Move along now."

Immediately the story exploded. In comments on Examiner, as well as on Facebook and in emails, users piled on. One woman called Williams "completely pompous and arrogant." A man wrote he was "completely disrespectful to the Public at large." Another said he would urge the state of Georgia to cut off funding for Williams' academic department at the university.

All of this left Thornton, who writes often about the Maya for Examiner.com, "dumfounded."

"I actually was giving Williams a plug," he said in an interview with ABC News. "I've got a regular readership, but this thing just
went viral."

Thornton, who said he is Georgia Creek Indian by birth, told how he studied under Roman Pina-Chan, a leading Mexican archeologist who happens to be of Mayan origin. Pina-Chan, he said, noted many cultural connections between archeological sites in Georgia and Mayan sites in Central America.

Some of Thornton's conclusions about the Mayan connection to the southern U.S., he said, are based on oral history. There are place names in Georgia and North Carolina, he said, that are very similar to Mayan words. (Words like "mako" and "Kukulkan," he said, are of Mayan origin, and will be recognized by scholars of Mayan history.) The ruins near Brasstown Bald, he said, also include mounds and irrigation terraces similar to those found at Mayan settlements in Central America.

Williams, the doubting archeologist, had many online defenders. "While there are many, many compelling parallels between Central American and North American indigenous mythologies," wrote one, "that does not mean there was direct evidence that the post-Classic Period Collapse Maya emigrated all the way to Georgia."

Williams stood his ground against Thornton's suggestion that Brasstown Bald has any Mayan roots. "The sites are certainly those of Native Americans of prehistoric Georgia," he wrote in an email. "Wild theories are not new, but the web simply spreads them faster than ever."

 

The story may be followed on Aztlan http://www.famsi.org/mailman/listinfo/aztlan

 

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About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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