Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Mayan Calendar is not ending June 3-4, 2016

This terrible article claims that “scholars” have released the REAL Mayan calendar end date and it’s June 3 or 4, because leap years!  (full screen print below; don't reward ignorance with clicks and page views)
Can we just stop it?
An actual expert is quoted, and he says actual correct things about the Long Count, and notice that no where in his statement does he say that erroneous leap-year based calculations cause the end to change: 
“As far as we know, the people of Mesoamerica, the Maya included, didn’t care about leap years,” Anthony Aveni, an expert in ancient Mesoamerican astronomy at Colgate University told the National Geographic.
“Our philosophy about leap year is a complicated scheme to make the seasons jibe with the calendar,” Aveni said. “They were more concerned that time should be unbroken, not interfered with, and that the count of time should have continuity.”

Exactly. The Long Count Calendar counts DAYS.  It doesn’t count years.  It doesn’t care about leap years. 
Even if you assume that the Long Count is only 13 Baktuns long (I’m not in that group, but I respect the thinking of those who are; 20 Baktuns makes way more sense to me)…it’s still way past 13 Baktuns.   The new chosen date, June 3, 2016, is 3-Zotz 3-Ahau.  Ahau is indeed the end of a cycle—a 20 day one.  Every 20 days there’s an Ahau date.
Notice that the Long Count date starts with 13.  That’s because Baktun 13 started in 2012, right on schedule, 1,872,000 days after it began.  It doesn’t matter if you correlate it with the Jewish calendar, the Islamic calendar, the Egyptian calendar (which the article does mention, who knows why).  It counts DAYS not YEARS and it is not a solar calendar.  A day is a day is a day.   The correlation between the Mayan calendars and the Gregorian calendar (our calendar) changes by a day every leap year (that’s why it’s so hard to calculate).
(Also, the concept of a "leap year" wasn't invented until 45 BC, 3000+ years after the beginning of the Long Count.)
Dragging the 365-day Haab calendar into the mix is just obfuscation and ignorance (and the Haab also doesn’t have leap years).  The Haab isn’t contained within the structure of the Long Count the way the Tzolkin is and doesn’t synch up with it.  Instead, the Long Count has the Tun period, which is 18 20-day Uinal periods to approximate a year. But again, the point of the Long Count was to count DAYS not YEARS.  It’s an odometer where most sections are 0-19 (except the Tun, which is 0-17), created by people who used base-20 instead of base-10.
Bringing in a Western astrology chart is also obfuscation, because Western and Mesoamerican astrology are not related in any way.
The 1260 day difference is because… it’s been 1260 days since
Stop spreading lies through ignorance, please.

Friday, December 26, 2014

America Unearthed: Montezuma's Gold (review/commentary)

Once again, Scott Wolter, forensic geologist and host of America Unearthed, is venturing into the territory of the Mesoamericans, so once again I shall dissect the episode for you and add my own special brand of commentary.  Enjoy.
This episode, "Montezuma's Gold" originally aired November 29, 2014.  For now, the full episode is at the H2 page.
It begins with the delivery of a mysterious map with the note "Please put this to good use" and a computer chip.  It looks like the same map used in a previous episode about pyramids in Wisconsin (see my review of that episode).  In the package is also a crude lump of gold that looks like a child's version of something Aztec, with Freddie Crystal written on the back.  The chip has a picture of the map with a glyph drawn across it.
After the intro, Scott is scuba diving in a lake in Utah, looking for Montezuma's treasure. He helpfully explains that Montezuma was "that guy who led the Aztecs" and that he's most famous for "Montezuma's revenge." 
I will not even dignify that with a comment.
The map package apparently led him to this lake.  He admits to having seen the map before (ha!  nailed that!), the "Disturnell Map" (large size image).
Disturnell Map of 1847, from the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Scott reminisces about the search for the underwater pyramids and says he's not done with the Aztecs, and explains how they came from the north, from Aztlan, and how this map places Aztlan in the Four Corners region where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet.  (Too bad archeologists don't know about this!)  On this version of Scott's map, someone has hand-written "Montezuma's curse" over Utah.
Scott heads to "the middle of the Utah desert" to meet with Lois Brown, a journalist who coincidentally has written a whole book called Cursed Gold (imagine that).  She explains that Freddie Crystal showed up 100 years ago in Kanab, Utah with a mysterious map.  (Are maps ever not mysterious on this show?)  They are meeting in the place supposedly depicted on Freddie Crystal's map.
Scott's narration helpfully explains how the Aztecs were the "largest empire in South America" (you probably heard me yelling at the television from wherever you are at that stinker), and how Cortés "found" all kinds of gold there. (Yes, in the Aztecs' treasury...following in the footsteps of Columbus "discovering" land where people already had lived for thousands of years.)  When "war broke out" between the Spanish and Aztecs (he makes it sound mystifying... how did that ever happen?), all that treasure "just disappeared."

I have to stop here.  It didn't just vanish.  The Spanish were taking it away, running away, on La Noche Triste (June 30, 1520) after the death of Moctezuma II, who was being held prisoner by the Spanish.  The Spanish were greedy, the gold was heavy, the Aztecs had removed all the bridges from the causeways' canals.  The Spanish dumped much of the gold into Lake Tenochtitlan as they fled, where presumably it sank into the ooze.  Later, when Cortés razed Tenochtitlan, the rubble was used to enlarge the island and covered the areas where the causeways and canals once were.  Theoretically, that treasure is all buried somewhere deep under present-day Mexico City.  (You can search for La Noche Triste to read all about that sad night.)

