Posted by: Johan Normark | July 26, 2009

Involutions of materiality

I have not produced many blog posts in July. The future frequency will be the same: 2-3 days between my posts. There is a simple reason: I have too much to do right now. I will resubmit two articles (one for Norwegian Archaeological Review and one for Journal of Anthropological Archaeology), write at least four more articles, two book prospectuses (and the books themselves), a new project application, etc. First of all, I have to edit an article that will be published in Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory (in 2010 I guess). It is called “Involutions of materiality: operationalizing a neo-materialist perspective through the causeways at Ichmul and Yo’okop”. This is the preliminary abstract:

The neo-materialist ontology outlined by the philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Manuel DeLanda has several implications for archaeology. This text primarily discusses their replacement of the general and the specific with universal and individual singularities which creates emergent properties. This is both a process of evolution and involution where materialities create multi-scalar assemblages. Causeway assemblages from two sites, Ichmul and Yo’okop in the northern Maya lowlands in southern Mexico, are used to operationalize this perspective. Rather than focusing on a human-centered perspective, the text sees the causeways as parts of technologies that can help us to reach an anorganic perspective where we can become-materiality.

Posted by: Johan Normark | July 24, 2009

2012: How to spot a prophet’s Maya hoax – pyramids

A popular topic in the 2012 circus, and in pseudoscience in general, is that of pyramids. They are everywhere and therefore they must have the same origin (Atlantis or outer space are the dominant places of origin). Pyramids were not just burial chambers for royalty, they were either time machines, stargates, cosmic ray shelters, representations of the Earth, etc. We are usually told that archaeologists are stupid who cannot see the obvious connection between the pyramids spread around the globe in various forms and from different periods. As you can imagine, these people have not much knowledge of archaeology and as an effect of this they have even less knowledge of the history of archaeology. Yes, once upon a time, some archaeologists had diffusionist ideas and saw connections between pyramids, but that was a century ago. 

What do the pyramids have to do with 2012? This is an indirect connection. Underlying the assumptions about connections between ancient pyramid builders is the idea that the Maya Long Count calendar began in 3113/3114 BC, and that this records a historical event. What that event was is debated (usually the date when Atlantis sunk). The date is often connected to the early dynasties in Egypt and the spread of global pyramid builders (never mind that it took pyramids a couple of centuries to emerge in Egypt and a millennia and a half in Mesoamerica).

Of the many websites on this topic I choose Robert Bast’s Survive 2012. Rob has also a couple of blogs and a forum on 2012. As one might expect he begins with the Egyptian pyramids. This is the only area where we do have true pyramids but these only emerged in the 4th dynasty. Bast (and others) primarily talks about the Khufu (Cheops) pyramid at Giza as evidence of whatever they want. They discuss these pyramids as if they were largely created out of nothing, a sudden appearance. The Khufu pyramid was the result of a preceding tradition, beginning with predynastic and early dynastic mastabas (flat-roofed rectangular structures with outward sloping sides), Djoser’s step pyramid and then the true pyramids that began with Sneferu (whom Bast mentions in the passing).

What this shows is that pyramids emerged through a local Egyptian “tradition”. Djoser’s architect Imhotep placed smaller square mastabas on top of larger ones below, creating the sixth leveled step pyramid at Saqqara. The last pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty, Huni, began to build a step pyramid at Meidum. It was transformed into a “true” pyramidal shape by his successor, Sneferu, the first pharaoh of the 4th dynasty. At Dahshur, Sneferu first built the Bent pyramid which is a transitional pyramid form believed to have been the result of an engineering crisis encountered during its construction. The Red Pyramid at Dahshur is the world’s first true smooth-sided pyramid. There is therefore an ongoing experimentation of forms for several decades. This is a pattern we find everywhere in the world, there is always a local development of “pyramids”. Had there been an external source for them they would all look the same and should have emerged at the same time, not spread out in the chronological charts.

