Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Artist’s conception of James O’Kon’s Mayan bridge


What Could Explain the Failure of Mainstream Science to Unravel the Origins of Meso America’s Advanced Ancient Cultures?

It has been 23 years yet I remember the morning like it was yesterday. A mist shrouded the jungle above the Temple of the Inscriptions. A series of roaring sounds suddenly split the silence as a band of Howler monkeys made their way through the trees. It startled me, I thought it might be a jaguar, but the cacophony added to the sense of mystery.

My head was exploding. By the time I had reached Palenque we had already visited dozens of archaeological sites from the northernmost down to the Yucatan Peninsula and Quintana Roo. I was steeped in questions and mysteries. Several things had become clear to me: the cultures that built the pyramids and other buildings had been advanced in the arts and sciences. I had seen many beautiful things as well as mind-tugging enigmas.

The Olmec civilization surprised me the most. I had read about the Maya and knew of the Aztecs but I was unprepared for what I found in Villahermosa: Large stone heads with Negroid features and stone Stele carved with depictions of curious ambassadors. The figures clearly were not from any Mexican culture.

These artifacts were more than just a fascinating puzzle; they represented a headache for science. They were an anomaly. Who carved the heads? Who created the Stele? Where did they get the models for these heads and figures? These were questions that arose because of the way scientists have reconstructed the human history of Mesoamerica. Africans don’t fit and neither do the cloaked Caucasian figures carved on the Stele. They shouldn’t be there; however, they are surely there.

Scientists do not claim to have solved this enigma. Anthropologists and archaeologists admit they do not know much of anything about Olmec culture. So we don’t know the ethnic group or the language and nothing of their social organization, beliefs or traditions. No one has any idea of why they carved the helmeted heads and then buried them. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. We don’t usually bury monuments if that is what they were.

The only records we have are the monuments they left behind, which are impressive. But how do we understand them? Where do they fit into the mosaic of human history? There are no direct clues in Mexico. The Olmecs didn’t leave us any written records. However, we do have a clue.

The Bible is an extremely important document. It doesn’t matter whether you are a believer or not. It contains a very ancient accounting of human history compiled from a variety of early sources. At least this is true of Genesis. But it is not always easy to decode. Do we find any reference in the Bible that might help us solve the Olmec enigma?

Turning to Genesis chapter 11 we read “Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.” This indicates that there was a period in man’s history when there was a global human civilization. We learn that during that epoch men wanted to build a tower: “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven; and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

The fact that the Olmec civilization presents science with an anomaly indicates something quite profound: the data does not fit the current model. Scientists can’t change the observable data, it is as hard as data can get. But they could change the model to conform to the data. There is the rub. Anthropologists and archaeologists have a huge investment in that model, an intellectual edifice that has been built up over generations.

Scientists would rather ignore the tough questions and leave the Olmecs alone in the dim mists of forgotten antiquity. That is not a very scientific approach. Where is the pursuit of truth? What happened to the scientific method? It is just not acceptable. Why? Some ancient society built the huge mound; dragged the basalt heads about 60 miles from the quarry to the burial site; those heads weighed from 5 to 25 tons; and they also carved the figures into the stele. They wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble unless the people the monuments represented were important to them. It is a logical assumption to make and we can only hope that scientists in the distant future will reach the same conclusion when they study Mount Rushmore.

Since we have the artifacts we know that there has to be an explanation for who the builders were. As with any mystery you search for clues. You begin in the most likely places and work your way down the list: Mexico. The problem is that the Olmecs disappeared from the scene long before Cortez arrived. None of the cultures contemporary with the Aztecs made any references to the Olmecs; they seemed to know nothing. No other Negroid heads have been found in Mesoamerica. Another curious fact is that the developmental period that must have preceded the mound building and head carving is nowhere to be found.

The Olmecs just suddenly appeared then disappeared!