Immediately the show goes back to Freddie Crystal, who somehow believed the Aztecs left Tenochtitlan carrying the treasure after Cortés destroyed their entire civilization and way of life and enslaved or killed 80% or more of them.  
I know there are theories that Moctezuma's (the more correct spelling) successor had the sunken (buried) treasure taken up from the lake bottom, but since they pretty much immediately went to war, I don't see how they had time, or if they did, where they could have hidden it that Cortés wouldn't have found it while destroying the city shortly after.  Would they have given up the manpower to carry that immense amount of treasure far away in the middle of a huge war?  
Apparently Freddie Crystal's maps came from somewhere in Mexico.  He, and his (mysterious) maps disappeared (mysteriously) in 1922.  Whenever anyone tries to search for the treasure in this area of Utah "bad things happen to them" according to the journalist, including cave divers being attacked apparently by ghosts.  A CURSE.
The journalist explains that the Aztecs (leaderless at this point, remember) had somehow rallied, extracted the treasure and sent it off with 2,000 slaves carrying it and an escort of warriors (without Cortés or anyone else noticing!) to hide it.
Several moments of simple research reveals that the new Aztec leader Cuauhtemoc, cousin to Moctezuma and son of Ahuitzotl (the ruler before Moctezuma), was actually tortured by the Spanish in an effort to find out what he had done with the lost treasure.  Eventually he was executed, without ever saying that he knew where the treasure was.  Why did he not admit "2000 slaves plus a band of warriors took it north but I don't know to where?" instead of insisting it was still in the lake even as the Spanish stuck his bare feet into the fire?
Scott and his journalist friend revel in the Aztec's reputation for sacrificing people, and say that the 2,000 slaves and most of the warriors would have been sacrificed to "guard" the treasure.  
Usually people were sacrificed to gods, not just randomly murdered on a whim and I don't think the Aztec concept of the afterlife would have matched up with the idea of guardian ghosts.
The journalist insists she doesn't believe in curses, however, and her and Scott head right into the caves, which Freddie found "walled up" and 1,000 townspeople tore down the wall and found the caves filled with sand.
Two thousand plus skeletons of dead Aztec slaves and warriors were not found when the sand was removed.
Scott does his geologist thing and says the sandstone caves were definitely excavated deliberately.
Well, Native Americans lived in that area for thousands of years, who is to say it wasn't them who dug out that cave and not Aztecs from 1500 miles away?  But of course the caves are on government land and Scott isn't allowed inside to really look around.
Somehow Scott manages to decide, on the basis of a peek inside the forbidden (CURSED) cave, that "it makes the most sense" to him that the Aztecs dug out the cave and "all the evidence" (what evidence!?) points to the Aztecs.
When Lois explains that Freddie Crystal only found a few "bones and beads" in the cave, Scott changes his story.  This cave, he says, was SUPPOSED to be the final resting place of the treasure, but something happened.  (A CURSE!?)  The plan was changed.  The treasure was moved!  But to where!?
(Normally I do not use so many interrobangs [!?] when I write, but the breathless nature of these programs just brings them out in me.)
Scott shows the journalist the "petroglyph" that was drawn across his map--a circle with a straight line through it.  She says immediately that she's seen it before, drawn near a (CURSED) cave where scuba divers were attacked by ghosts.
Water Glyphs, drawn by Paul Jones
Again, a few scant moments of research brought me many results about "water glyphs" with the explanation that they are found all over the American Southwest.