The Egyptian pyramids are also not seen as royal tombs (or not just as royal tombs). On the presence of empty burial chambers Bast says:  “These rooms have contained sarcophagi, but never with a body still within, which has prompted alternative researchers to look for other, non-burial purposes for these structures. Some sarcophagi were even found closed and sealed, yet still empty!…No mummy has ever been found in a pyramid in Egypt. Mummies have always come from mastabas or tombs in the Valley of the Kings.” The reason is simple: all pyramids were looted centuries ago, just as most of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings (except for king Tut). Whatever was in the burial chambers has been melted down or sold a long time ago. This is also believed by some Eqyptologists to be the reason why later pharaohs were buried in less visible places (it did not help since many tombs from the New Kingdom were already looted 3000 years ago).

Most other “pyramids” in the world have stairways and temples on the top (such as in the Maya area) and therefore do not resemble the Egyptian pyramids at all. It is only a general shape that is similar (construction techniques varies tremendously, which they would not have had had they been of the same origin). Pyramids are quite simple buildings with a broad base and a less broad top (not that difficult to come up with at different parts of the world). In order to reach the top you need a stairway, and voilá, you have made yourself a pyramid, witz, ziqqurat, prang, etc. In most mythologies, “pyramids” are also associated with mountains (Maya, Aztec, Hindu, Buddhism), not that hard to imagine. Just like in Egypt, the earliest monumental buildings in the Maya area were platform like. These rose in height at later periods and not uniformly throughout the Maya area.

 

Baksei Chamkrong at Angkor and Temple I at Tikal

Baksei Chamkrong at Angkor and Temple I at Tikal

 

 Even more common and more ancient than pyramids are in fact rectangular buildings. Most buildings have a rectangular form (not triangular or circular). Why does not “pseudoscientists” attribute this ancient global pattern to some aliens? The fact is that people liked geometric patterns in the past and they continue to do so in the present. It is probably part of a common ancestral cognitive capability rather than a common origin from a sunken continent or Marsians.

Posted by: Johan Normark | July 23, 2009

Warfare modelling in Mayanist research

One of my interests in Maya archaeology is the issue of warfare. As mentioned in an earlier post, most Mayanists see warfare as part of the State’s machinery. Top to bottom (elite to commoner), and a macro to micro approaches dominates. It is likely that the royal symbolism made use of broadly held beliefs (Houston and Cummins 1998), but the monumental art, that often is used in warfare studies, creates a skewed picture of a plurality of human agents since our knowledge of “commoners” is scarce, despite attempts to emphasize their role (Lohse and Valdez 2004).

Warfare or other forms of competition is often seen as the prime reason for social and ideological change, because in macro-level models there tend to be an ideal structure that people follow. People are trapped in structures they share and cannot change. To be able to break it, something drastic must take place, preferably from the outside, since an ideology or a social formation seldom changes itself in drastic ways. More drastic than internal or external conflicts that escalates to warfare is hard to find. Mayanists have therefore focused on a macroperspective of ideology and warfare since they often emphasize the social whole rather than its assumed parts. For example, some earlier models on the origin of states (a macro-entity) in the Maya area singled out population pressure and warfare as crucial for the emergence of states. Ball (1977) and Webster (1977) assumed that the elite took control over land and other crucial resources and legitimized themselves through war. The rest of the population had to submit to an elite with military superiority.

Factional competition models that largely follow in a similar vein focuses on conflicts within classes and on alliances between classes. It is assumed that intra-elite competition limited exploitation and the ruling stratum needed to finance its lifestyle through war with neighbours (Brumfiel 1994:3-10; Clark and Blake 1994:17-21). Other models have combined factional competition with centralizing tendencies that is seen at some larger sites. These models emphasize a fluctuation between centralization and decentralization of political power, often as effects from tensions between kingship and kinship (Blanton, et al. 1996; Iannone 2002; Marcus 1993; McAnany 1995). Here the emphasis is more on how to resolve internal conflicts through ideology. Ideology in these models tend to focus less on cosmology.

