E.P. Grondine epgrondine@hotmail.com


Hello Benny,

In my survey last year of impact events and the Native American peoples of South-East North America, I mentioned several items and then let them pass, as they laid outside of the scope of that survey proper. Nearly all of those items pertained to the coastal peoples of the region, and there were good reasons for this limitation of scope: due to both the maritime nature of these peoples’ cultures, as well as to the ecological niches in which they lived, it is impossible to consider these peoples outside of the wider context of the peoples who lived during the same period on the islands in the Caribbean Sea and along the coasts of Central America.

This essay is a first attempt to extend that earlier survey into those coastal areas.  Unlike last year’s survey, where site visits were followed up with an extensive literature search, this survey is limited solely to a literature search. My opinion is that the technique used for the first survey is much more efficient, as site visits allow for a familiarization with the pottery sequences, iconography, and technologies, those items which are really the key to population movements, and thus to a full understanding of the evolution of any oral or written records which remain. But sadly yet once again, as in preceding years, the folks at the MacArthur Foundation have failed to declare me a genius and send me a large amount of money, so due to the costs involved in visiting sites over such a wide area, a literature search was the only technique available to me. Should someone wish to fund visits to sites in the Caribbean and Central America they would undoubtedly improve the survey to a considerable degree;  the general consensus seems to be that site visits to the Caribbean and Central America which are taken in the middle of the North American winter are optimal.

Before starting any survey we might reasonably expect, given the data which has been recovered up to this time from other areas of the Earth, that over a suitably long period of time the peoples living in these coastal areas would also have been affected by impact events. Indeed, several Conference participants have been arguing for quite some time for the existence of a Holocene-start impact event which affected this area. The first part of this survey will be a limited review of some anthropological materials pertaining on this possible impact event, though this will not be a detailed work.  Also included in this first part of the survey will be a brief mention of a possible mega-tsunami produced geological structure, the Puuk Foothills of the Yucatan.

The bulk of this survey will focus on a mega-tsunami event ca. 1150-1050 BCE, which fairly well devastated those living along the coasts of this area.  In order, the second part of the survey will cover the peopling of the areas which the impact affected, and describe the lives of those who died in the event. The third part of the survey will cover the preservation of later historical records and folk memories of the catastrophe.  The fourth part will set out some of the historical and myth materials which have survived, including also some materials which appear to refer to the earlier Rio Cuarto impact event.

In closing this introduction, I want to state that this has been the survey from hell.  These peoples were completely warped by this impact, and had a world view which was both unified and completely distinct from that of western Europe.  While the world view of the South East Native American peoples resonated with me to a certain degree, as I am familiar with their lands, the world view of the peoples of the coastal regions never has.  Having worked through the material on them to the extent which I have, I suspect that anthropology would be better as a science if anthropologists were generally required to work on peoples with which they did not identify, so as to reduce the problem of identification.

Given this far far far different world view, it appears that it normally takes around 20 years for an anthropologist to master these materials to the point at which they can make substantial contributions to the field.  But in the case of these impacts events, the cultural points are gross, to put it succinctly, and my ambitions extend no further than that I may direct those trained in these cultures to that evidence, without committing too many blunders along the way.

Finally, it helps if one is not distracted by current events.  That said, here goes...


One of the key difficulties working with coastal data from any part of the world is its lack of completeness. This is due in part to the rise in sea level which has been occurring since the last ice age, a rise which the archaeologists at the United States’ National Park Service have estimated at being between 60 to 100 meters. The image here gives some idea of the effects of this rise in sea level on the area being surveyed here:

As many here might expect, this rise in sea level was not continuous, as may be seen at:

(I wish that I could show you these graphics, but The National Park Service computers are out at the moment due to a court order: it seems that since some of the Bureau Of Indian Affairs computers were not secure, a judge decided to shut done all of the Department of Interior’s computers. While it is clear that the judge exceeded his purvey, the problem is really more fundamental than that, and this decision more generally is somewhat indicative of the general political disfunction which US citizens are currently enjoying.)

The good news is that most ports from the time of European contact still remain well above water.  It would be nice if we had a much better idea exactly how long this is going to be true.

Another principle cause of lack of completeness of south-east North American and Caribbean coastal data may be ascribed to the effects of hurricanes, which regularly come in off the Atlantic Ocean and wash away large areas within this region. It is very difficult to differentiate the effects of impact produced mega-tsunami floods from the effects of hurricane, even when a large area is damaged, as this may be due a particularly severe hurricane season instead of a mega-tsunami.

Aside from scale, the only other means of the first differentiating the effects of smaller mega-tsunami from that of hurricane is human memory of impact, and this exists only if the people survived the impact, and then survived into the modern age when their memories could be recorded, and then those records survived to be circulated.  Fortunately for us, some materials did survive, and these can now be used to direct subsequent geological and archaeological fieldwork.


In my previous survey I mentioned some of the prevailing theories held generally by the anthropological community as to the peopling of North America, and went into some detail on the difficulties that community faced in moving that work forward. While the Paleo time period is outside the scope of this survey proper, again a few words on the Paleo and Archaic hunters are in order at this point. It is popularly believed that there was “the” ancient Siberian land bridge which allowed man to cross into the Americas ran down the Pacific coast. While some Pacific coastal sites are most certainly are now under water due to rising sea levels, it is certain that a main corridor ran inland of the coastal mountain ridge, a corridor which connected to the plains of North America.

The dates when people first crossed this land bridge are hotly contested, and there is little consensus. Some anthropologists argue that there were multiple crossings, some very very early, with very different racial types coming across each time, racial types as different as say Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. Others argue that a wave of very early people came first, and that then a wave of “oriental” Native Americans was followed by a wave of more “european” Native Americans. But problems arise with this, as the actual rate of human mutation in response to diet and environment is unknown. It is clear that the current generation of Japanese is much taller than their parents, in response to nothing more than a change in diet between one generation and the next.

The Paleo occupation sites that have been found and studied are widely scattered in time and space, and there are no less than 3 lithic traditions and 1 a-lithic tradition present. Whoever they were, the Paleo peoples hunted large game such as mammoth and ground sloths until their extinction, pursuing the vanishing herds to the south and east of the North American continent, and down through Central America on into South America.  Total game populations as well as the environments are pretty well unknown. It is known that in Africa large herds of elephant have converted forested areas to grassland, and that later Native Americans would intentionally set fires both as a way of hunting bison as well as to provide pasturage for deer.  Besides stampeding game off of cliffs, another hunting technique was the trapping of mammoth in bogs, and the digging of pit traps certainly seems to be another possible technique.


With regard to the coastal peoples of South East North America, two final migrations must also be noted. In my previous survey I mentioned that the Red Paint peoples showed up on Canada’s northern east coast at a very early time.  Their economy was ocean based and seems to have relied upon the harvesting of a flightless bird which is now extinct, possibly as a result of this harvesting, and it is possible that this also was true for mammoths, sloths, etc... Amazingly, these peoples’ culture shows affinities with contemporaneous northern European cultures.

Apart from this European passage, since last year’s survey new data have become available which show that large boats may have played a role in the initial movement of people into North America, and this at a time far earlier than suspected. At Quebrada Jaguay in Peru, a team led by Daniel H. Sandweiss of the University of Maine, Orono, recovered bits of knotted cordage, possibly the remains of fishing nets, abundant bones of fish, primarily drum, and shells of mollusks and crustaceans dated to between 11,924-10,774 BCE.  At Quebrada Tacahuay in Peru, researchers led by David K. Keefer of the U.S. Geological Survey found a hearth, tools and obsidian flakes, as well as the bones of numerous fish—mostly anchovy, whose small size implies the use of nets rather than hook and line—and seabirds, including cormorants, booby, and pelican, remains radio carbon dated to about 10,789 BCE.

It is suspected by some anthropologists that man had large watercraft at a very early period in time, roughly at about the time of the peopling of Australia, though here again the dates are hotly contested.  While the remains recovered from South America so far do not confirm the existence of large watercraft at this very early period in time, the remains from the Arlington Springs site on Santa Rosa Island off the coast of California most certainly do:


We have abundant documentation of the large ocean going water craft in use along the Pacific coast during the time of European contact, watercraft of a type whose use extended up to the 1900’s CE [that is CE, read correctly], and these watercraft will be discussed a little farther along in this survey.


My house here in Virginia lies on Mountain Run, a small stream which flows into the Rapidan “River” over at Claire Ducker’s place; the Rapidan River itself flows into the Rappahannock River just a little further downstream, over at the community college and the highway.  There archaeologists surveying the route for the widening of the highway stumbled across an ancient jasper quarry at Brook Run which was in use ca. 9500 BCE.

Little occupational debris has been found at the Brook Run site, and this is little surprise.  These Clovis hunters probably continued down the Rappahannock River to what would then have been the Chesapeake River, (instead of the Chesapeake Bay), on down stream to the land of easy living.  They then returned to Brook Run only to gather the stones they needed to make their tools. If you stop to consider it, it immediately seems reasonable that it would have been far easier to make a living by harvesting fish and shell fish and killing peaceful coastal browsing deer rather than by killing large angry mamoth and mastodon; and indeed, judging from the remains found to date, ancient man seems to have reached this very same conclusion rather quickly.

The earliest evidence found so far of ancient man in Virginia comes from the Cactus Hill site, which lies near the interior of southeastern Virginia’s coastal plain, on the floodplain of the Nottoway River, a small river that drains a relatively moist region before it joins with two other rivers to ultimately discharge into the Albemarle Sound in North Carolina.  Along the Nottoway blades made from the local quartzite have been found in pre-Clovis levels dating back to ca. 14,990 BCE.

Current faunal remains from the Cactus Hill site include deer bones and mud turtle shells.  Clovis technologies, usually thought to be some of the earliest lithic technologies, do not show up here until the relatively late date of 8,970 BCE.  It is currently impossible to know whether this change in tool types was simply the introduction of new technologies, or whether it represented a new migration into the area; in part this is due to lack of excavation, and in part it is due to the looting of the site by arrowhead hunters.


The switch in diet is more clearly seen at the Saltville River site located in the Shenandoah Valley, which lies to the west of the coastal area, between ridges of the Appalachian Mountains.  The animals were attracted here by the salt licks (it is after all called the “Saltriver”), and man in turn was attracted by the animals, particularly the ones who had become bogged down in the mud near the salt licks.  The remains of mastodon, mamoth, ground sloth, bison, musk ox, caribou (it was still cold), wild horses, and deer have been found here, including the worked bones of mastodon and musk ox dated to around 12,000 BCE. Nearby the excavators found large shell middens (mounds of fresh water shells) which incorporated the butchered remains of fish and amphibians and which dated to around the same time.  While the ages of both the Cactus Hill site and the Saltville site are hotly contested, it is extremely unlikely that these shells just piled themselves up, conveniently including butchered remains.


The range of the mega-fauna on which early man dined was not limited to northern regions.  As has been pointed out elsewhere repeatedly, elephants live today in Africa, India, and South East Asia, and they are not restricted to eating grass in grasslands, but will eat the bark off trees if necessary. Remains of early man have been found at the Coats-Hines site in Tennessee, at the Topper site in South Carolina, and more central to the area of this study, at the Little Salt Spring site and Page Ladson site in Florida.  In particular, worked bone and ivory from a number of extinct mammals have been found at a number of places in Florida.


Strangely, the quarry at Brooks Run was abandoned after what is estimated at only a few hundred years of use.  Strangely, at the Cactus Hill site, the early pre-Clovis and Clovis levels are separated by several meters of sterile sand from the occupation levels left there by the later Archaic peoples.  IT NEEDS TO BE NOTED that the date of these discontinuities is shortly before 8,000 BCE, a date much different than some of the dates currently being proposed by some for a Holocene-start impact event.

Anyone who wishes to work on the study of the hypothesized Holocene-start impact event will have to go through the every site report for every excavation east of the Appalachian Mountains of the remains of early man, and try to prove discontinuous habitation of them.  Further, they will have to go through every site report for the mid-section of the continent in order to locate exactly where man survived the event, and where the earlier tool forms show clear signs of evolution into the later archaic tool forms.

