The Maya of ancient Mexico and Guatemala have generated much controversy regarding their origins(w). Recent studies indicate that the story of the development of this remarkable civilisation may be more complex than previously thought(k). The demise of the Mayan culture (800-950 AD) has now been definitively shown to be the result of persistent drought, particularly in the southern lowlands(o).
Nevertheless, a recent (Sept.2021) article(ac) with contributions from several authorities, highlights the complexity referred to above, while one area might be collapsing another could be flourishing – “A number of Maya cities rose and fell at different times, some within that 800 to 1000 time period, and some afterwards, according to scholars. For example, while areas in southern Mesoamerica, such as Tikal in what is now Guatemala, declined in the eighth and ninth centuries due to environmental problems and political turmoil, populations rose in other areas, such as Chichén Itzá, in what is now the Mexican Yucatán Peninsula,” and “When Chichén Itzá declined, largely because of a lengthy drought during the 11th century, another Yucatán Peninsula city, called Mayapán, started to thrive.”
“We should always remember, the last Maya state, Nojpetén, fell only in 1697 — pretty recent,” said Guy Middleton, a visiting fellow at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Newcastle University in the U.K. “It is really important to get the message out there that though classic Maya cities and states did collapse, and culture did transform, the Maya in no way disappeared,” said Middleton, adding that “we should pay attention to the story, the state and status of the Maya descendent population in Mesoamerica now.”
The commonly held idea, that the Maya were destroyed by drought is now disputed(ah).
The Maya of Central America today are estimated to number seven million.
Inevitably the Maya have been linked with Atlantis by some writers such as Lewis Spence and E.H. Thompson who claimed that the Maya were descendants of Atlanteans. The maverick, Augustus Le Plongeon, was alone in identifying Atlantis as a colony of the Maya and that their language was in fact Greek! Others, such as Jean-Frédérick Waldeck, included an Egyptian linkage as well.
Richard Cassaro has published a fascinating collection of parallels between the Mayan and Egyptian cultures on Graham Hancock’s website (ag).
The controversial American politician Charles Gates Dawes was convinced that there had been a connection between Atlantis and the Maya.
Joachim Rittstieg claimed that the Maya and the Vikings had contact for nearly 500 years (754-1224 AD)(ae).
However, trumping all that is a recent claim that the Maya had contact with extraterrestrials and that a documentary providing evidence is planned(b). In a similar vein is the latest English language publication from Erich von Däniken entitled: Astronaut Gods of the Maya. Semir Osmanagic, of Bosnian pyramid fame, added a twist to this proposed linkage when he claimed that the Maya had come from Atlantis, which in turn had been founded by visitors from the Pleiades!
For some comic relief, I can suggest a 1976 book by brothers Eric & Craig Umland which ‘reveals’ that the Maya ‘are remnants of space explorers whose attempts to colonise our solar system went awry more than 40,000 years ago.’ Nearly every page is full of hilarious nonsense and nearly worth the £0.01 currently quoted on Amazon.co.uk. A website(i) dealing with ‘unreason’ uses extracts from the Umlands as good examples! If you wish to read about the Maya in Antarctica, the Canaries as well as the Moon, this is the book for you.
July 2012 saw a report(j) on the discovery of the largest Mayan manmade dam at Tikal in Guatemala, which was 33ft high and 260ft long and included sand filters.
The Maya had a sophisticated writing system that occupied the attention of some 19th-century writers including Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg and Le Plongeon. Unfortunately, de Bourbourg followed the work of the 16th-century bishop of Yucatán, Diego de Landa whose interpretation was seriously erroneous. It was Constantine Rafinesque who partially deciphered some of the Mayan numerals in 1832.
A report in 2013(l) indicated that substantial progress has been made in the decipherment of any outstanding difficulties in the translation of the Mayan script through Internet cooperation.
July 2012 saw a report(j) on the discovery of the largest Mayan man-made dam at Tikal in Guatemala, which was 33ft high and 260ft long and included sand filters. Ten years later, it was discovered that the Maya had also the ability to engineer a water fountain in their city of Palenque(v) and had advanced water management systems(z). A recent BBC article(ab) took an in-depth look at the remarkable hydrological capabilities of the Maya.
In 2020, the largest and oldest Mayan monument in Mexico was identified. It is in the form of a ceremonial platform that is between 33 and 50 feet tall and is nearly a mile long(x). The structure, dated to around 3,000 years ago and was discovered with the help of LIDAR in the state of Tabasco.
James O’Kon, an engineer, has investigated Mayan technology for decades, including the discovery of a suspension bridge at the ancient Mayan city of Yaxchilan in Mexico in 1995, which is believed to be the longest bridge of the ancient world(r). This and other aspects of Mayan technology he explores in his book, The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology.
One of those technological secrets was the unusual acoustics found at Mayan sites, particularly Chichen Itza(ad). In 1931 Leopold Stokowski, the renowned conductor, spent four days at the site to determine the acoustic principles that could be applied to an open-air concert theatre he was designing. He failed to learn the secret.
