Deluge of Atlantis

Deluge of Atlantis
Deluge of Atlantis

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Last Word on Mayans and Mississippians

A large amount of complete misinformation has been going about the internet since this story broke. Here is one critical review that was brought to my attention after I had made my first posting about the matter:

http://boingboing.net/2011/12/23/no-nobody-found-mayan-ruins-i.html

No, Nobody Found Mayan Ruins in Georgia
by Maggie Koerth-Baker at 12:27 PM Friday Dec 23

I hate to lend any dignity to this story by commenting on it, but it's making the rounds, so here goes. Two things:


1. Nobody found Mayan ruins in the U.S. state of Georgia. An article posted on The Examiner claimed this was  the case. That article is full of it. So full of it that even the scientist cited in the article is (in a more polite way) publicly calling The Examiner out for being full of it. Mark Williams of the University of Georgia does do research on North American archaeology. He has spent 20 years excavating sites in Georgia's Oconee River valley. But these sites are not Mayan. Instead, they're part of what are broadly known as "Mississippian cultures," a conglomeration of ancient North American peoples who built a lot of earth mound structures and whose cultures are distinct from those of the Mayans and other Central Americans. 
2. Do not automatically trust anything you read on The Examiner website. The Examiner is a content farm that allows anybody to write whatever they want about anything with absolutely zero oversight or fact-checking. The guy who wrote the bogus story on Mayan artifacts in Georgia appears to have just made up the entire Mississippian/Mayan connection out of his own imagination. As archaeologist Mark Williams told ArtInfo, "No archaeologist would defend this flight of fancy." (Again, this is polite scientist speak for, "Oh, my god. That guy is full of it.") While you're at it, apply the same level of skepticism to anything that comes from Hubpages, which has a similar model to The Examiner and was the source of that bogus "There's a secret cure for cancer!" story  earlier this year. In general, remember that just because it's formatted like a newspaper story, with a dateline at the beginning, does not mean it has been written according to any kind of standard of quality. Check the sources of the article. Check what you read against what Wikipedia and other people have written

OK, time now for my turn.
Cultures do not exist in a vaccuum and this is not a matter where anybody can just speak up out of their prejudices and say "We have never heard of such a thing before so of course it isn't so and anybody would be a fool to listen to this crap"
BRRRRZZZT! WRONG ANSWER!
In this case it is taken as a given that the Mississippian cultures are a cultural conglomerate: MESOAMERICA IS ONE OF THOSE CULTURAL CENTERS WHICH GOES INTO THAT CONGLOMERATE. We already KNOW that the temple mounds come out of Mesoamerican pyramids and are something new and different when they come into the mound area. Similarly, there are other features which seem to be part of that same package that came with the idea of those temple mounds. So going around aying "No Mayas here, HaHaHaHaHa!" does not automatically make the person that says it sound smart. The whole reasoning on that score seems to be that the presumption is absurd. The presumption is NOT absurd, it is already a given that something along those lines MUST haver occurred. These cultures do not exist eternally as unchanging packages that evolved locally and never had any outside input from cultures further off. THAT is the absurd pretense. There is no assumption that the temple mounds simply involved in situ from burial mounds: there was a radical change in what the mounds meant and what they were made for.

We are talking about the Yucatan Mayas. It is known as an established fact that these Mayas traded as far as Puerto Rico and that there are many of their characteristic ball courts there. The location in question in Geiorgia is as far from Yucatan as Puerto Rico is, by direct measure on the map.

Now then, as toThe Examiner. I do not know what kind of intellectual elitism is going on here but conceptionally there is little difference between a "content farm" and the Wikipedia. IN THEORY the Wikipedia should be better checked and independantly confirmed. In actual practice, I have found all too many time I have put quite valid information up on Wikipedia only to see it repeatedly torn down by some know-nothing that has their own pet theory to push, and they can quite obviously fly in the face of published authority and even mathematical proofs if only they are persistent enough. The end result is that anybody in the world can put something up on Wikipedia and the information can bear little relationship to the truth of the matter.So I would say don't go around looking to ANY one authority, ALL authorities have flaws. Read all you can from every source you can, and don't take anything anybody ever tells you at face value. I loved my mom dearly, but when I became an adult I found that all through my childhood she had been giving me misinformation that was deliberately meant to warp my views. And there was no malice to it, she simply believed very firmly in certain wrong things and she would drum those wrong things into me.