Good luck. Those who may wish to undertake such a task can find a list of sites compiled by National Park Service researchers at: http://www.cr.nps.gov/aad/EAM/SE1.HTM.

Another list, this one giving a list of Chesapeake region sites may be found at:



During the course of research for this survey I learned of the existence of a geological formation which may be the result of a mega-tsunami.  The Puuc Foothills lie in Northern Yucatan, and take their name from the Mayan word for hill, “puc”. They are composed of mounds of alluvial soil piled in a great set of hills which roughly outline the north coast of Yucatan.  While to my knowledge no effort has been made to date these structures, due to their layout I doubt if they are indicative of the hypothesized Holocene-start event; rather, they seem to indicate an impact event and mega-tsunami, which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico at date unknown.



@2001 E.P. Grondine  epgrondine@hotmail.com



Given the spread of sites over such a wide area of south east North America where pre-Clovis and Clovis tools are found, some may wonder why these peoples did not adopt the new archaic tool technologies, and why evidence of that evolution has not been found.  Of course, no Conference participant will have any such questions, as to most it will probably seem likely that the reason these peoples did not adopt archaic tool technologies was simply that they were dead, killed in the Holocene-start impact event.

Instead, Conference participants might expect what is found, which is the slow introduction of these archaic tools by the migrations of archaic tool users from other areas. Indeed, any Holocene-start impact which may have occurred would not only have killed all humans living in the area affected by it, but it would also have completely destroyed all the herds of game animals which lived in the area. With no game to hunt, there would have been no reason for man to move back into the area, until game herds had recovered.


In the Chesapeake Bay area we find evidence of new additions to the Archaic peoples’ diets of deer, bear, and small mammals: the remains of American oysters, hard clams, soft clams, Bay shad, and sturgeon. The sure signs of the maritime adaption of these archaic peoples are the appearance of fishing net weights along with axes and adzes. While nets can be cast from shore to catch some varieties of both birds and fish, they are more effective for fish if they are used from a canoe. And while dug out canoes can be manufactured by burning out the center of naturally downed trees, better watercraft can be had if a good tree is selected, ringed with an axe, coals set into this ring until the tree is downed, the tree trunk’s center burned out, and then the rough form finished into a hull with an adze.


The question now comes as to the spread of this technology, and its point of origin.  Clearly, if the proposed Holocene-start impact event occurred, nearly all peoples along both the American and European Atlantic coastal areas would have perished. An artic survival may have been possible, and then have been spread back across the north Atlantic by the Red Paint people. But as near as I know, the Red Paint People used watercraft constructed from animal hides, and not dug out canoes. Another problem with attributing these Mid-Atlantic developments to the Red Paint People is that they appear and disappear around 5,200 BCE, a date much earlier than those being discussed here, dates which lie around 2980 BCE.

(As Conference participant Worth Crouch is better informed about the Red Paint people than I am, I am most interested in hearing his views on their possible role in the appearance in the late Archaic of this dugout watercraft technology.)


Another problem with attributing this marine technology to the Red Paint People is that at these middle Atlantic sites the remains of cultivated hickory nuts and walnuts appear, along with the stone tools for working the nuts, at the same time that these watercraft construction technologies do. This seems to indicate contact with those cultures who had already developed arboriculture, those peoples who I discussed in last year’s survey. (The maypop fruit was also cultivated by these peoples. Further, soapstone cooking bowls and soapstone baking tools also appear at the same time.)

While it is possible that these technologies could have spread by inland contact, the Chesapeake Bay peoples’ source for the arboriculture technology appears to have been the riverine peoples whose remains have been found at the Sara’s Ridge site, the Paris Island, South Carolina site, and the Rocky River, North Carolina site. These peoples did not live along the coast, and at these river sites there is no indication of LARGE watercraft construction.


But then these river dwelling peoples later adopted an entirely new technology, and this may be clearly seen at Stallings Island, Georgia, where the Mill Branch riverine culture existed for several hundred years before being replaced by a Shell Ring culture around 1700 BCE.  Here have been found levels containing soapstone artifacts overlain by levels containing fiber tempered pottery.  This is an entirely new technology.


Given the area and time period being surveyed here, the problems of when these watercraft were developed, how they were used, and how they spread become central.

Many in the anthropological community decry any suggestion of trans-Pacific or trans-Atlantic contact, as though the adoption by Native Americans of “foreign” technology would somehow take something away from them. The plain fact is that due to natural currents, both trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic contacts were inevitable, if not by design, with certainty by accident. In the one century from 1775 to 1875 at least 20 Japanese junks were involuntarily driven by storms and currents to landing points from the Aleutian Islands to Mexico, an average of 1 watercraft every 5 years. (Robert Heine-Geldern, The Problem of Transpacific Influences in Mesoamerica, The Handbook of Middle American Indians, Volume 4, University of Texas Press, citing Brooks, 1875.)   Further, in the last century some 600 African craft have washed up on the coast of South America, a rough average of 1 watercraft every 2 months.  (John L. Sorenson and Martin H. Raish, Pre-Columbian Contact with the Americas Across the Oceans: An Annotated Bibliography, Vol II, p. 106, entry M-143)

Given these rates of accidental trans-oceanic crossing, it is a slur on the Native American peoples to insist that either 1) they were so cruel that they immediately dispatched every ship-wrecked mariner who had the misfortune to be ship-wrecked and then the good luck to be stranded on their shores alive, or 2) they were too stupid to take advantage of the new technologies which these mariners or their crew-less watercraft would have held. Those who blindly dismiss trans-oceanic contact also fail completely to consider that technologies may have spread from Native Americans in the other direction - and this is well evidenced as well. Plants with trans-oceanic distribution includes cocoanut, various edible palm, pineapple, banana, cotton, the grain amaranth, and hennequin, a type of hemp.  But without site visits it is simply impossible to trace the spread of these plants, so at this point I will remain focused on the key items of large dugout canoes and pottery.

(Those who are more interested in trans-oceanic contact than in the peopling of the coastal areas of South-East North America, the Caribbean, and coastal Central America, and the effect of cometary and asteroidal impact on these peoples, I direct to:Robert Heine-Geldern, The Problem of Transpacific Influences in Mesoamerica; and Philip Philips, The Role of TransPacific Contact in the Development of New World Pre-Columbian Cultures, both in The Handbook of Middle American Indians, Volume 4, University of Texas Press; Geoffrey Ashe, Thor Heyerdahl, Helge Ingstad, J.V. Luce, Betty Meggars and Brigitta Wallace, The Quest for America, Pall Mall Press, London, 1971; and Andrew Collins, Gateway to Atlantis, Carroll and Graff, New York, 2000)


When we think of dugout watercraft, the first image that comes to mind is that of the dugout canoes used today on the rivers of many parts of the world. This smallness in size reflects not only the uses for which these craft were and are constructed, which are those of production and trade on rivers, but also reflects the current scarcity of large diameter trees. It must be remembered that during the times of the first migrations into North America, and indeed even up to the time of European contact, trees with diameters of 3 meters and more were common. Indeed, satisfying the need for timbers for the British Navy was one of the first reasons that that government had for placing its settlers in North America. I don’t think it can be excluded that this need for large trees may also have played a role in much earlier trans-Atlantic contacts, those contacts which may have occurred as Europe was deforested, while the peoples of coastal Europe still depended on large watercraft built from large single trees.

Fernando Colon, Columbus’s second son, provides us with an account of one ocean going large dugout which his father encountered during his fourth voyage, and it is worth repeating part of it in full here: “Having come to the island of Guanaja, the Admiral sent ashore his brother Bartholomew with two boats. They encountered people who resembled those of the other islands, but had narrower foreheads. They also saw many pine trees and pieces of earth called calcide which the Indians use to cast copper; some of the sailors thought it was gold....by good fortune there arrived at that time A CANOE AS LONG AS A GALLEY AND EIGHT FEET WIDE, MADE OF A SINGLE TREE TRUNK like the other Indian canoes; it was freighted with merchandise from the western regions around New Spain. Amidships it had a palm-leaf awning like that on Venetian gondolas; this gave complete protection against the rain and waves. Underneath were women and children, and all the baggage and merchandise. There were twenty-five paddlers aboard, but they offered no resistance when our boats drew up to them.”

The “other Indian canoes” which Fernando refers to were those that Columbus and his men had seen earlier, those of the Taino (Arawak) and Carib of the islands, and these dugouts were probably not as large as those of the Choton traders of Central America. Orvieda (Historia general y natural de las Indias, Gonzalo Fernandez de Orvieda Y Valdez, 1535)  recorded the use of sail by the Taino, but not by the Carib, who relied on paddles for propulsion. Given the trade which existed along the east coasts of Central America and South America, the Taino (Arawak) likely used sails at a much earlier period. Orvieda also recorded the Choton’s use of sails on their watercraft, and the Choton’s conduct of regular trade along the east coast of Central America for a long period of time is fairly well evidenced by the distribution of the remains of trade goods.

It seems likely that all of the Caribbean watercraft did not use centerboards or sideboards, and thus the prevailing winds and currents must have played a large role in determining the movements of peoples and goods through the region. Seasonal current and wind charts for the Caribbean may be found in Art and Archaeology of Pre-Columbian Cuba, Ramon Dacal Moure and Manual Riviero de la Calle, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 1996. As might reasonably be expected, and as will be seen, these watercraft played a significant role in the spread of peoples and the conduct of trade.


In his book “Pyramids of Tucume”, Thor Heyerdahl describes the watercraft used by Native Americans along the Pacfic Coast, and these were ocean going rafts equipped with sails and a superstructure to keep their goods and passengers dry. Called “balsa”s, a term connected with the balsa wood logs which the Native Americans tied together to construct them, these watercraft had capacities of up to 60 to 70 European tons. The bindings which tied the logs together were of hennequin, a type of hemp, and the distribution of this plant is important.

These balsa’s used masts of two types, with one type of mast mounted along the center line, and the other type constructed of two poles attached to the raft’s sides and joined over its center to form an upside down V shape. The balsa’s had two types of sails, both square and lateen (triangular), which when combined with the use of centerboards gave them the ability to travel against the wind.

These craft ranged up and down the Pacific Coast of both South America and Central America, and special note should be made of the circular stone anchors which these watercraft used. Anchors of this type have been recovered at several west coast Central American sites, and not identified as anchors. (So much for the mysterious “stone rings” found in some excavations.)  Another artifact which must be associated with the use of these rafts are large jars for the storage of fresh water, jars which most likely replaced earlier wooden vessels used for the same purpose. A final artifact indicative of the use of balsa watercraft are non-native stones  used for ballast.

These craft not only carried merchandise for trade, but also served as “mother-ships” for fishing expeditions. The general method of fishing was not line fishing, that is fishing with hooks and lines, where the hooks would have been preserved as artifacts. Net fishing was used instead, sometimes from the shore, or sometimes two fishermen would mount small three log craft and drag a net between them, returning their catch to either the shore or to a large balsa “mother-ship”.

While the designs of these watercraft reflect the lack of large trees in the areas on the west coast of South America, based on the evidence of trans-Pacific contacts there is good reason to suspect that the first ocean going watercraft in this area were large dugout boats.


The Stallings Island complex is preceded by shell rings from Florida which appear to have been built almost 1,000 years earlier. There is little doubt that this was an ocean going maritime technology, with very large dugout watercraft, as shell ring sties also earlier existed on Cuba.


As near as I am aware, some of the earliest evidence of large boat building comes from Franchti cave in Greece, and is dated to around 7,000 BCE. The idea presents itself that dug out technology may have survived the Holocene-start impact event in this area, and then spread from Mediterranean survivals back into coastal Europe. It is possible that from here the technology for building dug out boats may have spread back into North America.


Further, even more ancient coastal shell sites have been found along the Pacific Coast of both Central America and South America. Betty Meggars has thoroughly documented contacts between Jomon Japan and coastal South America at Valdivia by around 3300 BCE.