Like many other proponents for ideological models, Demarest argues that no state-directed subsistence system was needed in the Lowlands. Control over labour would have been more important than control over territory since the state would have had little control over the local economy. The power which was based on ritual, marriage alliances, and warfare, would have gone through fluctuating phases. Demarest argues for a theatre state where rituals and ideology were used to gain and maintain power. Since the state was dependent on ideology, it was vulnerable to ecological crisis and military defeats from inter-elite status rivalry (Demarest 2000:289-291; 2004:109).

In reaction to earlier ideological models based on “foreign” analogies, Prudence Rice (2004) has revived and expanded ideas of Edmonson (1979) and Puleston (1979). Her model is based on direct historical analogy and by this she obviously assume that the “Maya culture” in the Southern Maya Lowlands was a difference of degree to the one in the north. She argues that the Classic period people in the Southern Maya Lowlands had the same calendar-based political organization that existed in the north during the Postclassic. This is the 13 k’atun cycle, also known as the may-cycle. The cycle was seated in a city that became the cycle seat (may k’u) for 256 years with an additional 128 years as the guest of another centre. Other towns in the city’s realm fought to seat one of the 13 k’atuns in the cycle, something that gave political powers for almost 20 years (Rice and Rice 2004:134). What has earlier been seen as “status-rivalry”, factional competition, or centralization of political power is, according to Rice, the effect of either ritual competition or warfare between sites in order to seat a k’atun. These k’atun seats held secular powers and was in control of tribute rights, land titles, and public office. Since these changed every 20 years, warfare would have been fairly continuous, at least in archaeological time (Demarest, et al. 2004:566).

It has almost become the mantra of this blog, but I need to point out once again that Mayanist model building too often relies on ethnographic analogies (either direct or general), a generalized culture-history, cultural evolution, and a rudimentary ideological concept (in terms of its psychological connection). This is because the macro-perspective dominates. Such perspectives offer fairly easy “package” solutions, a way to fit different aspects together that maybe should not be put together. It is assumed that warfare and the State are part of the same machinery. From a Deleuzian perspective this is not the case as indicated in my earlier post mentioned in the beginning.

Posted by: Johan Normark | July 20, 2009

Chicxulub – the geology of a multi-ring basin

An older post, Chicxulub – slayer of dinosaurs and slayer of Maya?, was the first of three posts on the importance of the Chicxulub fracture zone. This zone is crucial to my research on changes in cave use, settlement strategies, and climate in the Cochuah region which is located on the border of the greater Chicxulub fracture zone. The first post concerned the effects this Late Cretaceous impact had on the flora and fauna at that time. This second post concerns the geology of the area as it is today and probably during most of the human presence in the area. My final post will concern how the fracture zone has affected the settlement patterns in northern Yucatan from the Middle Formative to the present.

The northern Yucatan plain consists of karst development, composed of uplifted sections of Early and Late Tertiary platform carbonates. A stretch of Quaternary beach and lagoon deposits surround the coast. Sinkholes (cenotes) and caves are very common throughout the area. There are also two fault lines, the Ticul zone directly north of the Puuc hills and the Holbox fault in the east, associated with extensive wetlands. This was pretty much the general view of the geology of the region until the late 1970s when Pemex (the Mexican state-owned oil company) began to search for places to drill oil.

It was Penfield and Camargo who first proposed the existence of a large impact structure on the Yucatan peninsula. They based this on gravity and magnetic data. It was later linked to the K/T boundary mass extinction by Hildebrand and Boyton. The geometry of the impact structure has been mapped by drilling, radiometric and palaeomagnetic dating, and petrologic and geochemical studies. Geophysical studies like gravity and magnetic exploration, rock magnetism, magnetotellurics and heat flow studies have provided information on the shape and dimensions of the Chicxulub structure. Below is a gravity anomaly map of the Chicxulub impact structure. The coastline is shown as a white line. A series of concentric features reveals the location of the crater. White dots represent cenotes.

