Archive for January, 2008

Countdown to 2012: Slinky Meets Chichen Itza

January 31st, 2008 by ejalbright

(Second in an occasional series identifying signs that the world will end in 2012)

The modern meets the ancient in this video from MySpace:

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Missed by THIS much …

January 30th, 2008 by ejalbright

Yesterday our planet narrowly missed a cataclysm as asteroid 2007 TU24, which was bigger than 500 feet, came within 537,000 kilometers of clobbering us.

Sixty-five million years ago, the Earth played chicken with an asteroid (or comet) some six kilometers, but this time it smashed into our planet near what is today the Yucatan Peninsula and, according to conventional theories, wiped out the primary form of life, the dinosaur.

Later this winter the journal Nature Geoscience will publish an article that found that the dinosaur-killing asteroid, named Chicxulub after the Maya village located near the impact point, may have caused even more destruction than previously thought. A team of scientists created a three-dimensional model of the asteroid crater and found that it was lop-sided, suggesting that the space object struck the earth at an angle, which would have spewed even more water into the air.

That water would have been laced with sulphur compounds, which would have been deadly to life on the planet, and possibly, over time, been the source of the death of those dinosaurs that survived the initial impact.

There are those, however, who believe the theory that extinction of the dinosaurs by the Chicxulub asteroid is all hooey. Gerta Keller of Princeton University is the leading figure in the loyal opposition that believes Chicxulub struck a few hundred thousand years before the dinosaurs’ mass extinction. While there is not enough space here to present her theories (see the links below), Keller was recently profiled by the Star-Ledger newspaper. In it, she describes her escape from Algeria following a military coup of the government that explains a lot about her personality. She was released because the Algerians wanted her stubborn personality to be elsewhere.

[Editor’s note: What does the Chicxulub asteroid have to do with Chichen Itza? The unique geology of the crater of the asteroid is what created the cenotes, the sink holes that provided water for the Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula. The most famous cenote is the Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Well) at Chichén Itzá.]


Chichen Itza Had Origins in Cosmic Collision 160 Million Years Ago

‘Mother’ … (SLAP!) … ‘Daughter’ … (SLAP!) … ‘Mother’ … (SLAP!) …

Dino Disappearance Disputed

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Final Word on Fate of Victims at Chichen Itza’s Sacred Well

January 29th, 2008 by ejalbright

We now have the proverbial “last word” regarding the findings of researchers who studied skeletons taken from the Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Well) at Chichén Itzá.

INAH (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia), the national agency that oversees Mexico’s ancient monuments, published its summary of the study, “Osteataphonomy Analysis of Skeletal Remains Submerged in Cenotes: Vision from the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza,” which examined 2,500 bones retrieved from the Cenote Sagrado in the 1960s.

The brief INAH report is consistent with the version in Mexican newspapers: That the skeletons found in the Cenote Sagrado during two expeditions in the 1960s belonged to children under 11 and men, not “virgin women” as the legend goes. The article also confirmed they were victim of sacrifice, although how they died will be the subject of the next study.


More Details Surface Regarding Study of Chichen Itza Sacrifice

Men, Not Women, Sacrificed in Sacred Well, Says Archaeologist

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Chichen Itza’s El Castillo Floats through Carnaval

January 28th, 2008 by ejalbright

The new Seven Wonders of the World were the subject of seven floats in this year’s Carnaval parade in Merida, Yucatan.

One of those wonders is the local favorite, the pyramid of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza.

Operadora Íntegra, which for 31 years has built floats for Merida’s celebration of the days preceding Lent, has constructed the seven floats with representations of the Seven World Wonders. These are more fanciful representations rather than exact copies. The Great Wall of China, for example, reproduces a battle between Mongolians and Chinese, and there are figures of dragons on the wall.

(I couldn’t find a photo of the float, but there is an article about it, in Spanish, in Diario de Yucatan HERE.)

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Chichen Itza As Video Game

January 27th, 2008 by ejalbright

Chichen Itza makes an appearance as one of the battle locations in Medieval II: Total War: Kingdoms. However, this is no Chichen Itza ever seen before. The city looks like a medieval stronghold complete with stone walls surrounding the city.

Quickening666, a poster on YouTube, has put up a video of his siege at Chichen Itza. In it, he admits to feeling a little funny playing a conquistador who slaughters Maya in his drive of conquest. His campaign can be seen over two videos:

Like Montejo, the Spanish conquistador who conquered Chichen Itza in the 16th century, Quickening666 loses in the end. Montejo managed to hold onto Chichen for several months before he was driven out. In the computer game, you can lose after only a few minutes.

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More Details Surface Regarding Study of Chichen Itza Sacrifice

January 25th, 2008 by ejalbright

More information has been released about the findings of researchers who studied skeletons taken from the Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Well) at Chichén Itzá. The study, entitled “Osteataphonomy Analysis of Skeletal Remains Submerged in Cenotes: Vision from the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza,” examined 2,500 bones retrieved from the Cenote Sagrado in the 1960s.

Several Mexican newspapers have published extended stories about the findings, and they clarify the conclusions previously announced by the Reuters news service. Contrary to the earlier Reuters report, archaeologist Guillermo de Anda did not find that only males were sacrificed. What he found was that adult males and children under 11—sex undetermined—had been sacrificed.