So it makes perfect sense to me that a glyph pointing to water would be found near a cave full of water.
Somehow, the revelation that a water glyph was found near a cave leads Scott right back to the treasure, and the fact there is undoubtedly a connection between the U.S. and the ancient Aztecs.
I don't know why he can't understand that there was no United States when the Aztecs were around.  It was just land to the north.  It wasn't magical.  Even if Aztlan was in the U.S. it still wouldn't be mysterious.  It seems evident from the serpent worship in the Mississippi area and the distribution of trade goods through both lands that there was contact between people in what is now the US and people in what is now Mexico in pre-columbian times, and why would that be weird? 
Scott keep mentioned "evidence" that the treasure was hid in that cave system.  What evidence?  Where are the bones, the beads?  Have they been proven to be Aztec in origin?  (There's a test they can do on bones to tell where the person grew up by isotope analysis. You'd think a geologist would know about isotopes in soil and rock.)
Scott then meets with Steve Shaffer, who wrote something called "voices of the ancients," who said he named that special, unique symbol (the common water glyph) the Key because it's the "key to Montezuma's treasure." Scott says perhaps the symbols are "several hundred years" old or (gasp) "even Native American." 
Really.  Petroglyphs in the Southwest being Native American?  Who would have guessed.
But Steve said he asked "some" Native Americans who said they didn't know anything about the symbols. 
So the symbols aren't Native American?  And of course, Aztecs aren't Native American either, because only First People of the U.S. can be called that. 
The two men spend some time looking at photos of various water glyphs.  Scott sort of explains something called the Latitude Exercise saying that's what the glyphs really mean. 
I could not find anything actually called that, that involves a hole, a circle, and a line as he described.  I don't know if the Aztecs used any concept like latitude on their maps.  But if they did use the circle, line, and hole method to calculate distances, certainly some of those glyphs would have been found in Mexico as well as the Four Corners area?  Why would they invent something to tell them where they are just to use for that journey and not use it again anywhere else? 
Steve says one of the glyphs was near a burial of 3 skeletons, all buried in the fetal position with broken-off feet.  Scott explains that the Aztec underworld was called Mictlan and it was very dark there and that's why Aztecs buried their dead in the fetal position so those skeletons MUST be Aztecs.  (I don't follow that reasoning either.)
Because no one else ever buried their dead like that.  Brief research, again, shows that many Native American tribes buried their dead in the fetal position, as did Neanderthals in Europe.
Of course, the three skeletons are "gone" and whether they were ever examined or documented professionally isn't stated.  Scott goes right back to "ritual sacrifice" and clearly those three skeletons were Aztec sacrifices!   Steve tells Scott that there's a cave with the water glyph "painted" on the ceiling and in that cave is where the treasure is.
Three Lakes Ranch is the location of this mysterious cave and, according to Scott, is also Aztlan (where the Aztecs came from originally).  And Montezuma (as Scott calls him) sent the gold there. 
Even though Moctezuma died right before the Spanish took off with the treasure and lost it in the lake and presumably Cuauhtemoc later hauled it out...Or not? 
Lon Child, the owner of the Three Lakes Ranch, says his father discovered in 1990 that the Aztecs liked to hide their treasure in "water traps."
The only mention online of Aztec water traps and treasure is on the various sites about the gold being on this guy's land.  I wonder what he charges treasure hunters for access?
Since the lake on the property is exactly 35 feet deep, and that's the depth of an Aztec water trap, clearly this was a Aztec-made lake, so his father bought all the land.  They dove on it, and immediately ghosts started attacking the divers and now all these years later the divers refuse to admit they ever dived there because of the CURSE.  Child Senior evidently did a good job of spreading around the idea that he owned the land where the Aztec treasure was, but because of the CURSE no one could get to it.
Child Senior used GPR (ground penetrating radar) and found the land near the lake had caverns and voids.   Here's where Scott could have used his much-vaunted geology creds and explained why limestone would be riddled with voids where there is also water, but he did not.  Child Senior had a well-digger come and amazingly there was some gold on the drill bit! 
There are gold mines in the Four Corners area, so finding gold shouldn't be a shock.  Again, something a Forensic Geologist should know.
So the well-digger came out with a bigger bit and drilled deeper but the bit broke.  The digger died that night, cursed!
Apparently no other digger would ever come out!  If I thought there was a billion dollars in treasure in my yard, I wouldn't give up on trying to get it out of the ground.  I'd call every well digger in the phone book and on the internet.
Scott says he'll drill and Child says NO you'll die, CURSED, but you can dive the pond and go into the Aztec 35-foot classic water trap.
Honestly the water trap thing sounds like something from Oak Island, or Indiana Jones, or even someone's AD&D campaign.
Scott says earnestly that since the "Aztec homeland was built on a swamp" they would be great at water engineering and hence making water traps.
I thought their homeland was Aztlan, in the Four Corners?  Does he mean Tenochtitlan, their capital city, built on an island in a lake?
Scott decides to send in an ROV to look at all the underwater tunnels because he thinks they are connected to the other cave he already looked at and therefore the treasure is there, even though he already said the treasure was moved from there.
Of course it's time for another bit of product placement for Scott's friend's ROV company. 
I have to laugh because it's unsafe for divers because of the CURSE so who is filming the ROV as it swims around?
Scott is amazed and confused that there's sediment at the bottom of the lake.  He is the worse geologist ever.  He can't see through the ROV camera because of the sediment so... into the lake go the people!  Because if there is sediment in the lake, there must be treasure! 
Just like how dead bodies grow insects through spontaneous generation, so does treasure hidden underwater generate sediment.  You learn something new every day, right?
Once under the water, Scott is baffled again because "it's pitch black" in the cave!  And the entrance is too narrow for a person.  And again, the SILT. 
Silt=curse apparently.
Now comes the dredging.  Looks like when I clean my pond filter.  Then the hose won't work, the "damn thing."  The Aztec's "water trap is a damn good one," Scott says.  So he's going to drain the lake!  But no, the AMBERSNAIL is endangered and lives only there and hurting one snail is a $50,000 fine. 
Maybe they should have known that from the beginning before they starting flinging around equipment!?
Scott remembers that he is a geologist and decides to test the mortar of some blocks pulled from the lake...and it's modern.  He wants "to drill but the land owner won't let" him because of the CURSE.  He concludes that the treasure is there but he can't prove it.

I have always taken a weird kind of comfort in the fact that all the treasure was still down there, under 500+ years of lake silt, debris, and Mexico City, waiting forever.  I'm going to keep that view, even after watching this show.
(Image sources: map; water glyphs; map

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

America Unearthed: American Mayan Secrets (review/commentary)