The following list started with a list given in The Art and Archaeology of Pre-Columbian Cuba, Ramon Dacal Moure and Manuel Rivero de la Calle, 1996 translation, and this was then added to. The list must be used with caution, as the dates those authors gave for both Stallings Island and Poverty Point are wrong, further, I have not verified myself that all sites are maritime culture sites, and the National Park Service list was unavailable at the time of composition.


It is generally held that there were two early migrations into the Caribbean Islands: the Casimiroid, which is “hypothesized” to have crossed a land bridge or island chain from Central America around 4,000 BCE, and the Ortoiroid, which is believed to spread from the north east coast of South America after 2,000 BCE. Despite the pottery found at Puerto Hormiga, these later are generally held to have been aceramic.

Banwari Trace, Trinidad            5,500 BCE
Gulf of Paria, Venezeula           3,650 BCE
Levisa, Cuba                       3,190 BCE
Puerto Hormiga, Coastal Columbia   2,925 BCE  Pottery
Canimar Abajo, Cuba                2,750 BCE
22 sites, Aruba                    2,500 BCE-ca 1,000 BCE   shells, no pottery
Cubagua, Venezeula                 2,200 BCE
Sapelo, Georgia                    2,150 BCE  shell ring
Ossabaw Island, Georgia                       2 sheel rings? - 
                                              late archaic ends ca 1,000BCE
Cueva Funche, Cuba                 2,050 BCE
Canapote, Coastal Columbia         2,050 BCE
Madrigales, Hispaniola             2,030 BCE
St. John's River, Florida       ca 2,000 BCE  East Coast, Orange Pottery, 
                                              incised decoration 
Gulf Coast, Florida             ca 2,000 BCE  West Coast, Norwood Pottery, 
                                              paddle decoration
Hilton Head Island, S. Carolina ca 2,000 BCE  3 shell ring sites of 17 in US
Hoyo Del Todo, Hispaniola          1,940 BCE
Stallings Island, Georgia          1,850 BCE  Pottery, up Savannah R. from coast
Jolly Beach, Antigua               1,775 BCE  no pottery
Manicuare, Aruba, Off Venezeula    1,620 BCE  
Barlovento, Coastal Columbia       1,550 BCE
Damajayabo, Cuba                   1,300 BCE
El Povenir, Hispaniola             1,185 BCE
Cueva el Purial, Cuba              1,110 BCE

(The United States Naional Park Service maintains a list of shell ring sites, but due to the judge’s shutdown, it was impossible to retrieve information on them and their dating.)


Cerro Mangote, West Coast Panama  4,860 BCE 
Rio Chiriqui, West Coast Panama   4,610 BCE
Siches, Peru                  ca. 5,000 BCE
Valdivia, Ecuador (pottery)       3,300 BCE  influenced by Jomon Culture, Japan
Xoconocho, West Coast Mexico      3,000 - 2,000 BCE shells middens, no pottery
Barra, Mexico                     1,800 BCE  pottery, riverine, 
                                             early species of maize
Machalilla, Ecuador               1,600 BCE  from Columbia, 
                                             practiced headbinding
Chorrera, Ecuador                 1,200 BCE  from Central America


As was discussed in last year’s survey, while in the eastern hemisphere early large scale societies depended on cultagens, in North America the early societies depended on arboriculture. Indeed, the cultivation of trees began very early in the western hemisphere, and while the evidence recovered to date is sparse, the North American shell ring cultures almost certainly depended on the cultivation of various palm trees. Ramon nut is seen in Caribbean sites, while plantain (banana variant) and cocoanut trees show up in differing limited Pacific coastal regions.


The final foodstuff important to early coastal man in the area under survey was manioc, and for this one must turn to its native range, what is now the jungles of South American. Given the dense vegetation that exists in this region today, it is hard to imagine this area to turned into plains by foraging megafauna. It is harder still to imagine that the hunters of those megafauna turned to agriculture when that megafauna died off.

Fortunately for us, someone already has imagined this:


As Dr. Hoopes points out, “The earliest evidence for New World pottery comes from the central Amazon, with dates around 7000 BC (Roosevelt et al. 1991, Roosevelt 1995). It is present in northern Colombia by 4000 BC (Oyuela 1995), coastal Ecuador by 3500 BC (Damp and Vargas 1995), and central Panama by 3000 BC (Cooke 1995).” By Hoope’s account there is no need to look for the introduction of pottery technology via trans-oceanic contacts, as Native Americans had already developed the technology quite independently. And as the Amazon dwellers were riverine peoples, it is likely that they had developed dugout canoes as well.

One thing which Hoopes could not visualize, but which we can, is that nearly the whole of Amazonia was set on fire sometime before 2,000 BCE by the entry and explosion of the Rio Cuarto impactor, and that this led to the jungles which we know today. As for the irrigation agriculturalists, what appears to me to have happened after the Rio Cuarto impact event is that gradually, over time, those few manioc cultivators who survived it, those living in the far north west of Amazonia, gradually managed to re-establish themselves:


Verifying this would involve ground survey and excavations on the headwaters of the Orinoco River, an area which today is largely under the control of cocaine traffickers.


In the mountains of South America, around 2,600 BCE the arboriculture of the coastal peoples was supplemented by the cultivation of beans, lima beans, and squash:


One of the most distinctive items of this culture is their construction of large mounds in the center of their urban complexes. In as much as their cultivation appears to have been based on networks of channels for irrigation, this implies some measure of organization of labor, and thus of a hierarchical organization to their societies, a hierarchy demonstrated very convincingly by the existence of these large mounds. These cultures aquatics roots may be seen in their heavy use of sea-food, and besides the use of irrigation, it is more than likely that they may also have used some forms of aquaculture.


While the Rio Cuarto impact event appears to have put an end to the South American mound builders of the Amazon headwaters and the mountains, mound building cultures survived on the west coast of South America, and enjoyed dominance there until the rise of the Inca. More to the focus of this survey, the mound building culture appears to have spread north, with these arboreal, raised field, and aquaculture technologies forming the basis for the coastal Zoque (Olmec) societies and other societies both along the eastern coast of Central America as well as along the shores of the highland lakes of the region.

That this technology transfer was water borne is indicated by the existence of large mounds in Cuba(no longer exsiting, but reported by Daniel G. Brinton, in The Archaeology of Cuba, American Anthropologist, Vol 10, 1898), as well as the appearance of a large mound culture first seen in North America at the mouth of the Mississippi River, particularly at Baton Rounge, Louisianna. (For a discussion of these, see last year’s survey.) Whether this technology transfer was done by paddle powered dugouts or by sail powered craft is unknown, but the cultivation of both cotton (possibly used for sails) and hennequin (possibly used for ropes for rigging) spread.


Sometime between 1150-1050 BCE nearly all of the Atlantic cultures suffered a tremendous setback. In Atlantic North America, the Late Archaic comes to an end, and shell ring cultures pretty much disappear from the Atlantic Coast, while survivors appear to have hanged on in Western Florida.

In the Caribbean Islands, the early shell cultures come to a stop, as does inter-island trade. Peoples immigrating into the islands a 1,000 years later would find a few technically primitive survivors who told tales of their ancestors surviving a great flood from the east by hiding out in caves.

Along the Gulf Coast of Central America, there are site discontinuities over a large area, centered around a date of about 1150 BCE.


The Zoque (Olmec) did recover, and what I believe to have happened is that survivors moved from their in-land locations into the newly depopulated area and founded new cities.

Some researchers are arguing today that the Zoque (Olmec) were influenced by contacts from Africa; other researchers argue that they were influenced by contacts with Asia. Letting these hypothesis pass without comment, I need to outline briefly here some of the early key cultural characteristics of Zoque (Olmec) culture, aspects which were shared with the Maya who later occupied the Zoque (Olmec) areas.

First of these cultural elements is the construction of large mounds.

Second of these cultural elements is the head deformation of leaders. This appears to have been helped along by the use of a small axe, known to the Maya as k’awil, and images of Zoque (do I really need to write the Nahua identification “Olmec” again?) leaders commonly feature a cleft head. Combined with a city totem, this indicated rulership over a city. This cranial deformation was also practiced by the Machalilla, who moved from Colombia into Ecuador around 1,600 BCE.

The third of these cultural elements is an annual ceremony of the raising of a pole (later a stone) to keep the heavens and sky separate, in other words to prevent impact events. The symbol of this ceremony is a rectangle crossed by diagonal linear bands, where the diagonals lead to the four gods which hold up the heavens. (This ceremony will be described in detail in Part 4 of this survey.) Among the Maya this ceremony is the “seating” of the “tun” and “katun” periods of time, and similar practices are also attested at a later date by the people living along Lake Nicarauga. This rite is conducted timed to a count of days.

The fourth of these cultural elements is a detailed astronomy, and it is symbolized by a tri-lobe E with circles between the lobes. This symbol is the later Mayan “star” sign.

The fifth cultural element is the use of a celestial jaguar symbol by the priesthood, who it may be safely assumed oversaw the detailed work of items three and four above, and by the king, whose divine intercession with the sky gods was needed.

The sixth cultural element is the use of celestial dragon imagery.

The seventh cultural element is a ball game. Ritual stone spheres have a wide distirbution throughout Central America and the Caribbean.

The eighth cultural element is the use of hallucinogens from water lilies and toads.

The ninth cultural element is a ceremonial cylinder, an implement of office carried by kings.

The tenth cultural element is the use of writing.


Pollen from a maize variety has been recovered at the very early date of 5100 BCE from a coastal site in Veracruz near the Zoque site of La Venta, and a more advanced version of maize shows up there only 100 years later. (http://www.famsi.org/reports/pohl/pohl.htm) My own belief is that this maize was used by these early formative people simply to provide pasturage and fodder for deer herds which were then harvested. This is borne out to some extent by the continued cultivation of the smaller variety of maize down to 2,500 BCE, and by the practice of keeping game reserves in later times.

More amazingly, manioc, the principle cultagen of the irrigation societies, shows up at La Venta at the very early date of 4,600 BCE, some 500 years after maize. Tracing this spread from the Amazon jungle is difficult, and once again, in dealing with these early coastal cultures, one must remember that their remains may lie under the rising level of the waters of the oceans, or simply have been washed away by the late Archaic mega-tsunami.

This same maize technology seen at La Venta seems to have spread elsewhere, as maize in the highlands of Mexico undergo a marked change from 4,300 BCE to 3,500 BCE. Again, I am of the opinion that this may simply have been the development of animal forage. Why? Because the artifacts required to process the maize for human consumption have not been found.

If one is looking for the development of maize as a human foodstuff, I think one must look to the Mayan homeland in the area around Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala. The Zoque had control of the Atlantic to Pacific trade route which ran up the Grijalva River and then down the Izapa River to the Pacific, and they also controlled trans-oceanic land routes which ran up the Usumacinta River, its tributary the Salinas, and then down to the Pacific. But while the Zoque controlled the lower Montagu River from their base in Copan, the Maya at Kaminaljuyu blocked access via this route to the Pacific.

If maize is to release its nutrients and be made sufficient to sustain human life, it requires that it be ground and soaked in lime water and then cooked, the “nixtamal” process. My guess is that this what the Maya discovered how to do; this technology allowed the growth in their population, and their subsequent movement down the Salinas and the Belize Rivers. This brought them into conflict with the Zoque, and this conflict would end with the Maya in control of nearly all of the former Zoque territory. Another factor to remember in this process is that it is entirely too likely that the Zoque population had been severely reduced around 1150 BCE by the mega-tsunami.

Besides their reliance on maize, the most distinctive thing about the Maya is their extensive use of a number of hallucinogens. This hallucinogen use is usually mentioned in passing in the literature, but it is quite central to Mayan life. The Mayan glyph for the investiture of a Lord, an Ahau, features him presenting his buttocks to the reader for a hallucinogenic enema, and scenes of this enema usage have been preserved on Mayan painted vases, with enema tubes themselves recovered from royal tombs. Even more to the point, one of the central symbols of Mayan religion, the ceiba tree, is a source for an MAO inhibitor used to amplify the effects of ayahuasca, a source of DMT. And DMT itself is described by those who have experimented with it as being like LSD, but much stronger. It’s but little wonder then that some pieces of Mayan art feature scenes of self decapitation.


