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Itza Maya Pedigree of Eagle Man

In the premier of the History Channel’s series, America Unearthed, esteemed Mexican archaeologist, Alfonso Morales, smiled like a Cheshire cat then pointed to the similarities between a stone bas relief at the Maya city of Chichen Itza and a copper breast plate found in the state of Georgia. The clues in this breast plate extend far beyond its artistic form.

Left unsaid by the television program is that several copper breast plates portraying a man wearing an eagle feather cloak have been found in North America. Most were discovered at Ocmulgee National Monument or Etowah Mounds National Landmark in Georgia, but they have also been found in other archaeological zones such as Cahokia Mounds National Landmark in southern Illinois. The “Eagle Man” is also a common subject for shell gorgets found in the lower Southeastern United States and Mississippi River Basin. Most are very similar to the copper plates in design. A few examples of the “Eagle Man” on painted pottery have also been discovered.

The accoutrements of this famous Eagle Man could have long ago pointed to a direct connection between the Muskogean mound builders and the Itza Mayas, but alas . . . no one thought about looking at the details.

If interested in learning more

The evidence was there all along!

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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.

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