It took me years of investigation to finally realize that the most probable answer was in the Bible and that was about the last place I thought to look. Did the Olmecs come from outer space as some researchers have proposed? Not necessarily. For one thing there is no evidence to support that theory. Secondly, the Negroid heads and the people depicted on the stele are obviously human.

The idea that there was a global civilization in ancient times does not conform to the current model of science. However, it is corroborated by the reference in the Bible. The problem with the scientific model is that it can’t explain the available data and that is a serious issue that has many consequences. If the problem was limited to the Olmec civilization we might just let it go. But there are artifacts in Egypt, South America and other parts of Mexico that also don’t fit the orthodox scheme.

Scientists have often shown a willful blindness regarding artifacts and developments that they can’t explain using their belief system. Worse, they have either ignored key questions or discredited the facts. Many other hard facts, the remains of lost civilizations, and the cultural records of numerous peoples corroborate the Olmec enigma and the Bible.

References to the cataclysmic flood occur in 230 different cultures. Mayan history includes the story of how they came from a land to the east that had been destroyed. The historian Herodutus’ recounted of the tale of lost Atlantis. These accounts may sound like romantic myths spun out of early imaginations, however, when you stand at an ancient site surrounded by strange ruins…you begin to wonder if they just might have more than a grain of truth.

I climbed the steps of the Temple of Inscriptions and visited the tomb of Pacal. Then I decided to take a long trip down to the Rio Usamacinta to Bonampak and Yaxchilan. It was 100 miles of bad dirt road, heavily rutted in places. It finally became so muddy that we mired the van up to the axles. We had nearly reached the destination. Bonampak was a short walk.

I visited Bonampak. My next destination was Yaxchilan, a ruin secreted in the jungle about 8 miles from Bonampak. I decided to try and hack my way there with a machete against the advice of the natives who had warned me: “La selva is cerrado!” They were right. I gave up after a grueling four-hour stint that netted less than a quarter mile mostly on my belly trying to avoid razor-sharp thorn shrubs. The insects were ravaging my body.

Yaxchilan is situated on the river and it was alleged to be the center of the flourishing Mayan civilization in this region. In Feb. 1989, James O’Kon did manage to make it to the site. Archaeologists had been studying it for a century. A particular mound of rocks caught O’Kon’s trained eye. Scientists had dismissed it as a minor mystery but the amateur archaeologist was also a forensic engineer and he immediately knew what it really was: part of a bridge.

He turned to modern technology to help prove a bridge once existed at the site. O’Kon, a former chairman of the forensic council of the American Society of Civil Engineers, had used similar techniques during investigations. He compiled field information at the Mayan site and used computers to integrate archaeological studies, aerial photos and maps to develop a three-dimensional model of the site and determine the exact positioning and dimensions of the bridge.

O’Kon ended up making a startling discovery: The Mayans had constructed the longest bridge span in the ancient world. When he finished calculations and computer models, the bridge turned out to be a 600-foot span, a hemp rope suspension structure with two piers and three spans. It connected Yaxchilan in Mexico with its agricultural domain in the Peten, now Guatemala and where Tikal is situated.

What archaeologists had assumed was an insignificant rock pile turned out to be part of a crucial finding, a pier 12 feet high and 35 feet in diameter. Aerial photos located a second support pier on the opposite side of the river. Both piers were constructed of cast-in-place concrete and an exterior of stone masonry. That is exactly how the Mayan pyramids were made.

In interviews O’Kon, who has been studying the ancient Maya for 30 years, said, “the Mayas were very sophisticated mathematically and scientifically.” He claimed the design requirements of the Mayan bridge parallel 20th century bridge-design criteria.

Today we marvel at the ruins and speculate on how and why they built the ceremonial sites. We shouldn’t forget that the Maya were an advanced race. They understood astronomy. They had an accurate calendar. They invented the concept of zero at least 700 years before Europe. They built paved roads, and as we have recently learned, the longest suspension bridge in the ancient world.

What occurred to me while standing atop another pyramid at Coba in Quintana Roo surveying a trackless jungle was the fact that the Maya had achieved all this in a jungle. No other advanced civilization I could think of had emerged from a jungle environment. It deepens the mystery of this lost race.