There are abundant non-Mayan materials which preserve memory of the mega-tsunami event, but they have been ignored for the purposes of this survey, and a few words of explanation are in order to explain this decision.

At about the same time as the Maya moved from their home area around Kanminaljuyu into the Zoque lands, another group appeared to the north in the region of the Valley of Mexico and established their control over the areas which the Formative peoples had previously held. These peoples established their major city at Teotihuaca, and the cultural complex evidenced there is quite different from that of the either the Zoque or the Maya.

These peoples appeared on the scene without nearby antecdent, and their language family Otto-Manguean (Otomi/Mixtec/Zapotec), is different from that of Maya. As for the origin of these peoples, I hope that Conference participants will forgive me for not definitively solving a problem which has vexed researchers for over a century. My guess, and let me emphasize that this is merely a guess, is that these people may have emigrated via large watercraft from the west coast of South America, and that their appearance in Mexico may be related to the disappearance of the Cupisnique people from South America around 200 BCE.

These Teotihaucans, for lack of a better word, would go on to establish political dominance over both over most of the highlands as well as over the adjacent Mayan cities of Usumacinta River, beginning at Tikal in 378 CE. Wars between the group of Mayan cities under Teotihuacan influence and the group of cities not under Teotihaucan influence would continue until some 300 years later, to around the year 650 CE, when another people arrive, conquer Teotihuaca, and establish their control there and begin their own raids into the Mayan lands.

The new rulers of the Valley of Mexico were the Toltec, and once again their cultural traditions are quite distinct, this time both from those of the Maya and from those of the Teotihaucans. Once again, these people’s language is different (Nonoalca), and they appear without nearby cultural antecedent. Once again I hope that conference members will forgive me for not definitively solving another problem which has vexed researchers for over a century. My guess, and let me emphasize that this is merely a guess, is that these people may have emigrated via large watercraft from the west coast of South America, and that their appearance in Mexico may be related to the disappearance of the Moche people from the coastal region of South America around 650 CE.

This time, we at least have materials relating to that movement, specifically The Annals of the Cakquichiquels, and what must be a very late pictographic version of the same, the Codex Borgia. These close parallels between these peoples and the Vikings in Europe appear quite striking to me, and so I note a few of them here.

Watercraft played a role in these peoples’ attacks, as may be seen at:
(The people in black are non-Toltec. All of these scenes are repeated in written form in The Annals of the Cakquichels.)

In much the same way that the Vikings used dogs in their attacks, these people heaved containers of bees at their opponents, as may be seen at:

While I have not spotted a clear scene of this in the late Codex Borgia version, The Annals of the Cakquichels also relate these peoples use of the bow and arrow, and his may be indicative of South American origins. The appearance of this new weapon would bear parallel with the Viking’s introduction of the battle axe.


Those Conference participants looking for catastrophic ecological reasons for the collapse of the “Classic” Maya would do well to examine Linda Schele’s work The Code of Kings, pages 199-201, (written with Peter Mathews), where she outlined the effects of the Toltec population movement. The conquest of Teotihuaca by the Toltecs touched off a final devastating round of wars between those Mayan city-states which had been under Teotihaucan influence and those city-states which had not.

But on the other hand perhaps those looking for a catastrophic reason for the Maya collapse should not abandon hope. If the Toltec were in fact Moche immigrants, then it appears likely that the original Moche immigration from South America had been touched off by a seismic event which destroyed their irrigation systems.


There were no victors in these wars between the Mayan city states, except, of course, for the Toltecs. Sometime around 1150 CE the Mexica (Aztec) appeared in the Valley of Mexico, and the Toltec left the area, immigrating en masse to the Yucatan, where they finally established dominance over the Mayan areas, and set up their capitol at Chichen Itza around 1150 CE.

Another parallel between the Viking and Toltec societies is their rule by “democratic” associations of nobles. This “democracy” allowed the establishment of political units larger than the city state, and the “mat” houses (meeting houses of nobles) played a greater and greater role in the governance of Mayan peoples from the time of the very first appearance of the Toltecs in the Valley of Mexico. Both of these processes, the Toltec migrations, and the “democratization” of Mayan society, were still ongoing at the time of Spanish contact.


Given all of these cultural overlays, the original Formative peoples’ flood stories were severely modified by each succeeding people. If the Mayan records themselves had not survived, it would be necessary to go through each of these stories, strip off each cultural layer, and try to arrive at something approaching an accurate memory of the mega-tsunami event.

These migrations have important consequences, particularly when working with the 20 some pictographic manuscripts which the Spanish conquistadors sent home from their base of conquest in the city of Texcoco. (This was a rival with the Mexica (Aztec) capitol city, Tenochtitlan). For any Conference participant who may wish to try working with these materials, I direct their attention to the Mexica (Aztec-Nahua) adaptation of the tale found in the Codex Rios, along with the translation there into Italian of the Spanish commentary to the text. My own Italian and 16th century cursive are not good enough to handle it. After they have established the text, including its time and date of transmission, all that it will be necessary for them to do will be to strip off the Mexica, Toltec, and Teotihaucan additions to the original Formative version of events. I wish them the best of luck.

Fortunately, to establish the original materials underlying this manuscript we do not need to do this, as as it will be seen in Part 3 and Part 4 of this survey, Mayan reports of this impact event survived fairly intact.


The same holds true for flood myths from the Caribbean Islands: if we lacked fairly clear and early Mayan reports of the impact and mega tsunami event, we would have to go through each of the numerous flood myths from the islands, examining closely the migrations of peoples from South America and Central America into each island, the exact time and place of the recording of each myth, and through labored analysis attempt to come up with something approaching a fact. Fortunately we don’t have to do any of this.


As was mentioned earlier, some shell peoples appear to have survived on the West coast of Florida, and these would re-emerge to dominate a large part of Florida by the time of Spanish contact. One of the most interesting sites which has been found so far is that of Key Marco, unusual because of the recovery there of a large number of wooden and organic artifacts. These have been dated to around 800 CE, though I understand this date is subject to debate.

What is quite interesting is the manner in which these perishable artifacts were preserved. The artifacts were found buried in the muck around a major urban complex, a complex which included ceremonial mounds, and the artifacts were accompanied by signs of fire. The hypothesis currently put forward is that a hurricane occurred, which started a fire, and then blew the burning artifacts into the muck. I don’t know what you think of a raging fire in a hurricane, but it seems entirely more likely to me that what occurred was a detonation at altitude of an impactor, with the thermal wave igniting the objects, only to have the blast wave arrive a few seconds later and blow the artifacts into the muck. This phenomena was seen at Tunguska, where trees were set on fire by the thermal wave from the detonation, only to have those fires extinguished a few seconds later by the arrival of the blast wave.


Given the cultural continuity of the shell peoples of Florida, and the prolonged interaction of both the Timucua and the Calusa with Spanish, French, and English colonists, it is likely that their myths were at least partially recorded. Unfortunately, I am unaware of any work consolidating surviving materials of the myths of either tribe. Of course, January and February are approaching, and should someone wish to provide me with an extraordinarily large sum of money, I would be perfectly delighted to hire my neighbor’s son to feed the cats and head off to Florida to talk with the experts in the field about the problem:


To gain some idea of the difficulties which they face, see for example:


Thus prepared, let us begin our examination of the surviving Mayan materials on the impact produced mega-tsunami event of 1150 BCE.



@2001 E.P. Grondine  epgrondine@hotmail.com



I suppose that some Conference participants will be surprised to learn that any Native American records of the Rio Cuarto and 1150 BCE impact events survived the Spanish conquest.  It is well known that the Spanish Catholic priests in their efforts to stamp out the religions of the Native American peoples burned most of the books of the conquest period “Maya” as well as other Native American peoples, and thus it is also widely believed that they managed to destroy nearly all of these Mayan records, except for those few Mayan hieroglyphic documents which somehow managed to escape destruction.  Such is not the case.

Unlike the European immigration into North America, where relatively low-density Native American populations were nearly completely finished off by contact with the European diseases, with large numbers of colonists then settling in their lands, the Spanish exploiters of Central America faced a much different situation.  In Central America there were very large Native American populations, populations so large that even after the European diseases had taken their toll, fairly large Native American populations still remained.

This is one factor in the survival of the records, but an even more significant factor in the survival of the Native American cultures and their records was the difference between the Northern European countries and Spain in their strategies for exploiting the newly discovered lands.   France, England, and the Dutch were all late in the settlement of the New World; their primary goals at the time were the control of the long standing Spanish trade routes to the New World.   To satisfy this goal these countries focused on the permanent settlement of ports capable of hosting their fleets, fleets capable of intercepting the Spanish trade.

The Spanish conquest itself had preceded these efforts by some 200 years. As Spain had very few people involved in the exploitation of the lands which they discovered, in order to exploit these lands it was necessary for the Spanish to make use of the Native American peoples already living in them.  In Cuba, their first conquest, the Spanish quickly discovered that if they attempted to enslave a population, it would fight them to the death. In the future the Spanish would largely leave the Native American societies in place, as long as their leaders served them and provided them both with the labor they needed and with the goods which they desired to send back to Spain.

What do you need to conquer a densely populated land?  First of all, you need interpreters capable of understanding the language of the peoples already living in that land.   These interpreters are of incredible historical significance, and their role has been little studied to date.  The usual Spanish technique for obtaining these interpreters was to kidnap speakers of the desired language and then to learn the language from them.  In the case of Central America, people with mastery of two languages were available from among the captives of warfare and from those engaged in the coastal trade.   Another source of interpreters was the recovery of Spanish crew members who had been ship wrecked and had then not been killed by their Native American “hosts”.

Other key items of intelligence which could be learned from these individuals were descriptions of the lands, the resources available for exploitation, the military strength of the people living in them, any cultural myths which could be used during the conquest, and most importantly, knowledge of conflicts between the different Native American peoples, conflicts which the Spanish could then use to enlist allies for their conquests.

As I said earlier, the Spanish goal during conquest was to kill off only the very top levels of Native American governments and to take their role, leaving the subservient political leadership in place to run local affairs for the benefit of both the Spanish and as well as themselves.  These local leaders had intellectuals in their employ, and these intellectuals would thus survive as well, at least until the Catholic priests arrived later and began the co-optation of these lesser leaders (by conversion) or their elimination (by auto de fe).


In Classic Mayan (Chol and Yucatec) creation myths there are featured two characters known as the “Paddler Gods”. (It must be remembered that Classic Mayan (Chol and Yucatec) language and rites were also absorbed by later Toltec and Itza immigrants into the area.) One of these “Paddler Gods” has been firmly identified as the primal version of a Classic Mayan Lord, an Ahau, by the stingray spine placed through his nose.  The other Paddler God is the primal version of the Classic Mayan Lords’ intellectual advisor, the Chilam Balam, who may be identified by the jaguar (Balam) cap which he wears.

What does the title “Chilam Balam” mean in English?  On a primitive level, it means “Jaguar Interpreter”, but this does not do the title justice.  The Mayan Lords are referred to as jaguars; and at the same time the Maya also referred to both the sun, spotted with sunspots, and the night sky, spotted with stars, as jaguar.  The best translation of the title I can come up with is “The Lord’s Celestial Interpreter”, which still does not fully do the title justice, but at least it does account for some Mayan connotations of “jaguar”.

What were the duties of a Lord’s Celestial Interpreter?   He was the intellectual advisor to a Mayan Lord, the intellectual leader of a city state, and as such his duties were all encompassing, as can be seen from this description by Bishop Diego de Landa: (A.R. Pagden translation, J. Philip O’Hara, Chicago, 1975, page 42):

“The people of Yucatan were as diligent in matters of religion as they were in those of government.  The had a high priest whom they called Achkinmai, and by another name Ahaucanmai, which mean the Priest Mai or the High Priest Mai.”

