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Post Script: Palenque’s Royal Sun in Southeastern art

Post Script:  Palenque’s Royal Sun in Southeastern art

The documentary, “Breaking the Maya Code” revealed an astonishing coincidence that occurred the month I turned 21 in Mexico.  All these years, I never knew.  We will get to that later.

The program states, “The white Maya headband was the symbol of ceremonial authority in Maya villages and still is today.”

The famous marble statues of Etowah Mounds . . . wearing white head bands.

The famous marble statues of Etowah Mounds . . . wearing white head bands.


In “Breaking the Maya Code”  Archaeologist Linda Schele spends a significant portion of the program on Palenque.   Palenque was the capital of the Chiapas Highlands during the Classic Period.  It is also the Maya city from which the University of Minnesota’s Mineralogical Lab obtained samples of Maya Blue stucco that matched 100% with attapulgite from Georgia.

This is a title of High King of Palenque with the royal sun on the right.

This is a title of High King of Palenque with the royal sun on the right – from the documentary.

This style gorget is called the Raccoon Dancers.

This style gorget is called the Raccoon Dancers.

This is a detail of the center of the Etowah gorget.

This is a detail of the center of the gorget above.

Stylized Royal Sun at Track Rock Gap

Stylized Royal Sun at Track Rock Gap


Assigned to the X-Files!

While watching “Breaking the Maya Code” I had an OMG moment.  I recognized people I knew from long ago.  Linda Schele, her architect husband, David, and I were constantly bumping into each other in the Yucatan Peninsula.  I had completely forgotten their names.

We three Southerners stuck together.  They were from the University of South Alabama and I was from Georgia Tech.  The three of us all visited Palenque for the first time in the same tour group. David and I photographed the buildings at Palenque together.

Who would have thought what the future held for us?  She became one of the giants in Maya studies.  I would unknowingly set off a chain of events that would connect Palenque with Georgia.

ElGringo David had a grant from the University of South Alabama to photograph Maya architecture in the Yucatan.  A condition of my fellowship was that I was to photograph all the major Mesoamerican sites in Mexico.  We took photos of each other at the entrance gate to the Maya city of Labna in Campeche.  Linda took this photo of me (above).  I am wearing a Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity shirt.

Life is indeed a box of chocolates.

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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.


  1. It’s possible. Perhaps a shipwrecked Spanish ship crew was massacred there by Indians. There is a whole lot more information about the Fort Caroline and Ribault fleet tragedy that the American public sees in tourist literature. Essentially, anything that negates the location of Fort Caroline and the massacres being in Florida is not publicized. For example, there were some French Catholics among the shipwrecked sailors, who were not killed by the Spanish. They said that most of the ships ran aground at what is now called Cumberland Island and St. Marys Sound. The Frenchmen walked back toward Fort Caroline. They encountered about six Spaniards and voluntarily surrendered to them, even though there were over 100 Frenchmen. They walked back together to Fort Caroline where Menendez suddenly ordered the Frenchmen bound together in twos and fours. Still not thinking that any real harm would come to them, the Frenchmen did not put up a fight. They then were executed near the walls of Fort Caroline . . . not at St. Augustine as what the history books say. There is nothing in the Spanish archives that says Ribault was killed at St. Augustine – only that he was killed and the part of his head with the red beard on it was cut off and sent to the King of Spain.


    Hello Richard,
    I went to the Track Rock site for the first time this past Sunday.
    I remember seeing the large carving in rock 6 and thinking it looked like a stylized persons face or a mask. It was haunting to me (in a good way). I came to this website today and find an explanation for the one carving there that has bothered me since I had seen it, possibly proving once again the world is a small place. I really enjoyed seeing the little bit of the Terrace complex I had time to explore and will be going back soon using your maps to help find the features lower down the mountain. Has anyone from POOF thought of leading some tours there to help us laymen understand the layout and what we are seeing on the site. Some of it is confusing to the average person. Please keep up the AMAZING work POOF is doing to shed light on the early history of the Southeast.

    • Thank you for your kind comments. We will be having guided tours a little later in the year.


        Please post the times, I will be there!!


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