American Mayan Secrets is the first episode of the series America Unearthed, originally aired right on 12/21/2012.  Honestly, after watching a season and a half of this show, it is not the greatest pseudo-documentary.  But I am going to start reviewing Meso-themed shows, so I'm going back to this one.
In this episode, Scott Wolter, the forensic geologist host, wants to explore the supposed Mayan pyramids found in Georgia.  He begins by complaining and swearing that the "government" wouldn't let him into the site, but a friend of his has secret footage.
The photographer had a permit and spent a day filming.  There are over 100 rock walls and structures on the site. To me, they look much like the rock walls found all over New England (where I live).  There are also cairns, not dissimilar to those at nearby Gungywamp (probably built by Native Americans or at the latest, early Colonial settlers) in Groton, CT.
But best of all, the photographer found a square foundation.  Clearly, a pyramid was there, according to Wolter.  That sends him off on a quest.
His photographer puts him in contact with Richard Thornton (quoted at the above linked article and here), who is the one who discovered the supposed Mayan connection.
Thornton says it's an absolute fact that the Creek Indians were originally Mayans.  The architecture, the "cultural traditions" and art, plus the language (1/3 to 1/2 of the Creek language are words that are Mayan or Totonac).  ( This article addresses the subject of Central and South American DNA in North American natives. The language connection is discussed here.)
Wolter brings up one of his favorite subjects, archo-astronomy, and Thornton promises to show Wolter all sorts of maps and diagrams with alignments at the Georgia site.
Wolter immediately wonders, "is this what they don't want me to see?" 
Thornton says there are over 3000 stone structures, carbon-dated to 1,000 AD, a whole town's worth (see map) more than a half-mile square.
Thornton is flabbergasted that archeologists formed a "political action group" to "opposed" all information about this site being related to the Mayans, without ever seeing the site in person.  (Apparently this is that cabal?) Wolter is not surprised.  He goes into a long digression about another investigation he went on that was also stonewalled by academics.
(I have to note that he swears a lot in this episode, but not in the more recent ones.  Swearing doesn't bother me, but I wonder if some people complained and he was told to tone it down?)
Screenshot showing alignment to sunset of winter solstice
When Wolter shows Thornton the videos shot by his friend, he admits to be "not impressed" because the ruins don't really look like anything from Mexico.  The stones aren't dressed or neatly stacked, there is no stucco or plaster (whatever they called it back then, same form and function).  Thornton says that all Mayan sites really look like this, and people like him (he is NOT an archeologist, by the way) are called in to rebuild them.  I think that's pushing it a bit.  I've been to some sites where stuff isn't restored, just dug up, and it looks more organized, and very different, than these familiar rock walls (which I have seen all my life all around me). 
Thornton has a lot of really cool 3d videos showing various archeo-astronomy alignments he's discovered that don't lend themselves to screen printing.  He says he also found a water distribution device that convinced him the site is Mayan, because the Maya grew crops on terraces and water through artificial irrigation.  
Once again, Wolter complains about not being allowed admittance to the site and says petulantly that he'll just fly in and use LiDAR on the site.  Apparently you can just fly over places and use this ground-sensing technology with no permissions?   LiDAR is something that's also being used in Central America to find archeological sites from the air, since the squared outlines of buildings show up clearly even when buried by vegetation.  It is also really, really expensive.  I can only guess that the production company is paying the bill; I found one LiDAR survey that cost $80,000 (lower right corner of page 3).
That segment of the video is called the LiDAR Aerial Reconnaissance Mission over Chattahoochee National Forest.  I cannot make this up.  While in the plane, Wolter earnestly explains that around 900 AD, the Maya people "just vanished" and that "many believe they came to America."  This is the same kind of fudge-writing used extensively on Ancient Aliens; it actually says nothing.  The millions of Maya still living in Mexico might take offense at being told they vanished 1100 years ago, for instance.
There's an overly long segment about how exactly LiDAR works, including the "mowing the lawn" pattern also used when doing underwater surveys. (Maybe he should have done that when looking for the underwater Aztec pyramids instead of giving up like a wimp.)  The LiDAR stuff is very interesting and I'd watch a show just about how it works, but it takes too much time away from the meat of the episode:  is this settlement Mayan or not?
Wolter says that he was "very skeptical" but now, seeing preliminary LiDAR images, he is "convinced."
He muses that the flight of the Maya from their cities to Georgia might be "connected to their prophecy" and heads off to another location to look at a carved rock called the Forsyth Petroglyph in Athens, Georgia.
This stone, the petroglyphs of which are reproduced to the right, has nothing on it that looks Mayan.  He meets with another source, who wrote a book about the Maya, who says the symbols are EXACTLY the same as Mayan symbols as well as Creek symbols.
Supposedly the carvings are of star map, a comet impact in 536 A.D.  Wolter agrees that it must be a star map and also that it's clear that it connects the Creek Indians to the Maya.  No mention of why this comet impact is so important or where the comet landed.  I was able to find out that there is global evidence that something happened around then, but it was probably a large volcano, maybe Krakatoa, erupting.  Or why the Maya made a carving in 536 AD in Georgia when they were in Mexico until after 900 AD.   Or how there can be a "star map" to a volcano located right here on Earth.
Then they get into the most interesting (and in my opinion, valid) part of the show: Maya BlueMaya Blue was a special blue (green-blue, really) very durable, pigment used extensively by the Maya in their murals.  It's a mixture of palygorskite clay and indigo pigments.  The clay is abundant in Georgia but not in Central America. Wolter thinks that the clay from Georgia was used to make the pigments used in Mesoamerica.
The source offers another connection between the two areas, and displays photos and sketches of a "falcon dancer plate" and says the identical drawing was found at Chichen Itza (more on that below).
The source also says that at another Georgian site called Ocmulgee they found an "elite burial" where the skull had cranial deformation.  (I wrote about cranial deformation a few years ago.)  The source brings up again that it's "taboo" to mainstream archeologists, and again Wolter whines and says he's going to change history himself!  To the bat cave!  I mean, off to Ocmulgee Mound Site (Macon, Georgia) to see the deformed skull.
(Ignoring the Maya Blue and Falcon Dancer connections...)(and actually they never do show the deformed skull or mention it again)
En route, this source says that Thornton's theories need to be tested, but the horrible academics won't allow it to happen.