Landa’s Mayan is known to be bad, and this is a good example of it. The first title is “Ah Kin May”, which means “The Sun-Priest of the (Sun) Cycle”, and the second title is “Ahua Can May”, which means “Lord of the Heavens’ Cycle”. These titles are in addition to that of Chilam Balam.  It is also important to note when working through Mayan studies that the title “Chilam Balam” has caused much confusion, and it has been quite common for some to confuse the title with the existence of one person, and for others to confuse the balam, interpreters, of which there were many, with the Chilam Balam, of which each Lord had only one. Continuing now with Landa’s account

"This person was greatly revered by the Lords, and had no repartiamento (a Spanish colonial term for an allocation of serfs) of Indians, but in addition to the offerings, the Lords made him gifts, and all the priests of the town made contributions. He was suceeded in office by his sons or closest relative, and in this lay the key to their learning.


"And indeed it was in such matters that these priests worked most, giving advice to the Lords and answering their questions.  The High Priest rarely participated in matters of sacrifice, unless they concerned major feasts or important affairs.  He provided priests for the towns when they were needed, examined them in the knowledge of their sciences and ceremonies, charged them with all the duties of their office, and urged them to be a good example to the people; and he provided them with their books, and sent them out.

"He also looked after the temples, as well as teaching Indian sciences. and writing books about them.  He also taught the children of the other priests and the second sons of the Lords. who were reared for the office from infancy if they showed any inclination to it."

(This is a major exception to Landa’s earlier statement on the passage of the office of Chilam Balam by inheritance.)


“The sciences which they taught were the reckoning of the years, months, and days, and of their feasts and ceremonies; the administration of their sacraments, and of the fateful days and seasons; their manner of divination; and their prophecies, incidents, and cures for sickness; as well as their antiquities, and method of reading and writing, where by means of their letters and characters they wrote in glyphs which represented the meanings of their writings.


“They wrote their books on a large sheet doubled over several times, this closed together between two boards which were highly decorated. They wrote on both sides of the sheet in columns, following the folds.  And the paper they made from the roots of a tree, giving it a white gloss on which it was easy to write.


“Some of the principle Lords out of diligence had also acquired these sciences, and although they never used them in public, they were held in great esteem for having done so.”


When the Spanish conquered the Native Americans of Central America, they usually killed only the Lords who were the rulers of the leading city states. Those Lords who ruled lesser city states usually escaped death, at least for a while, and their Chilam Balams escaped death as well.  These Chilam Balam were of especial use to the Spanish, as among other items of knowledge which they kept, they wrote detailed records of the tribute the Lords had received, as well as the lands which they ruled. This information was vital to Spanish exploitation, and copies into Latin alphabet of many of these land holding records survive in the Spanish archives.

The detailed study of the conquest period is still in its infancy, and while it is known that the Latin alphabet was adopted in several variations, where these adoptations took place and when and by whom are currently unknown, as is exactly who were the Chilam Balams during the conquest period, or the Lords of the local ruling dynasties, for that matter.

What is clear is that the different Chilam Balams made local transliterations into the Latin alphabet of the hieroglyphic records available to them, and some of these survive in collections of their records, which are usually called “The Chilam Balam of X”, where X is the town in which the collection was recovered. Some 9 manuscripts of these collections have been preserved, usually  in later copies, while some 9 more collections were known but have disappeared. The location and recovery of these manuscripts is much desired, but is not funded in any way.


In thanks large part to funding from the US National Science Foundation several decades ago for the development of several dictionaries of Mayan and other Central American languages, it has at last been possible for scholars working on Mayan Hieroglyphic to read part of it.  About 140 glyphs out of 287 are currently read (Coe, op cit, p. 220-222), and the number capable of being read is slowly increasing, despite the fact that due to both the nature of the writing and the language of the Mayan script it is not amenable to decipherment by techniques of phonetic loading.  For an excellent introduction to the Mayan glyphic, I highly recommend Understanding Maya Inscriptions, A Hieroglyphic Handbook, John F. Harris and Stephen K. Stearns, The University of  Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, 1997.”

One of the key figures in this decipherment was the late Linda Schele, both for her own personal contribution as well as for her technique of annualy assembling most of the Mayan scholars together in Texas for sessions of joint work. This technique sped things along significantly. (Conference participants may find it of interest that David Stuart, who has played a significant role in the decipherment, studied briefly with computational linguistics expert David Packard, who they may know as a patron of the Spacewatch effort of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Arizona.)

Another technique which Schele encouraged was field work among modern Maya, and with these two techniques, along with her artist’s eye, many key words in Mayan were at last understood to some degree.  This reading of Mayan texts from codices, stelae, and painted poly-chrome pottery has fundamentally changed the understanding of the Chilam Balams’ collections of texts.  The world view which has emerged is very significantly different from a European one, and Schele’s works must be read before reading any earlier translations of the Chilam Balams’ collections. The translations of these writing by Munro S. Edmonson, where available, are the ones I prefer.

Thus for the purposes of this survey, in addition to the later copies in European alphabet, we now have partial translations of the 3 Mayan hieroglyphic codices which survived, as well as translations of some of those Mayan stone inscriptions which have been recovered.  For an introduction to the codices, I highly recommend The Paris Codex, Handbook for a Mayan Priest, Bruce Love, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1994.

I do not know the current state of National Science Foundation funding for Mayan related work.  If traditional methods of publication are relied upon, those of publication, comment, and re-publication, the work will take centuries, as will the search for manuscripts, and the assembly of a detailed history of the conquest period. If electronic means are used (computers, the internet, e-mail,  multi-spectral imaging, and online collections of archives), it may be as little as a 20 years until adequate translations of the underlying documents are assembled from the recovered fragments.


As was mentioned earlier in the second part of this survey, the first thing which must be understood about Native American religions from Central America is that they were based on the use of hallucinogens.  The Maya used hallucinogens, and while specific identification of plant species is difficult, particular note must be taken of their references to what they called the “Sac Nicte”, or “White Flower”.

One well known effect of hallucinogens is the inability of their users to differentiate themselves from their environment.  Thus Mayan shamans would become the gods themselves by taking on their “way”, or channeling the god’s spiritual force, in their way of thinking. Another effect of the stronger hallucinogens is the hallucination of objects which are not there, and this can include the hallucination of people who have been dispatched to the gods.

The Mayan shamans conducted one fundamental rite to ensure that an impact event (“tzuk”) would not take place, and this was known as the “Seating of the Katun”. Fundamentally, what occurred was that the rite’s participants would assume the roles, the “ways”, of the “bacabs”, those gods who kept the heavens separate from the Earth, and the by their performance of the “bacabs” tasks the Mayan shamans would thus magically ensure that no impact would take place during a katun’s period of time.

The shaman-bacabs would erect poles in the east, north, west, south, (some say in the NE, NW, SW, and SE) of the city-state’s lands, and finally in the center of the city-state. While some times the “poles” were stones, at other times the Maya raised trees, and the one raised in the center of the city state was the Ceiba tree, source of a MAO-DMT inhibitor.  Given the terrible nature of the impact event which prompted the adoption of this rite, its sacrifices were severe as well, and included human sacrifice.

The journey of the shaman-bacabs to the four corners of a city-state’s territory also provided a means for the city-states to affirm their control over a territory.  Thus the seating ceremony, which ensured the separation of the Earth from the Heavens, also served to separate a polity’s lands from that of its neighbors, and it was accompanied by a journey through all of a polity’s lands and villages. This ritual need is a key reason why so many itineraries have survived from Central America.

This “seating of a katun” rite has great antiquity, and as was mentioned earlier, that it was practiced by the Pre-Formative (Zoque (“Olmec”) et al.) peoples may be seen by one symbol worn by their lords, which is that of a rectangle crossed corner to corner by parallel lines with a square in the center.   In the earlier rites poles were used instead of trees, and a Zoque (Olmec) image of just such a rite may be seen at:


Throughout Mayan history, and even before it, the territorial conflicts brought on by the need “to seat a katun” brought on regular conflict on a 20 year basis. By the conquest period the city-states were entering into larger confederations, and thus the competition to “seat a katun” had become even more intense, leading to warfare on a larger scale.

The Mayan shamans also conducted another fundamental rite, this one to ensure rainfall, crop yield, and fertility.  When we think of Central America we think of rain forest, but in point of fact all rain which falls in the Yucatan is quickly absorbed by the limestone underlying the region, and the region is very arid.  To ensure the crops, the shamans took on the “ways” of the “chac” rain gods, and performed rites tied to the timing of the appearance of Venus, which is strongly correlated with the times of optimal planting.

These chac-shamans were also responsible for ensuring the fertility of the people themselves, and performed coming of age ceremonies.   In order to assure fertility, the shaman-chacs would “purify” both people and land, and thus the Lords would wage war to “purify” the lands of their enemies under the symbols of the stars.  When you read a reference by a specialist on the Maya to a “star war”, this is what they mean.

Again, as was mentioned earlier, that the rituals of the chac-shamans are of great antiquity may be seen in another symbol worn by the Zoque, that of an “E” on its side, kind of a “W”, which is identified as a symbol for star (see Love, op cit, pg 89; Schele, 1993, p 361; and Milbrath, op cit, p 188 for differing analyses).  The two troughs of this symbol may be related to the Venus cycle.  For those Conference participants further interested in Maya astronomy and time keeping, I point them in the direction of Schele’s “Mayan Cosmos”, Edmunson’s “Book of the Year”, Love’s “The Paris Codex”, and Milbrath’s “Star Gods of the Maya”.

To my knowledge no one in the community of Central American anthropologists has ever considered the possibilty of historical impact events.


As some two volumes of The Handbook of Middle American Indians are devoted to the manuscripts of the Native American peoples, no comprehensive listing of their writings is possible here.  Mention will only be made of some of the key titles which were commonly in the Chilam Balams collections of writings, and remember that these have hieroglyphic antecedants.

The first of these writings was a creation tale, of which in the Popul Vuh we have a pretty full copy of the Quiche adaptation and variation of the Maya tale.  As was mentioned in Part 2 of this survey, other peoples’ adaptations of the Mayan version differ from their own. Fragments of this tale also remain in the Chilam Balams’ collections. These creation tales contain information on the items under study here, the impact events, the multiple creations of the world and their subsequent destruction, the “partitioning” events, the Mayan “tzuk” .

One of the interesting things about the Mayan sciences is that they form a cohesive body of knowledge.  An example of this may be seen in another of their books which survived, a book of medical cures. In this book the same gods which ruled over the parts of creation which included the patient’s diseased part were invoked, along side of a listing of the cures for the diseases, and thus the Maya intellectuals actually repeated a part of their creation story within a medical text.

In the codices themselves the creation myths appear to have usually been followed by a history of each people.  While many other peoples seem to have used a sequential record, the Maya themselves appear to have extended their inductive method of science to their history. Among the Chilam Balam of the conquest period there was a book known as “The Book of Seven Generations”, where the “Generations” in question seem to have been turnings of either baktun’s or may’s, time periods of roughly 400 and 256 years respectively. (My completely amature guess is that baktuns were used.)  It appears that the Maya organized historical events along cyclical temporal lines, instead of along a straight temporal line, so that they could bring to bear the predictive power of earlier periods as a means of handling current events.  We have fragments of history in both forms preserved in the Chilam Balams’ works.

Aside from the fragments of these historical works found in the Chilam Balams’ collections, we have a fairly long version of one given by Landa, and this was undoubtedly provided to him by his own Native American Interpreter and Chilam Balam, Gasper Antonio Chi (Xiu).  Gaspar Antonio Chi was the son of a Xiu nobleman slain by the Cocom (Edmonson gives Itza), and the Xiu of (Tiho-Merida) apparently thought that the Spanish would be good allies against the Cocom.

After the creation story, and then the historical records of each separate people, there seem to have been a series of astrological works, whereby the goodness and badness of days, months, years, and katuns (20 years) seems to have been forecast.