More recently, Lorraine Stobbart has written Utopia: Fact or Fiction, which suggests that the ‘Utopia’ of Sir Thomas More was inspired by the Mayan culture although his text was written before Mexico was ‘officially’ discovered. Stobbart recently revealed that she is now revising her views.
However, a more serious claim relates to the idea that Mayan inscriptions revealed that a global catastrophe was to occur in 2012. This nonsense(g) turned into a minor publishing industry. Some even tried to link this daft idea to Atlantis. Fortunately, May 2012 saw evidence from excavations in Guatemala that shows the Mayan calendar extending well beyond 2012(h).
The Mayan calendar has provoked speculation and controversy ever since its discovery. Its origins are obscure, but one interpretation is that the world we live in was created on this day in 3114 B.C. A quite different view was proposed over seventy years ago by Georg Hinzpeter of the German Hoerbiger Society who claimed that our Moon was captured by the Earth in June of 8498 BC and that it became the zero date for the Maya.(y)
Aloys Eiling, the German researcher, commented on the accuracy of the Mayan calendar “The Mayan calendar even surpasses the precision of the Gregorian calendar in use today. Not only did the Mayan calendar measure the duration of the Earth’s orbit around the sun more accurately than our current calendar, but the Maya gave an even more precise value for the average duration of the Moon’s orbit around Earth. The precision achieved is all the more remarkable as the Moon in deserts or regions with clear skies may have played an important role in everyday life as a nightly source of light. But of what use is its dull light in the rainforest or cloudy regions of the world?”(af)
The late David H. Kelley, a Harvard-educated archaeologist and epigrapher at Canada’s University of Calgary, had been investigating ancient links between Asia and pre-Columbian America. In that regard, he published a paper outlining similarities between the Mayan and ancient Chinese calendars that were too numerous to be explained by independent development(p). A more sceptical view is offered(q) by Jason Colavito, who traces the idea back to Alexander von Humboldt.
In a paper entitled On the Mayan Chronology, Emilio Spedicato offers several ideas regarding ancient Meso-American chronologies. For example, he proposes that the large numbers used by the Maya and Toltecs record days rather than years. Many of his ideas stem from the work of Immanuel Velikovsky, John Ackerman and the Tollmans.
The work of Teobert Maler at the end of the 19th century was invaluable in the advancement of Mayan studies. Subsequent researchers have seized upon his discovery of a frieze at Tikal, which he interpreted as a depiction of the destruction of Atlantis, as evidence of the existence of Atlantis in the Atlantic. Apart from Maler’s conjectural ideas, no tangible link has been found between the Maya and Atlantis apart from the use in their glyphs of elephants, an animal that features in Plato’s narrative.
The authenticity of the photo of the frieze has been called into question by Jason Colavito and his related blog(n) is worthy of consideration.
In late 2011 controversy erupted when it was claimed that the Itza Maya had migrated to North America, more specifically Georgia(c). It was also suggested that earthen pyramids in Georgia and Florida can be attributed to the Maya(e). Richard Thornton led the charge with this claim, which understandably generated considerable controversy. This led to a frosty exchange between Thornton and Jason Colavito(ai).
Among their other accomplishments is the claim that the Maya were capable of predicting meteor showers(s).
Gene Matlock, the well-known advocate of Atlantis in Mexico, is certain that the Maya were originally Tamils from Sri Lanka(a) and Sumerians!
Kurt Schildmann’s 2003 book , was reviewed by Dr Horst Friedrich who commented that “One of the provisional results of Schildmann’s decipherment of the Maya script, and study of the Maya language, is the rather sensational discovery that words from several Old World languages (Sumerian, Accadian, Indo-Iranian, Phoenician, Hebrew and Basque) have somehow found their way into the Maya language.”(aa) I’m sure this will be disputed!
A recent article(f) gives an interesting firsthand account of encountering the important Mayan city of Calakmul deep in the Yucatan jungle. Potentially even more important are recent LiDAR surveys carried out in Guatemala that have revealed an astounding number of previously unidentified Mayan structures. The number of additional Mayan sites identified through the use of LiDAR continues to grow at an incredible rate(u). It was estimated in 2022 that “researchers using laser technology have located nearly 1,000 previously unknown Maya settlements in Guatemala – the sites include ceremonial centers, sporting facilities, roads, and reservoirs”(ak).
In June 2023, it was announced that once again that LiDAR had enabled another forgotten Mayan city to be located in the Yucatan(aj).
Muddying the waters further is an Islamic site that claims that the Maya were Atlantean(m).
(m) https://mashiyah.blogspot.ie/ (offline 1/8/14)
(v) https://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2010/03/maya-pyramid-plumbing-unearthed-by-archaeologists/1#.Xm-Nb2BFBVc (link broken)
(y) Atlantean Research, Vol 3, No.1, May, 1950