Xochitecatl, Mexico, supposedly has an identical spiral mound as one found at Ocmulgee.  It's covered in vegetation now, but the source has an old photo of it standing alone in cleared land.  They are the only spiral mounds known to exist in North or Central America.  The Creek Indians did a Snake Dance up and around this spiral pyramid, no word on what was done at the Mexican version of the spiral pyramid.  (Of course, just the name--Xochitecatl--Flower Blade?--tells you that site is Aztec, not Mayan.)
The focus then moves briefly to Florida.  When the Spanish arrived in what is now Florida, around Lake Okeechobee were three tribes, called the Mayaimi (Miami is actually not named after that tribe), Mayaka, and Mayauaca (which doesn't apparently exist except on this program), and some research shows me that none of these tribes were remotely related to the Mayans except their names.
Wolter takes this as further proof the Maya were in Georgia.
They inspect a large mound in Ocmulgee, supposedly the first one built by the Creek upon their arrival in the area.  It's a large mound with a central hallway, the door facing due east to align with the sunrise.  (Looks more like an English barrow to me than anything MesoAmerican, but what do I know?)  This is Wolter's dream, archeo-astronomy.  This cannot possibly be a coincidence.
Wolter heads to Chichen Itza where he meets with an actual archeologist.  He has to admit that "some people think the Maya died out completely but they didn't" (reversing what he said earlier in the show).  The large central pyramid (El Castillo), the archeologist says, was a man-made mountain.  The stones are very square (even weathered, their square edges are apparent), unlike the heaps of rounded natural-looking stones in Georgia.  The pyramid is also very tall and pointed, not like the low flat platform-like mounds in Georgia. (There are platforms at Chichen Itza, but again they are made with precisely cut stores which are also elaborately carved.)
Wolter asks what the archeologist thinks about contact between the Creek and Maya, and he says "it's possible" which really floors Wolter, who was obviously expecting a fight, but the guy is very personable; he grins and says "if you can find the Maya there, we can find Georgia down here."  
They look at the Observatory and talk about how the various windows were used to track Venus and other alignments, and also was related to the calendar.   The building is the link between the heavens and the earth.
Archimedean spiral vs Logarithmic (Fibonacci)
Wolter tells how he saw a spiral mound in Georgia, and there are spirals on some of the carvings at Chichen Itza, so clearly they are exactly the same. The archeologist is non-committal.
Wolter pulls out a nautilus shell and insults the archeologist's intelligence by explaining the Fibonacci sequence and tells him that the Maya were copying it.  Even though a Fibonacci spiral is not the same as the spirals they drew.
Wolter brings up the "end of the calendar"and "end of the world" (this was filmed in 2012) and the archeologist calmly says that it's the end of Baktun 12 and the beginning of Baktun 13, where we will stay for 400 years until Baktun 14.  It's the beginning of something new, and it's great that it gets the Maya people more attention.
The archeologist shows Wolter a carving that is similar to the Falcon Dancer plate.  They are both carrying weapons, both appear to have feathers, and both have a severed head.  I think it's the temple of the Warriors, but it's been a while since I was down there.
Finally they return to the subject Maya Blue, gazing over the cenote, the ritual well, and the place the site is named for (Mouth of the Well = Chichen Itza).  The cenote had children at the bottom (sacrifices to the rain god) and a lot of Maya Blue, a 14-foot layer of it, from all the offerings painted blue before being tossed in there.
What's left of Mayan Blue looks rather green after 1100+ years in the elements, but some of it is still visible.  The archeologist admits they haven't found a single source of palygorskite for the Maya Blue but it doesn't seem to faze him.
Wolter returns to his lair, I mean lab, and reviews the LiDAR data.  He seems astonished that the reconstruction (above) matches the LiDAR.  The guy meticulously mapped the place by hand, why wouldn't it match?  
Wolter creates some Maya Blue using Georgia clay and compares it to actual Maya Blue used in Mexico to see if the clay is geologically the same, using x-ray defraction, and find that it matches perfectly.  Wolter then goes on a tirade about how "academics" don't believe any cultures came to America before Columbus and that it's bullsh-t and this PROVES them wrong.
Um.  Columbus himself found all sorts of people already here when he arrived.  I wasn't aware that any academics disputed that.  Even a first grader knows that.  There is resistance to the thought that Europeans came here before Columbus (or even Asians, discounting the land-bridge part of it 40,000 years ago).
I do think the connection between Georgia clay and Maya blue is awesome because it proves that TRADERS moved between the two.  It makes NO SENSE that the Maya fled FROM Mexico TO Georgia and yet used Georgian materials back in Mexico.   

image sources:  site plan, screenshot, petroglyph, Maya blue, plate, spiral 1, spiral 2, screenshot, screenshot
Cross-posted to Transformations by Obsidian Butterfly site.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

America Unearthed: Mystery of the Serpents (Review/commentary)