Parts of different versions of these also remain in various adaptations of other differing peoples. This reflects the inductive nature of Mayan science, and is also reflective of their world view.  Sadly, undoubtedly through their peoples’ trade networks the Chilam Balams had learned of the genocide which the Spanish were engaged in Cuba, and not surprisingly many of their “prophecies” which advised surrender have been preserved.  Definitely more amusing than these is one Mayan book wherein an individual’s entire life and fortunes, including his marriage, number of children, illnesses, and date of death, was predicted based entirely on date of birth.  (Now if we could only convert all this into a computer program, and either sell the program or sell the results online!)

Since these peoples had been pounded by the Sky Gods pretty severely not just once, but several times, as will be shown in Part 4 of this survey, their obsession with astronomy is perfectly understandable.  The books on creation, history, and astrology appear to have been followed by books which were astronomical ephemerides, used to predict solar cycles, the cycles of Venus, and those of other planets, along with tables for the easy computation of significant dates. (It is not only modern scholars who had difficulty with Mayan dates!) Copies of these have been recovered in the hieroglyphic, and work on reading these extremely difficult texts is proceeding. For a good overview of work on the codices see Love, The Paris Codex.  While little of these works appear to be seen in the Chilam Balams’ collections in Latin letters which we now have, we do find multiple attempts to reconcile the Mayan and Spanish calendars.


A short aside as to the level of the Mayan researchers’ understanding of Mayan astronomy is in order here.  Standard Mayan inscriptions usually give the date in four ways: first, as a count of days from an initial starting day; second, as a combination of the day count and solar year date; third, by means of series of glyphs Morley catalogued as GFZYEDCXBA; and fourth in a 819 day cycle.  The last two are not understood (Harris and Stearns, op cit, p 16-17) but are thought to be astronomical in nature.  My belief is that these date forms were probably also generated using the information in the books contained in these parts of the hieroglyphic codices.

Now before the advent of carbon 14 dating, there were only two ways in archaeologists could date remains. The first of these methods was by the discovery and decipherment of astronomical records, and usually these pertained to eclipses. The second method which archaeologists then used was stratigraphy, the placing other remains within the context of remains with astronomically established dates.  Since the advent of carbon 14 dating, no archaeologist has had to master astronomy in order to master dating.

One piece of analysis which I think should now be provided by the astronomical community to the archaeological community is a table which gives BY DATE the estimated times of the appearance of known periodic comets which are visible to the naked eye, a list extending from at least 3,000 BCE to the present day. This table should include a rough estimate of the areas of the Earth from which the comets were visible, and very rough estimates of the lengths of the comets’ tails in degrees, using standard comet erosion data, such as it is. Further, this table should indicate whether the comets were visible at day, or not.

As if this was not enough, this table should give this information in both absolute terms as well as in descriptive terms.  In other words, the areas of visibility should be given not only in geographic co-ordinates, but in standard descriptive terms - North America, South America, Central America, Middle East, Africa, Europe, Russia, China, South East Asia, Australia, etc.; the tail data described not only in degrees, but also in centimeters; the peak magnitude data given with a separate column indicating daylight visibility; and not only the time span of the visibility of any comet’s visit, but the date of its peak visibility.

Oh, and by the way, throw in super-nova and cite all known written references to all of the phenomena. Even better yet, such a table should be generated and it should be posted to the internet, so that it will be available to any researcher.

Any volunteers?


Back to the Maya. The timing of the rituals was determined on an astronomical basis, and parts of those books which gave detailed descriptions of how these rites were to be performed survived.  Fragments of quiz books for the testing of both astronomers, “The Theodora”, and public officials, “The Language of Zuyua” (Zoque?) have survived as well.

Two other books, one book for the instruction of sons, another for the instruction of daughters, have survived in a fairly complete but Christianized form.


Amazingly, the Maya had stylized their Ceiba tree, the source of their MAO hallucinogen intensifier, into a cross long before Spanish contact. The identification of this Ceiba cross with the Christian cross was almost immediate; that the Spanish should kill the Mayan Lords as a sacrifice to their God, while the Mayan Lords only sacrificed prisoners of war and the underclass, was more of a display of the power of the Spaniard’s God than anything else.  It is only among those Chilam Balams who were of peoples who were not the Spaniards allies that the Mayan literature survived, and that survival continued only for a while.  Slowly their writings become more and more Christianized, and knowledge of the glyphs faded.

But before that occurred some of the Mayan books were preserved, at least in part.
And those parts which remain leave clear record of the impact events.


@2001 E.P. Grondine   epgrondine@hotmail.com


For all of the following records it will require extremely detailed study to determine which calendar systems were in use in each of them and the dating corruptions which may have been introduced into them over the course of 2,000 - 3,000 years, and in transmission.  In other words, it is going to be quite a task the for the professionals to determine if any useful dating information can be recovered, and the prospects for tieing these records to cyclical astronomical phenomenon is slim.



from The Codex Perez and the Book of Chilam Balam of Mani, page 118
Translated to English with notes by Eugene Craine And Reginald Reindorp
University of Oklahoma Press, Norma, 1979

It is unclear from the statements of Craine and Reindorp whether the parts in brackets are new readings, restorations from other copies, or their own additions to the text.

“[In the reign of 13 Ahau and 1 Ahau were the days and nights that fell without order, and pain was felt throughout the land. Because of this] the Thirteen Gods and the Nine Gods created the world and life; there also was born Itzam Cab Ain (The Spirit of the Earth Crocodile, the Milky Way - see Schele, Maya Cosmos, page 97,-epg).

“[Ah Mesencab (glossed by Craine and Reindrop as the Four Bacab, but the Musencabs are shamans, see below )] turned the sky and the Peten upside down, and the Nine Gods raised up Itzam Cab Ain (the Spirit of the Earth Crocodile).

“There was a great cataclysm, and the ages ended with a flood. The 18 Bak Katun was being counted and in its 17th part.

“The Nine Gods refused to permit Itzam Cab Ain (the Milky Way) to take the Peten and to destroy the things of the world, so he (?) cut the throat of Itzam Cab Ain (the Spirit of the Milky Way) and with his body formed the surface of Peten...

“[Ah Mesencab (again, glossed by Craine and Reindrop as the Four Bacab, but see below)], the one who laid waste to the Earth, rose up in the Katun 11 Ahau and bandaged the face of the Thirteen Gods (this appears to be bad translation of “ put (a) mask(s) on ”), but they did not know his name and they were told he was called Father, Son, and Holy Ghost [an obvious Hispanic insertion]. When the Thirteen Gods told them fire, stones, and clubs came down.

“He took the green buds, large and small gourd seeds, wrapped them up with the Nine Dz’acab ” (These have been identified as either gods, creators, conjurors, priests, steps, the Lord of the Nine Generations, the Nine Doctors - see Munro, 1982, p. 46, f. 888 and Schele, 1993.  Most likely they are simply the well attested Mayan hallucinogens.), “and [...]

“They did not know that the heart of the tubercule (tuber=manioc?) was gone. After the evil sons and daughters were buried, although alive [they had no hearts], and those who were on the beach were buried between the waves of the sea.

“In this katun, on the day 3 Oc, an avalanche of water came, and on the day 1 Cimi, everything came to an end.  It was said that four gods, four Bacabs, were the ones that destroyed the Earth. (The Bacabs held the sky off of the Earth.)

“After this cataclysm the Red Imix (=Alligator:Munro,1986;=Milky Way:Schele, 1993) Tree was erected, for it is one of the supports of heaven and the sign of the dawn.

“This one (east) is the Bacab who turned aside.  (The tsunami came from the east.)

“Kan Xib, the father, planted the White Imix (Milky Way) Tree to the north, and Zac Xob Chac says that this is a sign of destruction.   The Black Imix (Milky Way) Tree was planted to the west of Peten for the pixoy to sit upon.  The [...] planted the Yellow Imix (Milky Way) Tree to the south of Peten. The Green Imix (Milky Way) Tree (The hallucinogenic ceiba tree.) was planted in the middle of the earth as a record of the destruction of the world.  Since then [...] has established his gourd, his bowl, and his mat.” (These last are signs of office.).


from The Book of Chilam Balam of Tizimin: The Ancient Future of the Itza, translated and annotated by Munro S. Edmonson, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1982, page 45 et seq

“In 11 Ahau, then arose the Priest of Muzen Cab, and tied the faces of the Thirteen Gods, but they did not know their names. “The Holy”, “The Remote”, these are the names they called them.  And they also did not show their faces to them either. At last it dawned, and they did not know their going or their coming,” (This is a comment either on the state of religious knowledge at that time or at a later time. The meaning is unclear.)

“And then spoke the Thirteen Gods to the Nine Gods: “Bring down fire,” (This is most likely the impact detonation.) “bring down the rope”,  (This is most likely an impact plume.),  “bring down stones and trees.””

“Then came the pounding of sticks and stones.” (This is the impact blast.)

“And then appeared the Thirteen Gods, and beat their heads and flattened their faces, and they were spat on and snatched away.  (This is an account of the destruction of the Zoque (“Olmec”), who were “spat upon” with a mega-tsunami.)

“The Four Year-bearers” (Munro later (1986) translated “cangel” as “four changers” instead of as “year-bearers”; but as will be seen below, the cangel are astronomical.) “and 5 Za Bac,” (Munro translated this as “Soot Head”, an obvious impactor reference.) “and the Quetzals were taken, and the Bluebirds.”  (These seem to be totems used thoughout the surviving literature in reference to two population groups.)

The shamans rituals are established next, with the preparation of the hallucinogens followed by the heart sacrifice.

“Crushing the Zic, crushing the Top, and wrapping the seeds of the first Nine Tz’acab, which went to the Thirteen Levels of Heaven.

“Then was cut the membrane, and the nose, of the skeleton.   Then went the heart, on account of the Thirteen Gods. But they did not know what was going.” (Either a comment on the current state of knowledge or on the anethesitic effect of the drugs.)

“The heart of the Moon there is dropped flat. And the fatherless, the miserable, and those without spouses or living relatives, (Sacrificial victims came from these populations.) “and those that don’t have hearts, then began to rot, by the margin of the sand, by the margin of the sea.

“One torrent of water occurred, which was released by the Year-bearers.” (Once again, the “Cangel”, something astronomical, see below.)

“That was the cleaning of heaven, and also the cleaning of the lands for the period (of time) opposite the fold (of the katun), killing the youngest sons. That is the fold of the katun cycle, 3 Oc is the time it arrived here.  1 Cimi is the time that ended the word of the returned katun.   The four gods - the Four Bacab (Sky-Bearers) - that is their flattening of the land.”

What follows is the description of the Bacabs, the Sky-Bearers, interlaced with the then current Spanish execution of their five priests.

“When the lands have been flattened, then there returns the Red (east) Imix (Alligator=Milky Way) Tree, that is proceeding to pass the four.  That is the sign of the flattening of the land; that is the toppling of the Tree of the Fathers of the Land, called the East Priest Xib Yuy.

“Then there returns the White Imix (Alligator=Milky Way) Tree to the north; he is called the North Priest Xic, the sign of the flattening of the lands.

“Then also returns the Black Imix (Alligator=Milky Way) Tree to the west country, the sign of the flattening of the lands, that is the Black Imix Tree, seating the West Priest Tam Puc the Weak.

“Seating the Yellow Imix (Alligator=Milky Way) Tree to the south of the country, the sign of the flattening of the lands, seating the South Priest Oyal Mut.

“Then is seated the Green Imix (Alligator=Milky Way) Tree in the middle of the lands, the reminder of the flattening of the lands. Piled in its place is the whole of the existence of this katun.”


also from The Book of Chilam Balam of Tizimin, pages 40-41:

(A Lord’s Celestial Interpreter finishes tranlsating one account of creation from hieroglyphic to roman letters, and begins working on a copy of another part of it, which includes the tale set out above.)

“...This is the arrival of the end of the word of the Sun Priest of Muzen Cab and Za Bac Na, which completes the lordship of the Thirteen Lords (Gods).

“1 Ahau is the day for it, when they will join with each other: the rising Sun, and Moon, and night.

