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The Mound Builders

Is There A Mayan North American Connection?

By James Donahue

For years the natives who settled the foothills of Georgia’s tallest mountain, Brasstown Bald, considered the odd tree and grass-covered hill nearby as just another hill. But Mark Williams, a University of Georgia archeologist, saw something odd about that hill and led a team of archaeologists to do an exploratory dig in 1999 to find out what might be hidden there.

Williams discovered what many now perceive to be the most important archaeological discovery in North America in years. All that dirt, grass and the trees were concealing the remains of a massive earthen pyramid that once stood amid a city containing ruins, pottery and stone works that bear a resemblance to the works found in Mayan ruins of Central America.

Also in recent years, archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a second site, complete with another large earthen pyramid in the Florida panhandle. This great mound, standing at 46 feet in height, is located in a site known as the Letchworth-Love Mounts. The pottery collected from both sites clearly indicates that the builders were possibly linked to the same culture that was believed to have originated in the Central American area sometime around 200 AD.

It should be noted that archaeologists in Central America place a timeline for the 1,000-year height of the Mayan culture to a period between about 200 AD to about 1,400 AD. This means that if the researchers at the Georgia and Florida sites are correct, the construction of the North American mounds occurred at the very start of the great Mayan empire.

Williams has never linked the Georgia ruins to the Mayans. But Richard Thornton, an architect and student of the history of the native people of southeastern United States, linked the two sites to the Mayan civilization in a story that appeared on the Examiner website.

Thornton drew attention to the significant similarities between the architectural forms and town plans of the ruins left by the Mayans in Central America and those found in Georgia. He also argued that the languages of the Creek Indians of Georgia contain many Mesoamerican words, strongly suggesting that their origins were the Mayan culture.

William's team, and a second team led by South African archeologist Johannes Loubser have been working at the Georgian site since the Williams dig began. Soil samples and analyzed pottery shards date the site as at least 1,000 years old. The city that is being uncovered is believed to have been Yupaha. To date researchers have unearthed over 150 stone masonry walls used as terraces for agriculture several stone structures and even evidence of a sophisticated irrigation system.

The Florida dig site also is stirring speculation of a Mayan link. Archaeologist William Sears notes in his book that the discovery of corn agriculture at the site strongly suggests that the corn, or maze, had its origins in Central America. The Letchworth-Love Mounds were built at about the same time corn is believed to have arrived in Florida.

Sears also points to pottery collected at the Florida site was mostly identified as a variety called Weeden Island. The designs and motifs found on this pottery appear Mesoamerican in origin.

A recent presentation by The History Channel examined Thornton's theories and even went farther, presenting DNA evidence linking the Creek Indians of the region to both Mayan DNA and DNA from people in South America.

It is believed that the Maya civilization participated in long distance trade with other cultures in Central America and along the gulf coast of Mexico, and may have reached even farther. Archaeologists have found gold from Panama in the ruins of Chichen Itza. But could they have gone even farther, spreading at least their influence in building techniques and art into southeastern North America?

When we go directly north from the Mexican border into Arizona and New Mexico we find the ancient pueblo ruins of the old Anasazi culture. Many researchers believe the Anasazi may have been linked to the Aztec civilization which sprang up in Central America at about the time the Mayans were in decline. The Anasazi architecture looks nothing like either the ruins found in the Mayan structures or in Georgia and Florida.

This suggests that the Mayans, if they did establish settlements along the Atlantic coast of the United States, somehow by-passed all of the territories between established cities in Central America and the far southeastern regions of North America. How might that have happened?

Just for speculation, might the Mayans have traveled to Florida by water from Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Penninsula? It is known that the Mayans traveled by water in canoe-type vessels, using them on trade routes all along the coast. They were believed to have reached the islands in the Carribean. What was to prevent them from reaching the shores of Florida and then migrating north into Georgia?

It is interesting to note that while their architectural styles were different, both the Mayans and Aztecs erected large stone pyramids that looked very similar. That the earthen mounds found at the sites in both Florida and Georgia were thought to have been structured as pyramids is significant. Earthen mounds, or the aged remains of what may have once been earthen pyramids, were found to have once existed throughout much of North America, at least east of the Mississippi River. These mounds were much smaller than the two large mounds in Georgia and Florida, and most of them have fallen victim to modern agriculture and the construction of cities and highways.

Early explorers once thought the mounds were ancient burial sites, but archaeological digs rarely found human remains buried in them. The aborigional people living here at the time the Europeans arrived had not knowledge of the origins of these mounds, leading early archaeologists and historians to speculate that an earlier civilization once existed throughout North America.

The big mystery was why they were built. Pyramid-shaped structures are found all over the world, and if the North American earthen mounds were originally designed as pyramids

So who were the people that built all of those earthen pyramids and why was it so important that they had to be erected? Whatever the reason, great mounds, most of them made of cut stone, have been found all over the world.