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Mexican Archaeologists Discover New Evidence of a Maya-Georgia Connection

Mexican archaeologist, Jose Francisco Osorio Leon, of the Institutio Nacional de Anthropoligia (INAH) is currently supervising restoration of the Chichen Chob (Casa Colorado) temple and ball court complex at Chichen Itza. Part of his team is reassembling a stone bas-relief discovered underground at the ball court, which displays a scene remarkably similar to the artistic portrayal of the New Fire Ceremony at several Native American towns in the Southeastern United States. The ball court’s bas-relief portrays a form of the traditional Maya New Fire Ceremony practiced by the Itza Mayas. A pot of water containing copal resin was boiled over an open fire. The fragrance of the copal was believed to be prayers to the gods for a prosperous new year.

Archaeologists continue to find cultural links between southern Mexico and the Southeastern United States. The most artistic similarities are being found between Chichen Itza and the Georgia Mountains

Archaeologists continue to find cultural links between southern Mexico and the Southeastern United States. The most artistic similarities are being found between Chichen Itza and the Georgia Mountains

In one of the more dramatic scenes in the premier of “America Unearthed” on December 21, 2012, the chief archaeologist at Chichen Itza, Alfonso Morales, examined a photograph of an ornate copper plate found at Etowah Mountains National Historical Landmark in Cartersville, GA. He smiled then pointed to a bas relief on a nearby building. The two pieces of art were very similar. The major difference was that the Maya “Eagle Man” was carrying a triangular obsidian knife, typically used for human sacrifices in Mesoamerica, while the Georgia “Eagle Man” was carrying a ceremonial copper scepter. Some archaeologists, living in the state of Georgia, quickly emailed the History Channel that the artistic details were different; therefore the art in Chichen Itza and Etowah Mounds was not similar.

The new discovery at Chichen Itza clearly portrays the type of ceremonial flint knife being used in this New Fire Ceremony that is endemic in northern Georgia and southeastern Tennessee. When archaeologists Lew Larsen, Arthur Kelly and Joe Caldwell were excavating Etowah Mounds, they found so many of these beautiful products of indigenous craftsmanship that they were stored in bulk boxes. The Etowah Mounds team also found many examples of copper, lithic and shell art portraying dancers with ceremonial knives.
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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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