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Itsapa: the Itza Mayas in North America

Itsapa: the Itza Mayas in North America

It is one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries ever in North America. All evidence suggests that Itza Maya farmers took refuge here after volcanoes and drought devastated their homeland. Around the year 1000 AD, Native Peoples built at least 200 stone masonry terraces up a 700 feet high mountain slope near the State of Georgia’s highest mountain. The acropolis of the site contains the ruins of buildings, animal effigies a pyramidal altar and complex hydrological structures. The book contains 350 color photographs and computer-generated virtual reality images; most by the author. The Second Edition adds newly discovered information about possible mining expeditions in the Southeast by the Mayas. Richard Thornton is the national architecture and Native American history columnist for the Examiner, and in 2009 was the architect of Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial in Tulsa. He has studied Mesoamerican architecture in Mexico.

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Hello! I’m very interested in history and anthropology, but am very far from a ‘learned scholar’. I feel somewhat foolish asking a question based on things I’ve learned from documentaries, but I was curious about Maya ancestry. Could the Georgia site be much older than hypothesized by experts such as yourself? Is there evidence of a 1000 A.D. date? I recalled something in a different documentary while watching, “America Unearthed”, a Native elder told researchers to “Follow the Corn” and they would know where the Maya came from. Could Georgia perhaps then be an older location, as well as other sites in North America.

    • Amanda, there are over a dozen terrace complexes in Georgia and several more in Alabama, South Carolina and Virginia. Many of these show evidence of being occupied as ceremonial sites long before being developed into agricultural complexes. The oldest radiocarbon date for the Track Rock Terrace Complex is currently 1018 AD. However, the archaeologist in 2001 only took samples for radiocarbon dating at three spots in the same general area of the complex. Much older occupation locations might exist elsewhere at Track Rock, but without comprehensive radiocarbon dating, there is no way to be sure.


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