The sacbe are a system of roads that interconnect the sites. This is another feature that has long puzzled scientists and independent investigators alike. The roads were built up with rocks, leveled and paved over with limestone cement. They vary in width from 8 feet up to 30 feet. The mystery is simple: Why would a ‘stone age’ people without wheeled vehicles or dray animals need such an elaborate and sophisticated road network?

O’Kon turned his attention to the sacbe after finishing his work on the bridge. In a long rambling interview he told the author that he had found the 60-mile road that extended from Coba to Yaxuna was as straight as an arrow with a negligible deviation. His studies have revealed the Maya were not ‘stone age;’ he refers to them as “technolithic.” They didn’t use iron because the nearest mines were 1,500 miles away. O’Kon claims, “They used jade tools and they were harder than steel.”

You almost have to stand at a site and image the scene as it was during the peak of Mayan civilization to really grasp the magnitude and appreciate what this culture achieved. Today we see ruins and jungle. Pyramids that are little more than bare stone. Crumbling buildings surrounded by wilderness. However, in that day the pyramids were coated with stucco. They were smooth and they gleamed in the sun. The walls of the structures were painted with various designs using bright colors. The courtyards were paved. The flat white roads radiated out in all directions connecting the centers together.

Despite their advanced knowledge of astronomy and mathematics and their achievements in art and architecture, scientists still consider them a ‘stone age’ culture.

Time is the essence of life. Human beings have always been immersed in it, keeping track of it in one way or another, measuring it as minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and millennia. We know of many of its dimensions and we have used them to our advantage. We know, supposedly, when the dinosaurs roamed the earth; how long it takes for various radioactive isotopes to decay; when our early hominid ancestors branched off from apes; the layout of the human genome; the exact dates of lunar and solar eclipses long into the future.

Time causes all living things to grow old and die. It seems so obvious and ubiquitous, we are like fish and time is water. We never ask the basic question: What is it? Do we understand it? Is it more than a system of measurement, whether of the present moment or of the age of the universe?

All cultures certainly have a focus on time; however, the Maya had an obsession with it.

They tracked and measured the synodic period of Venus, which is 584 earth days. The 365-day Mayan calendar year was more precisely than the Gregorian calendar. They devised three different calendrical systems: the tzolkin (sacred calendar), the haab (civil calendar), and the long count.

The tzolkin is a cycle of 260 days (13 months of 20 days each) and the haab is the solar cycle. These two calendars were combined in an interlocking fashion to produce a cycle of 18,980 days, which was known as a calendar round. That is about 52 years.

Each day had a particular glyph and meaning ascribed to it and at the end of the 52-year cycle they had a renewal ceremony. The long count period lasted for about 5000 years. This was equivalent to an age. According to the Maya, humanity is in the 5th Sun or age. That will end about 5000 years from the beginning of their calendar, which started in 3011 BC and expires on 2012.

The longest cycle in Mayan cosmology is 26,000 years, which corresponds to the precession of the equinox. Why did the Maya have such a fascination with astronomy? Why did they create such an intricate calendrical system? Would a ‘stone age’ agrarian society need all this advanced astronomical and mathematical knowledge? How did they acquire it in such a short time? How would they have any awareness of such a complex phenomena as the synodic length of Venus or the precession of the equinoxes?

They are either more ancient than science allows or they had more sophisticated technology than we know of or someone passed the knowledge down to them. Is it coincidental that the beginning of the 5th age was 3000 BC, which corresponds to the birth of the Jewish and Chinese calendars? The assertion that the “world” is only 5000 years old may have more truth to it than we know. Is it also a coincidence that so many Christians believe we are in the end times?

The Mayan obsession with time may have been based on a deep awareness of how it functions on a cosmic scale and then unfolds on earth in short and long-term cycles. That may be the message that the lost civilizations have been trying to deliver to us and we may just be starting to get it.

No comments: