Archive for May, 2008

Maya, Inca, Aztec–Apparently Archaeologist Indiana Jones Doesn’t Know the Difference

May 30th, 2008 by ejalbright

Promotional art for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (c) Lucasfilm Ltd.

The latest romp from the Raiders of the Lost Ark team–Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull–delivers another fast-paced thrill ride that has audiences ponying up more than $300 million worldwide. But it hasn’t pleased everyone.

Some in Peru are upset that their pre-Columbian culture has been confused with the Maya. And more than one critic has asked, “Why is Chichen Itza’s El Castillo in Peru?”

(c) Lucasfilm Ltd.

In the film, Indiana Jones and company find a hidden city deep in the Amazonian jungle that appears to be inhabited by Maya and have Maya buildings (including the pyramid above which has two Chac Mools and is decorated with Chaac masks, although the noses are upside-down). Indiana Jones in the film says that he learned the language of pre-Columbian Peruvians from Mexico’s revolutionary, Pancho Villa.

The movie is all silliness and a pastiche of ancient Mesoamerican cultures. But some in Peru have taken offense.

You can read the article that has been reprinted across Latin America HERE (Spanish).

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Balancanche Ignored While Chichen Itza Prospers

May 29th, 2008 by ejalbright

Funerary urn and other artifacts in situ inside the Balankanche cavern not far from Chichen Itza (photo by Keith Martin via

While Chichen Itza receives all the attention and the money, the nearby cavern of Balankanche is being neglected, according to the man who runs it, Marco Antonio López Tun. The cave, which was discovered in 1959 to contain a treasure trove of Maya artifacts, has many issues, the result of lack of budget. In a letter last month to INAH, the agency that oversees the cave, Lopez Tun listed several concerns, including:

— The access road is in poor condition, and has not received any significant maintenance in the last five years.
— Many of the portable speakers do not work, which makes it more difficult for guides to give tours.
— There have been no batteries available, so flashlights carried by staff don’t work (a problem when electrical power goes out in the cave when it is full of tourists).
— The restrooms are in appalling condition: The women’s has a door that has been jammed shut since last year, and only one of the toilets in the men’s operates.

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Asteroid that Created Chichen Itza’s Sacred Cenote Downsized

May 28th, 2008 by ejalbright

Some 65 million years ago an asteroid struck the earth near what is today Chicxulub, Mexico, and, according to scientists, started a chain of events that wiped out the dinosaurs. The impact of the collision also altered the geography of the area, which today has resulted in the limestone plane of Yucatan and those unique sinkholes called “cenotes.”

For years scientists believed that asteroid was approximately 10 kilometers across. But a graduate student from Hawaii and his team believe they have found proof that it was actually less than half that size, about four kilometers, according to an article published last month in the journal Science.

According to Francois Paquay, a geology graduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, his team studied the element osmium in sediment samples left behind by the Chicxulub asteroid. Osmium is usually only found in meteors or asteroids. They then compared the percentage of osmium found with that in other meteorites and was able to come up with a calculation that showed the Chicxulub rock was much smaller than previously thought.


Missed by THIS much …

Chichen Itza Had Origins in Cosmic Collision 160 Million Years Ago

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

Dino Disappearance Disputed

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Drop Kick Murphys Drop Kick Chichen Itza

May 23rd, 2008 by ejalbright

I’m from New England (or have been for the past 20 years). If you live in the Boston area there are certain cultural icons that you naturally accept: The Red Sox, chowdah, The Cape. One that has recently pierced the collective consciousness is the Drop Kick Murphys, a pseudo-punk Irish band, whose infectious Gallic riffs seem to get played everywhere around here.

While searching Youtube, I finally found one of those odd crosspoints, where two of my completely diverse interests come together. JayC2011 and some friends created a music video using claymation that combines the Drop Kick Murphys with Chichen Itza. And it rocks! Here it is (be sure to turn it up LOUD):

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Chichen Itza Gets Star Treatment in International Magazines

May 20th, 2008 by ejalbright

“The Courtyard of the Mercado,” by Tatiana Proskouriakoff, 1946.

Since being named one of the seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza has received renewed interest by two magazines appealing to international audiences.

Chichen is featured in Americas, the magazine of the Organization of American States, and Arqueologia Mexicana, the popular-audience magazine of INAH, the Mexican federal agency that oversees Precolumbian ruins of that country.