The overall structure of the Chicxulub multi-ring basin consists of at least four documented topographic rings. Radial positions of the topographic rings follow a square root of 2 spacing rule. The inner ring (the so-called Ring of Cenotes) has a diameter of 170 km, and within this area lie the central basin. The Ring of Cenotes is associated with the largest peripheral gravity-gradient feature in the figure above. A broad gravity low that defines the Chicxulub basin extends roughly 140 km from the center where the fourth broad ring is located. This fourth ring is a fairly discontinuous pattern of local gravity highs. Based on observations of large multi-ring basins on the moon, geologists suggest that the diameter of the Chicxulub multi-ring basin is between 260 and 340 km. The cenote in Sacalaca lies roughly 170 km from the center of the impact and marks more or less the edge of the cenote zone in the southwest.

The vertical structure of the Chicxulub basin differs within the impact crater and in the area outside the Ring of Cenotes. The rocks above the impact feature consist of layers of marl and limestone reaching roughly 1,100 m in depth. These rocks date back as far as the Paleocene. Below these layers lie more than 500 m of andesite glass and breccias and these are only located within the impact feature. Quantities of feldspar, augite, and shocked quartz, normally only found in impact-melt rocks, are present. Outside the Ring of Cenotes the thickness of the Tertiary carbonate rocks are 200-300 m.

Along the edge of the crater is the Ring of Cenotes, which has more than 200 cenotes, ranging between 50 and 500 m in width and 2 and 120 m in depth. There are 3 cenotes/sqkm in a 3 km wide band in the southwestern part of the Chicxulub structure. This decreases to a chain of single cenotes, 3 km apart in the southeast part of the structure. The Ring of Cenotes was formed by post-impact subsidence in the rim of the crater. The subsidence would have occurred during or after the late Tertiary. Seismic studies indicate that no major tectonic movement took place in the impacted area after a few million years. However, some form of tectonism has occurred after the impact since the Ticul fault formed in the Tertiary period.

The area that is of main interest to my research is beyond the Ring of Cenotes. Differential fracturing caused by the thickness of the Tertiary rocks may be another explanation for regional stresses. As mentioned above, the Tertiary strata that overlie the crater floor are three times thicker than the strata outside the rim. Thinner strata are more likely to fracture and the abrupt change in thickness near the Ring of Cenotes make the stresses concentrate in this region. However, stresses occur in a greater area, all the way down to the Cochuah region. The Holbox fracture zone is outside the postulated zone of ring faulting, but geologists do not rule out that the curvature of the Holbox fracture zone may be partly controlled by buried impact structures. If so, the Chicxulub fracture zone covers most of the northern Yucatan peninsula. It is strange that few archaeologists have investigated what this large feature do or did to the acquifer in Yucatan. More on this in the final post.

This is my preliminary abstract for the 2nd Nordic Network for Amerindian Studies conference “Getting Back to Matter”.

The neo-materialist ontology, outlined by the philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Manuel DeLanda, is one of fluidity, complexity, and multiplicity. Matter (artifacts, ruins, postholes, mountains, etc.) is seen as a fluid multiplicity, only changing according to different durations and intensities. These multiplicities, such as water, connect to other multiplicities, forming complex assemblages.

In Mayanist studies water predominates in issues regarding water management and its importance in various rituals. In this paper, water will be seen as a fluid that together with other materials form assemblages that affected people that once lived in the Cochuah region in southern Mexico. Water was used to form more solid (less fluid) materials such as buildings (sascab) and ceramics. Some of these material assemblages also became containers for water in the formation of assemblages of larger scales but shorter duration (ceramic bowls that contained liquid used in a short-term ritual event). Not only is water a fluid that needs to be controlled and sometimes solidified, but so are other components of the assemblages as well. The humans participating in construction, ceramic production, and ritual activities are also either highly fluid (“nomadic”) or solid (“sedentary”) in these processes.