Since I had so much fun with last week's episode about underwater Aztec pyramids, I thought I'd also review the show on the serpent mounds.  When I originally started this blog, many years ago, it was to record my dreams and musings as I was initiated into the Order of the Feathered Serpent, with my final initiation to be at the Ohio Serpent Mounds.   Because of  illness in his immediate family, the teacher had to put the class on hold, and it's never started back up even though I've contacted him several times.
Loch Nell Serpent Mound (screen print from video)
This episode of American Unearthed starts out by saying, "There are mysterious mounds scattered throughout the planet."  Inside and out, apparently, not just on the surface.  Bad writing strikes in sentence one.
These mounds are linked by mysterious symbols thousands of years old that span continents and oceans and it all ends up in the U.S....
In Oban, Scotland, Scott Wolter (the show's "forensic geologist" host), investigates a serpent mound, one of three in the world (one is in the U.S. and two in Europe).  This serpent is on the edge of Loch Nell and this drawing shows its alignment.  This is a Bronze age effigy mound, most of which are ancient and associated with rituals.  This one had a stone circle in the head, including some stones that had been burnt. You can see the altar stone in the circle.  Also on the site was a stone burial chamber called a kist, excavated in the late 19th century, and found to have been robbed, with only a bone knife left behind.  Probably this was a site for ritual sacrifices (one of Wolter's favorite subjects).
Wolter, using his geology knowledge for once, explains that probably there was a glacier here, terminating in this loch.  The movement of the glacier, dragging along rocks and soil underneath, forms a natural winding ridge called an esker, which is what the serpent portion probably is, and then enhanced by humans.
Serpent's head, Chichen Itza
Serpent symbols are ancient, going back to the Bible.  Egpytian pharohs wore a serpent (uraeus) on their crowns.  The caduceus staff of the Greek god Hermes has two serpents wrapped around it (it's now the familiar medical symbol).   Wolter then brings in the serpent from last week's episode, the one that supposedly guarded the supposed underwater Aztec pyramid.
He mentions Chichen Itza, now one of the new 7 wonders of the old world, in Yucatan Mexico, by talking about astro-astronomy (and also showing the observatory building at Chichen Itza), but somehow fails to note that the base of the staircases of the main pyramid (the famous one) are the heads of serpents, specifically of the god Quetzalcoatl/Kukulcan (Aztec/Mayan names for the same god), or the fact that on the spring equinox the shadows make it look like the serpent is crawling down the steps.  In fact there are feathered serpent heads all over that complex, not just on the main pyramid. 
Somehow, astro-astronomy provides a clue to who built (or modified) the Scottish serpent mound.   Possibly, a serpent (Loch Nell monster?) lives in the loch.  They try to figure out what, if any, alignments, exist there, using a phone app.  I WANT THAT APP.  What app does that?  Ah, the Helios Sun Position app (another product placement here) which of course is i-tunes only.  (Most smart phones are Android, you know, Mr App Programmer.)
And of course Wolter finds alignments!  The people who built the mounds aligned them to...wait.  Did he not just say the mounds were laid down organically by the glacier? Why would the glacier have used archeo-astronomy to form the mounds?
I'm therefore ignoring what he says about these alignments.  Because clearly any idiot can see that it makes more sense that the mound was organically built by nature and then improved by man.  Wolter is forcing his ideas onto this, because of his obsession with archeo-astronomy.
Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, England
He returns to Chichen Itza (or, as my husband refers to it, "Bert's homeland") and finally brings up the alignment I already detailed above, but he mentions it in less details.  Stonehenge is another well-known place that has definite, built-in alignments.  I will listen to someone talk all day about man-made alignments at those two man-made places.  I won't listen if you're talking about an organic formation.  And please don't say God did it.  Please.
The local expert says in 2000 BCE, people moved into that area (Loch Nell).  Wolter asks eagerly if they were "pagans."  2000 years before Jesus that's all there were, pagans.  My brain just broke from the stupid.   And of course human sacrifice!  Don't forget all the pagan rituals and human sacrifice.
Wolter declares that he knows of a bigger serpent mound (not hard to do if there are only 3 in the world)--the one in Ohio. And since there are only three, they must be related.  Especially since the Lock Nell one has such great archeo-astronomy.  (Plus I am still waiting to hear where the third mound is.)
Ohio Serpent Mound, aerial view
Wolter gets in a helicopter to tour the Ohio mound from the sky.  There is an extended showing of dials and rotators and the helicopter taking off.
Since it was made to be seen from above, clearly it was built for the gods to see.  Or aliens, of course, but that's another show (Ancient Aliens)--I yell at that one too.
This mound has been carbon-dated to between 700 BCE and 100 AD--13 centuries or more after the Scottish one.  Some nearby but associated burials were found that date very far back, even fossilized ones, but were they the original builders?
It's not the same at all in my eyes. 
This serpent has an egg in its mouth, possibly a sun disc, or the Eye of Horus (Egyptian connection again, even though Egypt has zero serpent mounds?).  This serpent has 15 solar/lunar alignments and it also looks like the constellation Draco.  I don't see it.
The local expert says the mound was designed by "a genius who loved the heavens and loved the earth," an adept.
It's a place to "restore the spirit of the planet."
Wolter says the two serpents mounds are clearly related:
  • both are best seen from above
  • both have ceremonial burials
  • both have astronomical alignments (I've said my piece on the Scottish alignments, move along, nothing more to say here) 
  • both date back "thousands of years" (although not to the same range at all)
  • both are "spiritual sites" with "pagan rituals" including possible human sacrifice
But he thinks the SAME PEOPLE built both mounds.  They lived a long time, from 2,000 bce to 700 bce, didn't they?
Oh, and now they've brought God into it after all.  Supposedly God built the Ohio mound to remind everyone of the serpent in the garden and the "egg" in the snake's mouth is the apple, the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, so therefore...wait for it...the Ohio mound is the location of the Garden of Eden.
Really, if I wasn't blogging this, I'd probably have turned it off there, exactly halfway through the episode.
National Park Service map of Effigy Mounds
The local expert says the Cherokee people believe the Eastern portion of the U.S. was once a garden, and therefore the Garden of Evil.  And clearly, the expert believes the serpent was the great father/mother/provider so the two sites must be connected.  Even though the garden of Eden connection has an evil snake motif, not a benevolent one.
They go off to Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry, Iowa, to somehow prove the connection between the Ohio and Scotland serpents.
Wolter declares that "ancient pagan travelers from Scotland" clearly helped the people in Ohio build their serpent.
In Iowa, he meets with another local expert, a man who has been surveying and studying the mounds for 33 years.  The site originally had over 1,000 mounds (most now destroyed).  It was a place of education and of course had archeo-astronomy.  The local Ho-Chunk people (their shamans/priests), according to the expert, were travelers who regularly went to Europe.
Yes, pre-Columbian Native American shamans traveled to Europe all the time and apparently the Europeans never noticed.  (or maybe only Columbus noticed?)
You know that Wolter immediately lost his MIND over this, as it proves his theory of transference, although in the other direction.
He says figuring out why they encoded information in the effigy mounds would "a global system of shared knowledge and ideas, a link between cultures that reaches further back in time than our history books tell us today."  And of course, his standard line, if I can prove this, it will change history.
(note: I've been watching [yelling at] this show for two seasons and he has yet to change history.)
The local expert says the shamanic knowledge of archeo-alignments was shared freely among local tribes and of course across the Atlantic to (pagan?) Europe.
artist's rendition of Cahokia, approx 1150 AD
A thousand years ago, the area around the Iowa park contained hundreds more effigy mounds, including more than one serpent mound.  It was part of the worship of the Plumed Serpent (ie, Quetzalcoatl/Kukulcan, am I right?) that spread all across the Mississippi area.  Their trading area spread across North and Central America (and of course, Europe) and the center was Cahokia (mentioned in last week's review as well).  Cahokia was a major city in North America, and it collapsed or was abandoned after 1200 AD.  (The novel People of the River, by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear, is about this time period/place. They are archaeologists who write about early native American cultures.)
Next Wolter visits Cahokia (on the Mississippi River in Missouri, across from St Louis).  He wants to use LIDAR to scan Cahokia.  This is the same technology that they are using to find sites hidden in the jungles of Central America.  Apparently LIDAR has been used there before, but it was an older version with lower resolution (looking at a dog, not at his fleas, as the operator says).
Cahokia once had 12,000 people living there in 1200 AD, more than contemporary London or Paris (but at the same time, Tenochtitlan--the Aztec capital--had 200,000-300,000 inhabitants, making it the largest city in the WORLD).   The largest mound of Cahokia is larger than the Great Pyramid of Egypt. It was the largest man-made building in  Pre-Columbian North America.
The LIDAR image of Cahokia is awesome.  There's no way to screen print it unfortunately but it shows roads and little houses and larger buildings.
The Rotherwas Serpent Mound, now buried under a road
His conclusion, of course, is that all the sites are related (all the American ones, yes, unquestionable, but lumping in Scotland, no).
He never showed the third serpent mound so I did a little research, which made me sad.  The third serpent mound was in England and it was destroyed in 2007 when a road was build over it.  It was called the Rotherwas Serpent Mound.  The link contains its story and description as well as comparisons to the other two mounds profiled in this episode.

