Fox News Latino (FNL) reports on a pseudoscientific expedition led by the German Atlantis fanatic Joachim Rittstieg. This expedition predestined to fail is sponsored by the German sensational newspaper Bild. The goal of the expedition is to discover an eight ton gold treasure lost in Lake Izabal in Guatemala. FNL says that Rittsteig is an “expert in Mayan writing”. This is a self-proclaimed status, pretty much like Calleman’s so-called expertise in the Maya calendar. Rittstieg claims to have cracked the Dresden Codex (never mind all those professional Mayanists who did it long before him). The Dresden Codex supposedly includes information that no professional Mayanist have detected. Rittstieg says that “the Dresden Codex leads to a giant treasure of eight tons of pure gold”. He has spent 40 years studying the Codex (distorting it is probably a more accurate description) and he claims that “page 52 talks about the Maya capital of Atlan [located in Lake Izabal], which was ruined by an earthquake on October 30th in the year 666 BC. In this city, they kept 2,156 gold tablets on which the Maya recorded their laws.” The stone tablets themselves were kept in a stone chest and sank into Lake Izabal during an earthquake on September 14, 1224 (which also coincided with a solar eclipse).
The dates given above are perhaps readings from the Dresden Codex following the GMT correlation (and check out my earlier coverage of Gerardo Aldana’s paper on the correlation issue). What the dates record is, however, completely made up. There was no Maya capital of Atlan and this is a made up word in itself. It derives from Aztlan, the mythical ancestral place of the Nahua (not the Maya). The Aztecs were people from Aztlan. Why does Rittstieg make use of a made up name? It is because he wants to make a connection to Atlantis (these kinds of shallow connections between similarities in words across time and space is believed to reveal ancient cultural connections). For instance, he cites the Nahua word atl (water) as being connected to Atlantis and Atlan.
Neither did the Maya record their laws on gold tablets. We lack any documents similar to Hammurabi’s laws in Mesoamerica. They simply did not record that kind of information (and they most likely never had such codified laws). Gold is also very rare in the Maya lowlands, had Rittstieg claimed that the laws were inscribed on jade tablets he would have been slightly more accurate.
In the FNL article Rittstieg is described as a professor emeritus at Dresden University and the author of various publications on the Maya. Wikipedia claims that he is a retired secondary school teacher (would it have been too hard for the FNL to look this up?). Anyway on Wikipedia we can read more about Rittstieg’s crackpot ideas. He claims that Zuyua Than (a language mentioned in the Books of Chilam Balam) is similar to his native Low German dialect. This implies transatlantic connections and he also suggests that there was a 470 year long contact between Vikings and Mesoamericans who “killed the Vikings after blaming them for the destruction of the Toltec capital Tollan”. As you all know, Tula replaced Atlan (and this makes me wonder how Teotihuacan, El Mirador, Calakmul, Tikal, Monte Alban, etc. fit into Rittsteig fantasy world?). The Viking period is traditionally set to 793-1066 (from the attack on the abbey at Lindisfarne to the battle at Stamford Bridge). Such exact dates are only defined by later historians but they give us a length of the Viking Age to roughly 270 years (200 years shorter than the contact period between Vikings and Mesoamericans according to Rittstieg).
As is quite common among these fringe theorists they claim to have received knowledge from natives as if the “natives” always know about ancient history. I am from Sweden but that does not make me an expert in Swedish history but the trick of relating to the exotic natives seems to justify Rittsteig’s claims (particularly since he must write that they were MAYA priests in capital letters). We are expected to be impressed I guess. Rittstieg also sees himself as a savior in a way: “They thought I were Kukulcan’s messenger and had to control their way of life, only because I could jump a breakneck leap, some other athletic exercises and because I knew some special things about the planet Venus.” Ethnocentric nonsense from beginning to end.