In earlier posts I have been critical to Mayanist cave research since they often rely on an arborescent model where ethnographic analogies are used to explain archaeological remains. The use of such an “essential” Maya culture is very clear in most of the Mayanist cave research. There are, as always, exceptions. Some of the most interesting cave studies around are the ones done by Holley Moyes. In her most recent published article she develops ideas she put forward in an earlier article and this time the article has some co-authors.

Moyes studies the changes in cave use in western Belize and in particular Chechem Ha cave. These Late Classic changes are correlated with what she calls a “Maya drought cult”. This “cult” is ultimately connected to the “Maya collapse”. She largely follows the so-called “lost in faith theories”, meaning that people simply left the sites due to their lost in faith of the old royal ideology. However, no archaeological evidence that connects the loss of faith with the drop in agricultural production known from other studies has been documented before her study (p. 176).

Ceramics at Chechem Ha

In contrast to many other Maya cave specialists Moyes emphasizes how and when a cave was used instead of trying to interpret its cosmological meaning. Hence, she focuses on use-intensity. Rites of intensification occur when people attempts to tackle environmental crisis, epidemics, or war. Thus, climatic stress could produce increasing ritual use that either intensify existing rituals or introduces new rituals. Rituals are repetitive and are so in prescribed ways and therefore their material correlates will continue to be the same until the ritual changes. Ritual use-intensity is studied by focusing on a material signature correlated with an activity. There are direct signatures where materialities are part of the ritual itself and indirect signatures are associated with the ritual but not the actual ritual (p. 181-182).

She focuses on ceramics (direct signatures) and charcoal flecks (indirect signatures). The charcoal flecks are the remains from pine torches used to light up the tunnels. These produced a steady rain of charcoal flecks that are good indirect proxies since if there is no major change in the number of participants, the carrying of torches is not likely affected by changes in the material manifestations of the rite itself. These flecks are also in situ which ceramic vessels may not be, due to cleaning, reuse, scruffage and looting (p. 183). The charcoal flecks come from a passage in a chamber where people passed to access an inner chamber where ceramic vessels are found in greater density. It is argued that the ceramic vessels are offerings to the rain god Chak. In Maya art rain is often poured from a container. On page 30a of the Madrid Codex the rain deities Chak Chel and Chak pour water from jars and these deities are usually associated with caves (p. 179).

There is a discrepancy between the ceramic and charcoal proxies in the Chechem Ha cave. In the Early Formative/Middle Formative there are substantial amounts of charcoal but very little ceramics. This means that the cave was intensively used but it did not require the import of ceramics. There is low amount of both charcoal and ceramics in the Late Formative. Both proxies increase during the Early Classic. In the Late Classic, ceramic data suggest an increase in use where ceramic deposition became the major activity of the cave ritual (p. 188). 51% of the ceramics in dated to the Late Classic Spanish Lookout complex (AD 700-900). Charcoal flecks in the same area and period show little use-intensity. Chechem Ha was not used in the Postclassic period as is common in Belize. Just some Postclassic sherds are found at cave entrances, but not deep inside the cave (p. 184-187).

The major change in cave use therefore occurred in the Late Classic. During this time, people passed through the tunnel leaving no great charcoal density. This means that they did not linger in the tunnel like in the Early Classic. There is also a change in the ceramic assemblage. In the Early Classic there are few complete or partially intact vessels. In the Late Classic there are at least 51 complete vessels and many partially intact vessels. Most of these vessels contained visible residues, the vessels themselves were apparently the offering. Activity areas shifted from the floor of the tunnel to high ledges and remote areas. This change in ritual use occurred after AD 680. The sparse deposits of charcoal at this time suggest that a small group of people brought in the vessels. Other caves in western Belize show similar patterns (p. 189-197).