“Then comes the dawn from the Thirteen Gods, for the Nine Gods, who are then born and created.

“Then is born Itzam Can Ain (the Spirit of the Milky Way), cutting the Pyramid of the Sun and the World.

“Then the sky is divided (from the Earth by the four Bacabs), and the land is raised.

“And then there begins The Book of the Thirteen Gods.

“Then occurs the great flooding of the Earth.

“Then arises the great Itzam Cab Ain (Spirit of the Milky Way)

“The ending of the word (the book?): the fold of the Katun: that is a flood which will be the ending of the word of the katun.

“But they did not agree, the Nine Gods; and then will be cut the throat of Itzam Cab Ain (the Spirit of the Milky Way) who bears the country upon his back.

That is Uoh Puc (?) by name, for they didn’t bear their right names - to tie the stone face, and return the lordship.”

This last sentence refers to the tying on of a ritual mask, and by doing so they would be re-establishing the old rituals and return their local leaders to power.


from The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel: Heaven Born Merida and Its Destiny, translated by Munro S Edmunson, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1986, page 152 et seq

“It is very necessary, the path that is the introduction to the heart. This is the tun period, when it was shaped by our Father the Remote.

“This is the taking of the occasion: this is the bal-che (?+tree) ceremony, as we honor Him here.  We, the rulers spread in many parts, worship them, the true Gods.

“There they are as tuns, the established representation of the True God, our God, our Father, who is God the Father of Heaven and Earth, the true God.

“However, the first gods were leperous gods, finished is the word of their worship. They have been done in by the benediction of the Father in Heaven. Then it ends, the redemption of the tz’oc (tz’uk = partitioning of Earth and Heavens = impact event - epg) is over, (by) the twice born life of the true God, the true Dios.   When they sweetly prayed to heaven and earth, that put an end to the gods of you Mayan people. Shattered is the belief in your gods then.

“This is the account of the land at that time.  That is because it was written there, because it would not have happened at the time of the making of these books. These are the thousand words here for the examination of the Mayan people here, who may know how they were born and (how they) settled the land here in this country.

“In 11 Ahau, that was when there began the Muzen Cabs (some kind of priests) to tie the faces of the Thirteen Gods - and they did not know their true names, for their older sisters and their engendered sons, their offspring, and those who are not grown: perhaps even their faces and their voices are gone. The dawning of the land they did not know about either, the going and the coming.

“and then there were finished the Thirteen who are Gods, by the Nine who are Gods.

“They then brought down fire (impact detonation), they then brought down the rope (symbol of the impact plume), they then brought down stones and sticks, then came the beating with sticks and stones.” (the impact blast)

“And then were finished the Thirteen who are Gods; and so their heads were beaten, and their faces were flattened (by the impact blast), and then their faces were flattened, and then they were forgotten, and then they were also carried away (by the mega-tsunami).

“And then were planted the four cangel (heavenly bodies, see below), together with the Soot Heads.  Then was created also the Quetzal and the Blue Bird.

“And then was created the placenta of breast plants, and the heart of breast squash, and breast pumpkin, and breast beans, the wrapping of the seed of the First Nine Steps (these are most likely the hallucinogens).

“Then they went to the thirteenth (13th) level of (the) heaven(s), and so then were established his membranes, and his nose, his skeleton here in the world.  So then went his heart, because of the Thirteen who are Gods. But they did not know his heart was to be a plant.

“And then they all arrived, even the fatherless, and the suffering poor, and the widows; the living and those without hearts.” (This probably describes the classes of people from which sacrificial vitctims were selected.)


“And they began to wait for it: the direction of the thatch grass, the direction of the sea.  The deluge of water, a storm of water, then reached the hearts of the Four Cangel, who radiated in (the) heaven(s), and also radiated on the land. Said the Four who are Gods, the Four who are Fathers of the Land: “This water shows them to their faces.  Then let us finish the flattening of the lands.””

(The “Can”in Cangels has commonly been interpreted as “four”, but perhaps given this passage reading “Can” in its sense of “heavens” might make sense: the four heaven changers, the planets or something else?. The Bacabs now intercede.)

“The South Priest Xib Yuy then bore the North Alligator (Milky Way) Tree in the north.  And then he bore the Entrance to (the) Heaven(s), the sign of the flattening of the lands. That is the North Alligator (Milky Way) Tree, said to be carried.

“And then he bore the West Alligator (Mikly Way) Tree to the seat of the black-breasted weaver bird.

“And then he bore the South Alligator (Milky Way) Tree to the sign of the flattening of the lands to seat the yellow-breasted weaver bird.

“And was seated the South Priest Xib Yuy, and the South Priest Oyal Mut. And then he bore the Center Alligator (Milky Way) Tree to the middle, signifying the flattening of the land.

“It is seated.  Its being raised established the town.  And the same when the return of the katun is fulfilled.”


For a picture of the mega-tsunami flood, see the Codex Dresden, page 74, availble also in Schele, 1993, p 106.  This page is now believed to have been page 1 of the Codex.



A very late and highly modified version of the Mayan mega-tsunami account survived as part of the Quiche collection of translations known as the Popol Vuh, and it includes a description  actor, Seven Macaw (Izam Ye), the tale of whose defeat is included along side those two other hazards to these early people, Volcano (Zipacna) and Earhquake.

The translation of the Popol Vuh used here is that of Dennis Tedlock, with a few modifications to tense and punctuation.  To give some idea of the stages of transmission the tale had undergone by that time, see the Quiche’s own migration lists on pages 149 and 184-185 of Tedlock’s translation.  While from the account itself, it is clear that Seven Macaw was originally a combined comet/asteroid, Tedlock and Schele argue that Seven Macaw was the Big Dipper, and it seems likely that such a metamorphesis was underway as memory of the impact faded.

“This was when there was just a trace of early dawn on the face of the Earth: there was no Sun.  But there was one who magnified himself: Seven Macaw is his name.

“The Sky-Earth was already there, but the face of the Sun-Moon was clouded over.

Even so, it is said that his (Seven Macaw’s) light provided a sign for the people who were flooded.  He was like a person of genius(?) in his being.

(In the Popol Vuh version, Seven Macaw appears after the impact. Seven Macaw now speaks)

“I am great. My place is now higher than that of the human work, the human design.(The “wooden” people had just been created.)

“I am their Sun, I am their light, and I am also their months. So be it: My light is great.  I am the walkway and I am the foothold of the people, because my eyes are of metal. My teeth just glitter with jewels, and turquoise as well: they stand out blue(?) with stones like the face of the sky. And this nose of mine shines white into the distance like the Moon.

“Since my nest is of metal, it lights up the face of the Earth. When I come forth before my nest, I am like the Sun and (the) Moon for those who are born in the light, begotten in the light.  It must be so, because my face reaches into the distance,” says Seven Macaw.

“It is not true that he is the Sun, this Seven Macaw, yet he magnifies himself, his wings, his metal.  But the scope of his face (his light) lies right around his own perch: his face does not reach everywhere beneath the sky.   The faces of the Sun, Moon, and Stars are not yet visible, it has not dawned. (This last is probably a reconciliation.)

“And so Seven Macaw puffs himself up as the days and the months, though the light of the Sun and Moon has not yet clarified.  He only wished for surpassing greatness.

“This was when the flood was worked upon the mannequins, the wood carvings (the wooden people).”

In the Popol Vuh, the description of Seven Macaw is preceded by accounts of the Rio Cuarto impact and the 1150 BCE mega-tsunami, and these will be given later on.  It is followed by a long astronomical allegory, in which hero twins defeat Seven Macaw. Again, this is a very late version, and isolating the underlying components and modifications will be a very complex task.


Before continuing to the records of the Rio Cuarto Impact, it is very important that the Mayan  concept of “tzuk” be clearly understood.  “Tzuk” was a “partition”, a separation of the Earth from the Heavens or Sky.   Each of these “tzuk”’s was a creation, and the way in which these partitions-creations was ended and a new partition-creation established by the divine power was by impact event.

One sign for “tzuk” was a mirror affixed to the head.  This makes sense in that the Maya considered both asteroids and comets as being the same, with meteoritic iron being a source for their mirrors. For some examples of early use of the tzuk sign, see Schele’s Maya Cosmos, p 140-141, and 418-419, though sadly Schele was unaware that impact events actually could and did occur in historic times.


Part of the Maya story of these multiple creations, multiple impacts, has been preserved in a series of hieroglphic panels set up around 692 CE at B’aakal (Palenque) by the Mayan Lord Kan Balam II.  These are part of a general florescence of inscriptions which were written at that time, which probably reflect a crisis in dynastic legitimacy.  The triggering event for this particular series of inscriptions occurred on 23 July, 690, and is thought to have been a planetary conjunction.

What the texts describe is Hun Nal Ye Tzuk, First Maize Revealed the Partitioner, his wife Na Sak (White), and their children.  In Mayan thought, the destruction of the wooden people (the 1150 BCE mega-tsunami event) led to the creation of the maize people, and accounts for his name First Maize Revealed the Partitioner.  But the events described here refer to the destruction of the mud people, in other words the Rio Cuarto event, and Hun Nal Ye Tzuk apparently was associated with that as well.

Perhaps this may be indicative of a fragmenting comet in an Earth intercepting orbit... but perhaps not.  One must remember that this is an adoption of a Zoque cycle by the Maya, and that it is written in a language that is only half understood.

The translations given here adapted from those Understanding Maya Inscriptions, A Hieroglyphic Handbook, John F. Harris and Stephen K. Stearns, Philadelphia, 1997, with adaptations focusing of the titles of GIII, which are actually read pretty well, though not believed by the translators themselves.  This book is an excellent introduction to the Mayan glyphic, and it is frank in its admission as to how many problems remain in reading these texts. The dates given in the table following these translations are very very tentative, and Conference participants wishing to see exactly how difficult the problem of reading them is should examine the work cited.



“12 Bak’tuns, 19 k’atuns, 13 tuns, and 4 winals after the previous era began; on 8 Ahaw, 18 Sek, was born Lady White. It was 8 tuns and 5 winals since the birth, and then the (?) event was carried out on 4 Ahaw 8 Kumuku. 13 baktuns were completed. It was 1 tun, 9 winals, 2 kins since the image was made visible at the Closed Sky, the First Three Stone Place, and then First Maize Revealer the Partitioner entered the sky.  On 13 Ik’ 20 Mol he prepared the Raised Up Sky Place, Eight House Partition is its holy name, it is the House of the North.  It was 1 bak’tun, 18 k’atuns, 3 tuns, and 12 winals since Raised Up Sky Heart was set in motion by First Maize Revealer the Partitioner, and then he (identified as God 1) arrived as Matawil.  He (identified as God 1) is the child of White Ox Ya Ch’okle Lady.  It was 2 bak’tuns, 1 k’atun, 7 tuns, 11 winals since her birth and then the white headband was closed for her White on 9 Ik’ 0 Sak.



“, 13 Kimi 19 Keh: He was born, The spirit of the Sun-eyed Torch, The killer of the Kings in the White House, the White Bone House, The ?? of heaven, who with fire closed the eye of the Sun-eyed Lord Sun.

“ days (note the day count repetition, but this time as a day displacement) since he (First Maize Revealed the Partitioner) set in motion the Raised Up Sky Heart and then he (Sun-eyed Torch, the king killer) arrived at Matawil. He (Sun-eyed Torch) is the child of Valley Lady White Holy Palenque Lord

“ days since made visible the image at Closed Sky First Three Stone Place on 4 Ahwa 8 Kamk’u and then happened 2 Kib 14 Mol.



“, 1 Ahaw 13 Mak: The Third one was born, the Red Dwarf(?) Partitioner, the third born of the K’awil Man (First Maize Revealer the Partitioner), the Divine Sprout K’awinal.

“ days since he arrived, the Sprout K’awinal, at Matawil, and then was completed 2 baktuns.

“2 Ahaw 3 Wayeb, She conjured up the gods, Valley Place Lady White, Holy Matawil Ruler.  It happened at First True Mountain White Flower, Born First Tree Precious.”