But actually, if something is true it will be true no matter who should say it, and if a matter is false it will be false no matter who says it. The whole basic concept of a "Reliable source" can be misleading, nobody is ever 100% correct. After a while you will come to know what is a good idea or a bad idea from your own perspective. And I am not about to try to tell you what you should think is right or wrong for you, all I can do is make some suggestions about what sounds right or wrong from MY perspective.

The first feature to be noted is that a new ethnic element intrudes into the Mississippi Valley area at the beginning of Missississippian times. They show traits of their cranial anatomy which resemble Mexicans and Mayans more than the Eastern Woodlands tribes and they tend to be somewhat shorter. They also deform their skulls in the same way as the Mayans do. Yes, they are coneheads. At some Mississippian sites it is difficult to find skulls which were NOT deformed in infancy.
Reconstructions from the skulls:
female here and the other is male.
Reconstructions from skulls,
Apallachian Mississippians

The next thing to be noted is that they represent themselves artistically in a manner reminsicent of the Mayans and other South-Mexican cultures, with similar red-pottery figurines:



Now as to the pottery which is allegedly just like Mayan Pottery: That part is true also but it does not begin to tell the whoile story. In fact this is something which has been known for a long time and is one of the key features to understanding the Mississippian cultures. In 1928, Dr. G. C. Valiant published Resemblances in Ceramics of Central and North America, after doing a series of investigations in Mexico for the American Museum of Natural History. He had discovered a series of ceramic traits which he called the "Q Complex" for convenience's sake. He introduced his subject with these words:
I shall endeavour to call attention to several curious parallels found mainly in the ceramics of Central America and the Southwestern and Southeastern United States That seem to indicate some sort of a relationship, even taking into account the barrier of five hundred kilometers of archaeologically unknown territory...While the Antillean influence on the far southeastern United States is attributable to direct contact[and known settlements over much of Florida-DD]...The traits existing in the pottery of the Western drainage of the Mississippi and to a lesser degree in Tennessee [and adjoining Georgia and Alabama-DD], however, are of a character that indicates a stronger source of infection than a symbolism brought in perhaps by exiles from another land. In short, in the Western Mississippi valley, there exists apparently some sort of action by one culture upon another. These ceramic traits which are quite foreign to the run of the pottery of the eastern states include:
1. Tripod support of vessels.
2.Funnel-necked jars.
3.Double-bodied jars.
4.Rarely, the shoe form of vessel.
5.the high and low form of annular base for vessels.
6. Spout handles
7.the composite silhouette form of bowl.
8. Vessels modeled in the effigy of animals or humans.
9. Vessels with spouts, in plain and in effigy
10. Vessels with the head or features attached
And ended with the conclusions that:
It does not seem possible to explain away such parallels as these by independant invention of styles since the basis of the ceramic development of the Eastern United States does not seem to contain the germs for this Western Mississippi [ie. Mississippian-DD] complex. Nor from this same lack of transitional steps is it probable that the styles developed there and moved South. Yet to what epoch and to what culture in Central America, on the other hand, do these forms relate?
As an inexplicable residue among the ceramics of Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador and Costa Rica, occur such traits as composite silhouette, decoration by incision [Mississippian example below-DD], support of vessels by legs or cylinders, spouted vessels, pot stands and effigy forms. These elements obtain under such conditions of antiquity as beneath the volcanic ash of Salvador, under the Old Empire Maya remains at Homul and Uaxactun, and are associated with pre-Maya material at the Finca Arevalo in Guatemala. [the traits are also present down to Peru and absent over much of Mexico, Vaillant recounts]...Doctor Lothrop and this writer designated these elements as influence Q, since we know neither their center of distribution nor their makers. This complex occupies in Central America a position analogous to the relation between the primitive cultures in the Valley of Mexico and the Toltec and Aztec cultures.
In other words, we are not only talking Mayan ceramics, we are talking old, basic traditional Mayan ceramics. Something that the country people would remember when their elite rulers had been taken away, and pottery traits which would not have been transmitted by way of Northern Mexico primarily.


As I had mentioned before, the Mississippian houses were built according to the usual Mayan plan. To be frank, these are nothing like the wigwams common in the eastern United States, they are tropical huts.
The high steep-sided roofs are designed to shed heavy tropical rainfall and designs much like this are common in Northern South America and also in Indonesia (They are also used to indicate the possibility of TransPacific diffusion between those other two regions, along with use of the BLOWGUN, which the Mayas also had. The duplication of blowgun technology on both sides of the Pacific is something that is hard for non-diffusionists to explain)


And then of course the most obvious and characteristic feature of the Mississippian cultures is the creation and use of the stepped-pyramid temple mounds, built along parallel principles but using earth instead of stone as the construction material. And this came with a version of Mesoamerican pyramid ceremonialism, placement around a plaza,human sacrifice, headhunting and veneration of human skulls.