Americas featured Chichen in a lengthy article in its January issue, which commemorates the 60th anniversary of the formation of the Organization of American States. Written by Adriana Herrera, a Columbian journalist based in Miami, the article doesn’t dig too deep to reveal the latest in archaeological research, but instead relies heavily on the statements of one of the long-time guides of the site, Manuel Pardenillas.

Arqueologia, by comparison, features Chichen Itza in a special edition, and there are several articles covering the major monuments in the archaeological zone. Two of the articles can be found online: An overview of the Maya history of the site, and a brief history of the exploration of the abandoned city since the Conquest.

As usual, Edward H. Thompson, who did more archaeology at the site than anyone at the turn of the late century, gets short shrift. According to the article, Thompson explored “con poca técnica” (with little technical ability) the Sacred Cenote and other buildings.

One of the nice touches of the special edition on Chichen Itza is a map of the archaeological zone.

You can download a PDF copy of the map HERE.

Neither magazine is readily available except to international subscribers. The Americas article can be found online at Arqueologia can be found throughout Yucatan. See an overview of the special issue of Arqueológia HERE (via Maya News Updates

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Switzerland’s Chichen Itza to Be Demolished

May 18th, 2008 by ejalbright

El Castillo, Chichen Itza’s giant pyramid, has stood for a thousand years, more or less. Not so a replica of the monument that was built, in all places, at Interlaken, Switzerland. If the plans of two developers come to fruition, Switzerland’s version of the Temple of Kukulcan will be torn down this fall, five years after it was first built.

El Castillo was part of a theme park dedicated to the writings of Erich von Daniken, who has sold millions of books dedicated to his theory that aliens from other planets came to earth and helped found the world’s ancient civilizations, including the Maya. “Mystery Park” opened in 2003 and quickly became the largest attraction in Switzerland. But in November 2006 it shuttered its doors, a financial failure.

Now two entrepreneurs propose to demolish much of the theme park to build a visitor attraction devoted to less worldly concerns. Peter Stähli and Stefan Linder purchased Mystery Park for $13.4 million. They have renamed it “Two Lake City” (after the twin lakes that Interlaken straddles) and are now seeking financing to build a hotel and disco, and to convert the attractions into experiences that hew more closely to the country of origin. “We want to emotionalize Swiss stereotypes,” according to the new owners.

As part of the proposed renovations, the current color scheme will be replaced by red with white crosses. The owners plan to repurpose the “flight over the Nazca lines of Peru” and turn it into a simulated Imax flight over the spectacular mountainous region surrounding Interlaken. Another new attraction will be reproducing the experience of climbing north face of the Eiger mountain (Eigernordwand), one of the most dangerous and spectacular climbs in the world. The Eiger is visible from Interlaken, and will be recreated as closely as possible (meaning the attraction will be cold, windy and sheer).

Should the owners get financing by September, the new Two Lake City will open in spring of 2009. Demolition will begin this fall, with construction through the winter.

The fate of the El Castillo pavillion is unclear, but it is unlikely a Maya pyramid will survive demolition. As part of Mystery Park, visitors could go inside the pyramid and view replicas of monuments and artwork by the ancient Maya and other Mesoamerican cultures. There was also a film that promoted a theory that an alien space ship crash landed in Mexico several thousand years ago, and the primitive people who lived there helped the aliens. In return, the aliens took several teenaged boys with them into space, and returned them 52 years later with their minds full of the teachings of their hosts, which they used to found the Maya civilization.

Instead of tearing down the faux-Maya pyramid, the new owners may just throw up a new facade. That’s the way the Maya did it a thousand years ago.

Mystery Park, October 2006 (photo by Evan J. Albright).

An excellent, and very complete article about the new “Two Lake City” can be found HERE. (WARNING: German language)


‘Mystery Park’ Reborn as ‘The City’

Mystery Park Shutters Doors

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Report: Chichen Ranks Number One Among Archaeological Sites in Mexico

May 12th, 2008 by ejalbright

Chichen Itza is Mexico’s biggest archaeologicat draw, at least as far as revenue collected, according to a report published in

Citing figures provided by INAH, the agency that oversees Mexico’s precolumbian ruins, Chichen Itza has collected almost $102 million (Mexican) since 2006, putting it ahead of other popular sites such as Teotihuacan near Mexico City and Tulum near Cancun. Of that $100 million, almost $5 million was the fee for allowing the use of camcorders.

After Chichen was Tulum, with almost $87 million; and Teotihuacan, with $62 million. Both had more total visitors, with Teotihuacan coming in first with 62 million during that period.

The top sites in Mexico together generated almost $400 million in gate receipts and other income, INAH reported.

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