image sources:  screen print from video, Trip Advisor, The Telegraph, here, screen print again/same source, National Park Service, Legends of America, Andrew Collins
This article is also posted on my web site, Transformations by Obsidian Butterfly.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

America Unearthed: Underwater Pyramids (review/discussion/snark/spoilers)

I've been watching America Unearthed (H2 channel) since the early episodes, including the very first one where they claimed to have found Mayan pyramids and artifacts in Georgia.  (I didn't think to review it at the time.)   You can watch it on Youtube. or on H2. If I remember  correctly, the most interesting thing was the revelation that the Maya Blue (pigment) used in Georgia came from the same source geologically as the Maya Blue used by the Central American Maya. 
The premise of the show is that Scott Wolter, a forensic geologist, investigates various claims that he always says "will change history" such as proving Vikings and other pre-Columbian Europeans were in the New World prior to the 15th century.  He is never able to conclusively prove anything (and in a recent case, having to do with a giant rock wall in Texas, he actually disproved the theory that the long wall was man-made).
Last night's Underwater Pyramid episode begins with two duck hunters in a rowboat being caught on top of an underwater step pyramid in a lake (Lake Mills, Wisconsin) in 1900.  Very dramatic.
Stone Teepees beer label with story.
Wolter meets his contact at Tyranena Brewing Company, named for the same lake (now known as "Rock Lake").  Their beer label shows three stone pyramids and says "Stone Teepee."
The Native Americans in the area tell of a "foreign tribe" that built "stone structures and effigy mounds" in the area of the lake, now underwater.  Supposedly, the contact says, the Aztecs built them. Some scuba divers went down and found pyramids.  But the drawing looks nothing like a pyramid to me--a pyramid has a square bottom and 4 triangular sizes.  This has a rectangular bottom, two triangular sizes and two rectangular sides.  It looks like a stone version of a long house, not like anything I've ever seen from Meso-America.
I screenprinted this from the video on H2's site
Another legend, also on a beer bottle, is "Rocky's Revenge", about the "protector of the pyramids" and the label shows a kind of prehistoric dinosaur.  It's "Wisconsin's version of Nessie."  Local scuba divers feel like the monster's watching them and get creeped out by it.
Rocky's Revenge beer label with story.

Wolter declares his intention to dive the pyramids with a personal submarine (submersible), although he declares the idea of the Aztecs traveling that far "bizarre."
The FuGo subs are silly-looking bright yellow tiny things, like the Mini Coopers of the sub world.  Then the show turns into an ad for the sub.  Product placement, anyone?   First the beer, now the sub.  Sigh.
Looking up Lake Mills, I see that the lake is half the town, and at the other half is something labeled "Aztalan" which is very close to the word for the Aztec's legendary homeland, Aztlán.  The Rocky's Revenge label mentions Aztalan as well.
 Wolter's next stop is a visit with Dr. Roberto Rodriguez, who has "studied the Aztecs," whatever that means, and who is an "Aztec Migration Expert."  He says he "followed the corn," because corn was originally domesticated in the southern Mexican area (albeit thousands of years before the Aztecs appeared on the scene).
This gives Wolter a chance to luridly describe people being sacrificed to the "corn god" and "corn goddess" (great use of deity names there, Wolter) and gasp, some of the sacrifices were even eaten.   Dr. Rodriguez says he discovered the Aztec legend that they came originally from the North (ie, North America, or at least the southern part of it) which completely flabbergasts Wolter, as if no one ever in the history of talking about the Aztecs knew their legend of their northern homeland.  Which I already mentioned, above, before even getting to this section of the show.
Wolter goes on to talk about "Roberto's remarkable theory" that the Aztecs came from American and moved to Mexico.  Remarkable theory?  It's an ancient legend.  This guy didn't discover it.  This is disingenuous and this sort of stuff angers me.   Maybe Wolter knew the Aztecs believed they came from the North, maybe he didn't, but to pretend this guy invented the idea is ridiculous.   I don't believe anyone has ever found what was the ancient homeland of Aztlan, which could have been in the American Southwest, or higher up, or even in very northern Mexico.  We'll probably never know for sure.
Dr Rodriguez explains that the Aztec pochtecas (traveling merchants) did travel all over the continent (perhaps how the Maya Blue got to Georgia?). I know that those trade goods can be traced by modern anthropologists who find them in excavations, and also borrowed words in other languages can show those trade routes, such as the study of the Uto-Aztecan languages, shown on this map from Wikipedia:

(aside: I don't know why I can't get a job as a researcher for one of these types of shows. All these extra things, I'm either looking up on the fly or I already know them.)
You might notice that the red on that map goes NO WHERE near where these alleged Aztec pyramids are, up by Lake Michigan.
The good doctor offers some ancient maps to Wolter, to prove his "theory" about North America being the Aztec homeland. This is one of them:
The map is from the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (Wolter constantly calls it, incorrectly, the Treat of Hidalgo) in 1848.  Dr Rodriguez says that in the Four Corners region, this map has a label that it's the homeland of the Aztecs ("Antigua residencia de los Aztecas").
I was only able to find a translated version in close-up, which also shows the "ruins of the 2nd houses of the Aztecs" not far away.
Close up of translated maps showing
 "Ancient Residence" and "Ruins of the 2nd Houses"