Most of the illustrations are from museum mock-ups: this one is from Wikipedia.
And besides buliding pyramids after a design similar to the Mayan pyamids at Chichin Itza, the people carried a name by which they seem to have called themselves, Itsas. a hundred years ago or more, this was not even questioned, it was taken for granted that these people had come from that part of the Yucatan and that is why they were using that name.

 POSTSCRIPT
I had begun to develop a very long and involved followup to this article on linguistics, making very involved and complicated arguments, but then I saw how the situation could be represented most easily. In the Wikipedia entry discussing the validity or non-validity of the so-called Amerind linguistic superfamily, a long list of languages is included. I excerpt part of the listing here:

Penutian–Hokan
  1. Penutian
    1. Gulf
      1. Atakapa
      2. Chitimacha
      3. Muskogean
      4. Natchez
      5. Tunica
      6. Yukian
    2. Mexican Penutian
      1. Huave
      2. Mayan
      3. Mixe–Zoque
      4. Totonac
IN OTHER WORDS THE MAYAN AND GULF LINGUISTIC FAMILIES ARE ALREADY CONSIDERED ADJACENT AND RELATED LINGUISTIC GROUPS.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amerind_languages

Because a reader doubted what this meant and said that the result was not checked against DNA tests, here is a table of DNA tests of the various langeage groups from Wikipedia:


Which is reprinted from the Journal of Population Genetics and once again shows Mayan (and related Kaqchel) as genetically most like the Natives of the Eastern United States such as the Ojibwa and Cree, and those peoples very distantly related to other Mesoamerican languages such as Mixtec and Zapotec by way of contrast. If the Mesoamerican influences on the Mississippian had come from some other language group other than the Mayas, then genetic the resemblance would be stronger to Natives of one of those other language groups. In fact it is not.

6 comments:

  1. Good story on explaining the truth about the Mayans in North America, however the real facts that prove a trade existance has not been presented by the authors. When you study the tools used for time keeping and navigation you will see the connection. The Mayans used the sun for latitude and the moon for longitude location, just like the North American native people. They kept time in lunar months and traveled to Ill. every year to selabrate the new year.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't doubt it one bit. But supposedly by the standards Archaeology usually uses, you have the pottery and you have a done deal. In this case you also have all sorts of other clues, including linguistically when you find some of the same words in use throughout the area, and it seems like a sort of Mayan pidgin must once have been used as a trade language. Supposedly this would have extended as far as the Sioux on the plains, the Iroqouis in the East and then again into Colombia in South America. This is supported by some experts but is a little too "way out there" for other experts to accept. Proponents of such ideas even say the Maya linguistic influence could have reached California and Peru, or even Polynesia. Which is even worse.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have found a MUCH simpler presentation about the relationship between the languages in question and I have added it to this blog as a postscript. It came to me in a blinding flash about 1 AM after writing the much longer version as a separate blog that I had intendedto be published later.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Another point not discussed here is the fact that the Natchez (thought to be surviving Mississippians) had the same caste system as the Mayas did. See the All-time favorite blog posting "Caste Systems Of Ancient India and America" over on the sidebar.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wikipedia is a good starting point, and on non-controversial subjects is pretty decent.

    Wikipedia does (usually) provide links to solid info, as long as one uses some discernment and skepticism.

    On controversial subjects, Wikipedia is a nightmare. I edit/contribute to Wiki articles myself once in a while, and it is a simple check box for an editor/contributor to be alerted when someone else edits a Wiki page. That means that, basically, certain subjects have trolls waiting under the bridge to un-do things they don't like - mainly people who need to get a life.

    Steve Garcia

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have several ongoing wrangles with Wikipedia and actually I am fairly stunned when some articles permanently incorporate my additions (a few DO)

    I have had some ongoing arguments with stubborn but completely clueless Wikipedia that have been going on for five years or more. I can think of one entry I changed to correct a mathematical error five years ago which some editor insisted on changing back the way it was before I fixed it. I finally ended up opsting something along the lines of "HEY STUPID!! DO THE MATH!!" and I actually got my correction added.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

    ReplyDelete

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