The sexy news angle of the article was that the Maya did not sacrifice virgin women, that is, women of child-bearing age. While all those sacrificed may have been virgins, few were adult women, the researchers found. The researchers reassembled the skeletons, and were able to identify bones belonging to 127 different individuals. Four out of five were from children, and almost all of the remaining belonged to adult men.

According to Reuters, it was the archaeological community that formerly believed virgins had been sacrificed. In truth, it was a common belief, one spread by guides and popular writers. No archaeologist today, at least to my knowledge, believes in that myth.

De Anda’s research has won honorable mention by the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) as one of the most prominent projects in the nation. The purpose of the study was to examine the skeletons to determine the type of ritual performed, the physiological characteristics and the methods used at the time of sacrifice.

De Anda and his team used a technique called osteotaphonomy, which is the study of bones of the dead as they degrade over time. Combined with forensic techniques, skeletons can be examined to determine if they were subject to violence, which in the case of the cenote skeletons, determine if they had been sacrificed.

A common myth, one perpetuated by many guides at Chichén Itzá, is that the Maya did not perform sacrifices. De Anda’s team found that the skeletal remains, especially those of the children, demonstrated that the limbs had been severed (cut by knives) and the bodies burned and even skinned.

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American Seeks Family Roots in Yucatan

January 24th, 2008 by ejalbright

An American man is in Yucatan this week seeking traces of his mother and grandfather, who lived there more than 80 years ago.

Harlan Marsh Baxter is the grandson of O. Gaylord Marsh, who served for many years as American consul to Yucatan in the chaotic years following the Mexican Revolution. Baxter, who is 69, grew up hearing stories of Yucatan from his mother, Eva Mary Marsh, who was five years old in 1917 when her father was appointed consul, and 12 when her father was reassigned to Montevideo.

Eva died in 1991, never to return to the land and the people that she expressed great affection for during her entire life. It took Baxter almost 70 years to make it there himself. A retired minister who currently resides in Minnesota, Baxter came to Yucatan last week armed with relics of his mother’s past: photographs, newspaper clippings and other artifacts, including a jade ring his mother received during a visit to Chichén Itzá.

In an interview with Diario de Yucatan, Baxter told of his mother’s love for Progreso, where the consul was housed, and all of Yucatan. Even though he could not find the house his mother grew up in, nor the headquarters of the American consul that his grandfather occupied, “I felt a lot of emotion when I was in the harbor,” Baxter told the reporter.

His mother and grandfather lived in Yucatan during a period of tremendous change. The state was under control of the Mexican military, which had installed a military governor only two years before. It was a period of political violence, which culminated in early 1924 when the governor of Yucatan, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, was assassinated by a rival political faction that had taken over the state. Gaylord Marsh stayed out of the local politics and shielded his daughter from the violence of the times. “My mother was Mexican at heart,” Baxter said.

You can read the Diario de Yucatan article HERE (in Spanish).

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Men, Not Women, Sacrificed in Sacred Well, Says Archaeologist

January 23rd, 2008 by ejalbright

Artist’s recreation of Maya sacrifice at the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza.

A study of bones taken from the Sacred Well of the Itzas, the giant cenote at Chichen Itza, reveals that the pre-Columbian maya sacrificed boys and men, not “virgin girls.”

Archeologist Guillermo de Anda from the University of Yucatan examined portions of the the skeletons of 127 different individuals that were taken from the cenote in the 1960s. Some 80 percent were boys ages 3 to 11, and the remainder were men, he said.

de Anda told the Reuters news service that the juvenile skeletons cannot definitively be said to be of males, because the lack of development makes such identification difficult. However, de Anda is confident the victims were male.

One of the two historical sources about sacrifice at Chichen Itza says only men were thrown into the well. Diego de Landa, the future bishop of Yucatan, in 1566 described the ritual: “Into this Well the Mayans have had and still have the custom of throwing men alive as a sacrifice to their gods in time of drought, and they believed they would not die, though they never saw them again.”

Read the entire Reuters story HERE.

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All Smiles Coming Home from Chichen Itza

January 21st, 2008 by ejalbright

It’s been a slow week for news about Chichen Itza. I’m reduced to posting YouTube videos, and not even videos of people at the ruins, but, as in this case, people who are driving away.

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Furniture Maker Invests in Reproductions of Maya Monuments

January 16th, 2008 by ejalbright

Want to own your own El Castillo? A furniture maker in Tekax, south of Merida, has gone into business manufacturing high-quality, miniature replicas of Maya monuments, including the great pyramid at Chichen Itza.

Javier Balam Tuz, owner of Balam Wood Furniture, produces the replicas out of polyurethane resin. Since 1974, the firm has been produced fine furniture, so this represents a completely new product line for the company.

Balam Tuz told the Diario de Yucatan that the idea of making the reproductions came to him after Chichen Itza was named one of the Seven Wonders of the World. He began producing them for friends and family, but then began getting requests to produce more of the replicas so they could be given to others outside Yucatan.

He calls his line, “Tesoros de México” (“Treasures of Mexico”). In addition to El Castillo, the line also includes replicas of the Pyramid of the Magician at Uxmal and the famous arch at Labna. Each sells, wholesale, for $15 Mexican and are for sale from shops throughout the Maya Riviera.

For more about these crafts, read the Diario de Yucatan story HERE.

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