Dr Rodriguez thinks the Great Salt Lake is the actual origin of the Aztecs, based on some even older maps.  But on newer maps, supposedly this information is redacted.  Dr Rodriguez seems to believe it's a racist conspiracy, because everyone tells Mexicans to "go back" to Mexico, but they really came from North America so they are already "back" and that won't do.
Even though this map shows the ancient Aztec homeland as no where near Wisconsin, Wolter can't let it go.  Maybe the lake wasn't the Great Salt Lake.  Maybe it was Lake Michigan.  Or this Rock Lake.  He doesn't know when to quit.
I'm going to turn aside again and interject my own thoughts:  If the Aztecs' homeland was Rock Lake, or even Lake Michigan, they would not have been labeled "foreigners" by the natives living in the area.  They would have BEEN the natives living in that area.  Once the Aztecs went south, they stayed south, except, as mentioned already, for the pochtecas, who certainly didn't stick around long enough to build pyramids in any places they visited. 
And then Dr Rodriguez mentions a few words that are cognates in Aztec (Nahuatl) and the local native language:  Michigan and Michoacan both mean "place of fishes" (pronounced almost exactly the same), as well as "mocatzin" and "moccasin" (both meaning shoe).
I think these can be explained by the pochtecas bringing language from place to place along with trade goods.  "What's this foot thing?" "It's a mocatzin" (other person doesn't hear the slight "t" sound) "Oh, a moccasin."
Finally, halfway through the show, Wolter is ready to dive in his little yellow submarine so he can prove that the rock structures were built by Aztecs and somehow the sea monster also has Aztec relevance although I can't comprehend it, and evidently it was more important to include another product placement/ad for the subs rather than explain how the Aztecs placed the serpent in the lake.  The lake that wasn't there when the structures were built. But that was perhaps the lake that was the homeland of the Aztecs.  I'm utterly confused and there are still 30 minutes to go.
Finally, they are diving, talking about how Rocky is a cryptid and they're looking for him as well as for the pyramids.  More time is wasted because Wolter gets himself stuck into the bottom's mud, it's murky, there are weeds, all kinds of false drama because his battery is running dead and he's not found anything.   Except that it's "creepy" down there.
And after that ONE FAILED DIVE he gives up.  Doesn't dive again.  Doesn't try any kind of sonar.  Just wanders off, heads to that place I mentioned earlier, Aztalan state park.  He meets the former Wisconsin state archeologist, who says they've never found a pyramid in the lake either.  Of course if Wolter had checked with them first, it would have been a non-story.
(Or maybe he did and that's why he gave up after one dive.  Or, as in other shows, he could have visited them first, gotten belligerent with those who didn't agree with his ideas, and stomped off to prove them wrong, only to go home muttering "it's still possible" when he couldn't do that.) 
The archeologist brings him to a partially restored archeological site, dated to around 1,000 A.D.  It's a heavily fortified site, with defensive log walls.  Supposedly new people moved in with existing people, and thus the fortification was to protect the newcomers from the other older tribes.  Apparently this information came from their middens.
The site appears to be low mounds inside of the log fences.  Wolter claims it looks like Tenochtitlan because there are plazas between the buildings.  Well, who builds buildings all on top of each other with no space in between?  (I won't get into my friend's theory of pyramid building, which is that the most efficient way to pile up earth and/or stones and/or bricks turns out to be a pyramid shape.)
Aztalan site reconstruction.
Wolter keeps talking about how the Aztecs built walls to keep the rich people in (they did?), and since the archeologist says this town had a wealthy quadrant, with its own walls (the long thin area to the right of this  map next to the trees, if I'm following the on-screen map correctly), and that one mound, that it's exactly like an Aztec city.
One of the pyramids was actually a burial pyramid, again, something Aztecs didn't do.  On top of another pyramid was the sacred fire, only put out once a year when the corn was about to be planted, because these people, like the Aztecs, were "obsessed by corn."  Now personally I'd call the Aztecs many things, but corn-obsessed isn't even on my radar.
The archeologist describes a "princess mound" where a young woman was buried with high-status items.  Immediately Wolter says she must have been sacrificed when the corn crop was bad.  Because, of course, there is no chance she was the beloved daughter of the ruler who died young and was buried with riches by her grieving family.
Wolter sums it all up.  Both sites:
  • were obsessed with corn
  • had plazas
  • had a wealthy walled neighborhood
  • human sacrifice
  • the names

And he wonders, how could they be connected? Um, the POCHTECAS already mentioned could have brought the concepts around...or...
The archeologist says the settler who discovered the ruins made up the name after finding out about the Aztec homeland.  That the site is dated absolutely to 1,000 AD, abandoned by 1200 A.D. and has nothing to do with the Aztecs, and was built by the Mississipians.   And he brings up Cahokia, as being the capital of the Mississipian civilization.
Wolter leaps to another conclusion, that the Mississipian people left this site, wandered to the Great Salt Lake, and from there to central Mexico, totally discounting what's already been discussed about the origins of the Ute-Aztecan language family.   He admits that if there are any rocks in Rock Lake, they are probably glacial erratics, but hey, he did PROVE his friend's THEORY that the Aztecs really came from the North.  Who knew that?

Picture sources:  Tyranena Beer page, H2, Google Maps, Wikipedia, 1848 map, translated map, Aztalan map

Addendum:  My artist friend Mike read this post and thought it was too snarky.  Then he watched the episode, and thought it wasn't snarky enough!  He did point out one thing I missed...that apparently some of the research for the episode involved reading beer labels.  I did mention the labels but I wasn't thinking about the absurdity of beer labels as sources for historical fact.
Cross-posted to Transformations by Obsidian Butterfly web site.