Such as they have been reconstructed by the glyph scholars, and this is extremeley extremely tenative, are:

16 June,     3122 BCE - The First Maize Revealer Partitioner is born 
7 December,  3121 BCE - Birth of Lady White (?) 
13 August,   3114 BCE - Image made visible at Closed Sky, the First Three StonePlace; 
                        Event for The First Maize Revealed Partitioner 
5 February,  3112 BCE - The First Maize Revealed Partitioner enters the sky, 
                        Prepared/Dedicated the Raised Up Sky Place in the North 
                        Set in motion the Raised Up Sky Heart
8 November,  2360 BCE - Birth of the Red Dwarf(?) Partitioner
25 October,  2360 BCE - Birth of Sun-eyed Torch, The killer of the kings in 
                        the White House, the White Bone House, the ?? of the heavens,
                        who with fire closed the eye of the Sun-eyed Lord Sun;
                        “arrived” (struck) at Matawil 
21 October,  2360 BCE - Birth of G1 
7 September, 2325 BCE - A white headband was closed for White?
17 February, 2325 BCE - Lady White conjured up the gods at Matawil

23 July,      690 CE  - Some significant contemporaneous event occurred, 
                        thought by some scholars to be a planetary conjunction. 
                        Is this a comet’s appearance? 

Most of these dates are very poorly derived from the texts of these inscriptions, and these translations really need to be very carefully re-done.  If the dates hold, then it would appear that the Rio Cuarto impactor may perhaps have landed at a much earlier date than previously thought, leaving the ca. 2100 BCE climate collapse without explanation.


from The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel: Heaven Born Merida and Its Destiny, translated by Munro S Edmunson University of Texas Press, Austin, 1986, page 120 et seq

“Thus it was read by the First Sage Melchisedek, and the First Prophet, Puc Tun: the Catholic priest (sacerdote), and the First Sun Priest. This is the sermon of the occurance of the birth of the Count of Days, which was before the awakening of the world occurred, and it began to run by itself, alone.”

This appears to be a team translation: Melchisedek was the biblical name given by the Padres to their Catholic sacerdote, and Puc Tun was the First Prophet and First Sun Priest - in other words, the Chilam Balam. Following the introduction, some kind of prime force next brings into existence his companions by “saying ” them, and together they then try to create and perfect man:

“Then said his mother’s mother, then said his mother’s sister, then said his father’s mother, then said his sister in law, “What is to be said when a man is seen on the road?”  So they said whilst going along, but no man occurred.

“And then they arrived, there, in the east, and they began to say, “Who is it that passed by here now?  Here are his tracks, right here.  Measure them with your foot, according to the word of the Planter of the World.”

“Then they were to measure the footprint of our Father, who is the holy God. This was the beginning of saying the Count of the World by footsteps.  This was 12 Oc.

“This is the account of his birth.  For 13 Oc occurred, and they matched each other’s paces, and arrived there at the east.

“They said his (the Count of Days’) name, since the days had no name(s) then. (By “saying” the days’ names, the gods created them.) And he traveled on with his mother’s mother, his mother’s sister, and his father’s mother, and his sister-in-law.

The month was born, and the day name was born, and the sky born, and the earth, the pyramid of water and land, stone and tree.  Then were born the things of sea and land.”

What follows is an expansion of the preceding passage.

“On 1 Chuen (Monkey) he manifested himself in his divinity, and created [the] heaven[s] and [the] Earth.

“On 2 Eb (Peak) he made his first pyramid. He descended, coming from there in the heart of [the] heaven[s], there in the heart of the water[s]. For there was nothing of earth, or stone, or tree.” (Perhaps the Maya concieved of space as a cold clear lake, as did the Hurrians.)

“On 3 Ben he made all things, each and every thing: the things of [the] heaven[s], and the things of the sea, and the things of the land:

“On 4 Ix there occurred the separation of [the] heaven[s] from the Earth.

“On 5 Men occurred the working of everything.

“On 6 Cib occurred the making of the first light (candle): there occurred illumination, for there was no Sun or Moon.

“On 7 Caban there was born the Earth, which we did not have before.

“On 8 Etz’nab He planted His hands and feet, and made birds upon the Earth.

“On 9 Cauac Hell was first tasted.

“On 10 Ahau occurred the going of evil men to Hell, because the Holy God had not yet appeared.

“On 11 Imix occurred the shaping of stones and trees. That was done on this day.

“On 12 Ik (Wind) occurred the birth of breath.  This was the beginning of what is called breath, because there is no death in it.

“On 13 Akbahl occurred the taking of the water. Then He moistened earth, and shaped it and made man.”

This is the creation of the “clay” men of the first creation.   Oher Native American peoples have different numbers of creations and destructions, but the Maya had 2: the first, that of the clay men, seems to have been destroyed by the floods caused by rain from the soot of the Rio Cuarto impact; as was seen above, the second, that of the “wooden” men, was destroyed by the mega-tsunami of the 1150 BCE impact. God now plans the destruction of the “clay” men.

“On 1 Kan he was disturbed in his (at) heart, by the evil that had been created. (the clay men)

“On 2 Chicchan occurred the appearance of everything evil.run:   And He was it, even within the towns.

“On 3 Cimi (Death) He invented death. It happened that then was invented the first death, by Our Father who is God.

“On 4 Manik ... (Sadly, the text here is lost.)


“On 5 Lamat there was the invention of the Seven Floods of Rain, water, and sea.

“On 6 Muluc occurred the burial of all the caves. And this was before the awakening of the world. (In other words, the final creation.) This occurred by the commandment of Our Father, who is God.

“Everything that there was not (which had been destroyed), was then spoken in [the] heaven[s]. (In other words, everything is created again.) For there had been no stones and trees. (These are required by the Bacabs for the separation of the heavens from the Earth.)

And they went and tested each other (This probably refers to the astronomical quiz, the “Theodora”, posed to candidates for astronomer.), and then He spoke as follows: “Thirteen heaps and seven make one.”, He said for speech to emerge. (A count of 13 and then of 7 exhausts the 20 day names.)

“For they had no speech.  Its origin was requested by the First Lord Sun-Priest (Kin), for their organs of speech were not yet opened, so that they could speak to each other.

“They went there to the Heart of the Sky, and took each other by the hand. And then they (the Bacabs) stood there in the middle of the country, and (they) divided it up.

(This is the Bacabs’ partitioning ceremony described in the passages above.)

“And they (the Bacabs) divided the Burners, the four of them: 4 Chiccan the Burner, 4 Oc the Burner, 4 Men the Burner, and 4 Ahau the Burner. These are the Lords, the four of them.

(These “Burners” were officials who kept a fire cult which was tied to the Count of Days.)

(This is followed by a long passage untranslated from the hieroglyphic and a closing. Continuing with the last line.)

“The account of all the days, through which The Beginning is counted, was in the east, as has been told.”


Freely adapted From Schele, 1993, p 67

Schele interprets the wording of the following stela inscription, which dates from the mid- first millenium, as being an astronomical parable, where the three thrones represent the sky, the earth, and the sea; but a literal reading of the words as the response of the Lords of 3 different lands may originally have been meant and seems to work just as well.

“4 Ahaw, 8 Kumk’u, to say - to make appear;
Three stones were set, they planted;”
(Either the parts of creation, the sky, the earth, and the water; or a list of three peoples perhaps now follows.)

“One stone, the Jaguar Paddler (Chilam Balam) and Stingray through nose Paddler (Lord),
It happened at First-Five-Sky (Na-ho-chan) Jaguar (Lord’s) throne stone;”
(Na-ho-chan the Maya homeland?)

“He planted a stone, the West-First-Rainpriest,
It happened in the land, of the Serpent-Throne-Stone;”
(Some north-western people?)

“And then it happened a stone was set, Na Itzamhi,
Waterlily-throne-stone, it happened at Lying-Down-Sky;”
(The tsunami happened in the east, where the “sky laid down”. The “Waterlily-Throne-Stone” is probably a reference to the people widely known as the “Olmecs” (the Zoque).)

“(The) First stone place were completed 13 baktuns (?ago);
It was his action, Raised-up Sky Lord.”

13 baktuns is a year count, and translates into 5,200 years. This clause may refer to the raising of the first stone, a different time than the raising of the 3 stones; if Rio Cuarto dates to roughly 2360 BCE, then moving back 5,200 years brings you to 7,560 BCE; add in the years between the baktun start to 4 Ahua, 8 Kumk’u, and possibly you’re at 8,000 BCE or so, the time of the hypothesized Holocene-start impact event, and quite possibly the beginning of Native American astronomy.

If you’re attempting to reconcile the dates, remember that conquest period Tultul Xiu and Itza peoples used different counts, and it is likely that those counts differed from those of the “Classic” Maya.


It has long been known that Plato’s tale of Atlantis was a construction of his designed to instill moral lessons.  It has been widely known that Plato incorporated into this construction two remote historical memories, one a description of the Minoan confederation, and the other a memory of the invasion of the “Sea Peoples”.

The mystery has been why Plato set this tale in the Atlantic.

In his book Gateway To Atlantis, author Andrew Collins has carefully assembled a large amount of material documenting very firmly early contacts by peoples from Europe and the Mediterranean with those of the Western Hemisphere. So far so good, but then Collins goes on to set “Atlantis” in Cuba, and further argues that Plato’s tale actually refers to the Holocene-start event.

From the Mayan records of an impact produced mega-tsunami which occurred around 1150 BCE, we can assert that it is far more likely that the bit of ancient history which Plato incorporated into his moral fable was most likely is a dim memory of that impact event, rather than the Holocene start impact event.



“Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, first and last, behold, they [are] written in the book of Jehu the son of Hanani, who [is] mentioned in the book of the kings of Israel.

And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly.  And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Eziongeber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, “Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the LORD hath broken thy works.” And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish. ”

PSALM 48:4

“For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together.
They saw [it, and] so they marvelled;
They were troubled, [and] hasted away.
Fear took hold upon them there;
Pain, as of a woman in labor:
Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.”

It is important to note that while the ships of Tarshish were destroyed, enough people survived on land that Tarshish was able to re-build.


Well, there you have it: a worldview so absolutely different from our own that it has defied analysis for several hundred years by some of the best intellects available.  It appears to me that the fundamental reason for this failure is that modern Europeans had not experienced impact events for a considerable period of time, and certainly nothing so devastating as the impacts the Maya experienced twice.

One of the most interesting aspects of this difference between peoples is their view of the afterlife.  The Europeans retained but dim memories of the sky gods, and most peoples placed their afterlifes either in heaven, living comfortably with the sky gods, or in hell, consumed by the dimly remembered flames of a land impact. In contrast, the Maya had experienced a massive impact produced mega-tsunami, and they placed their afterworld under the sea, and described death as “going into the water”.

The differences are actually that great, and dealing with them has been exhausting. As for myself, this is simply as far as I am able to take this survey from hell for the indefinite future, a future in which I am looking forward to going into the water at some sandy beach. I plan to come back out of that water as well.


@copyright 2001 e.p. grondine

For further online reading about the peoples of this area, see:

With many thanks to Munro, as well as to Mukta Antz Chingon and her friends

“The ship at sea,
now old and without strength to navigate,
be it with two or three masts,
will list and turn over.”
The Priest Xupan Nauat

“The diviners of birds,
The diviners of stones, (tun)
The diviners of flat stones,
The diviners of jaguars, (balamob)
are weak spirits.

“Sixteen hundred years is the end of their lives,
And three hundred years follow.
And so their lives are ended:
Because they know the Count of Days among them.

“Returned is the month;
Returned is the year;
Returned is the day;
Returned is the night;
Returned is the wind,
And gone again.

“Returned is the blood also:
It has arrived,
And divined,
On the nobles mats,
And on the thrones.

“They have measured to learn the best hours;
They have measured to find the best day;
They have measured there to see the arrival of the best stars in ascendancy;
They have measured to observe the arrival in ascendancy of the best stars:
The best tun altogether.

“And so they form their opinions.” (Ca tun u takbes y al ob.)
Author unknown