Since the ceramic vessels are associated with rain, climate change is a possible explanation for the change in cave use. The Macal Chasm lies only 15 km from Chechem Ha. It has provided the first speleothem climate data in the Maya area. These have fine-grained palaeoclimate records that can be correlated with archaeological data and they indicate local precipitation levels (p. 177). James Webster has analyzed a 92 cm long stalagmite from the Macal Chasm. It is 3,300 +/- 310 years old. The relative rainfall was determined by evaluating variations in petrography, stable isotopes, grayscale color, and luminescence. Dry periods occurred around 780, 910, 1074 and 1139. These are the driest conditions in the 3,300 year record. The dry conditions peaked at 754, 798, 871, 893-922, and each increased in severity. A ritual response to drier conditions may have begun around 700 when the rainfall declined or when the first period of dryness reached its peak around 780. Although Chechem Ha may have been used as late as 960, it is believed to have been closed around 850, at the same time as many surface sites were terminated (p. 198-200).

This is partially a challenge to my own research since I focus on how climate change is a too simplistic explanation for the changes in the northern lowlands. However, Moyes work in the southern lowlands with little Colonial history, a history that for several reasons has become important in the drought models. This post is already too long to develop these ideas, so I finish this topic in a later post.

Moyes, Holley, Jaime Awe, George A. Brook, and James W. Webster (2009). The ancient Maya drought cult: Late Classic cave use in Belize. Latin American Antiquity 20(1): 175-206.

Posted by: Johan Normark | July 14, 2009

International conference: Getting Back to Matter

Last year I joined the Nordic Network for Amerindian Studies and particpated in their first conference, held in Copenhagen. That conference focused on cosmology and my presentation focused quite a lot on more materialist perspectives of cosmology. I should perhaps have waited until this year since the theme now is “Getting Back to Matter.” I have to see what my contribution will be but I guess I make a new interpretation of the causeways or the caves in the Cochuah region. For those interested, and not part of this network already, here is some information:

The Nordic Network for Amerindian Studies convenes its 2009 international conference with the theme of Matter. Striving to ‘get back to matter,’ we want to explore new approaches to the ways in which humans are actively involved with material substances, be it through practices of production or appropriation of resources to satisfy needs ranging from nutrition to exploitation of cultural creativity for commercial purposes.

 Scholarly interest over the past few decades has been overwhelmingly focused on the mental realities of Amerindian cultures, symbolic interaction, principles of thought, representations, cosmologies, identities, or the emblematics of landscape and language. As the 21st century is taking shape, political trends in the Americas are changing toward democratization, public participation, and efforts to overcome poverty and marginalization of large sectors of the population, including Amerindian groups. In academia a renewed focus on the basic conditions of survival and engagement with the surroundings is emerging, reflecting at the same time global economic, environmental, and ethical concerns.

‘Getting back to Matter’ brings together anthropology and archaeology in an effort to explore the relations between human beings and the environments they inhabit and consider, on the level of practice, the employment of embodied skills of perception and action within the contexts of Amerindian development. The concerns with practice include reconsiderations of the ethical practices of anthropology and archaeology in their relations with Amerindian populations.

 

The following keynote speakers have accepted the invitation thus far: 

Tim Ingold, Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen.

Ingold’s work links the themes of environmental perception and skilled practice within a relational approach focusing on the growth of embodied skills of perception and action within social and environmental contexts of development.  

William R. Leonard, Professor and Chair of the Anthropology Department at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

His research foci include biological anthropology, adaptability, nutrition and energetics among contemporary and prehistoric indigenous agricultural groups in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.

 

The conference will take place at the University of Copenhagen, Humanities Campus.

The deadline for abstracts is September 1st 2009.

Complete papers should be submitted to the coordinator before  November 15th 2009.

 

For further information contact the Network coordinator

Hanne Veber, Ph.D., senior researcher

American Indian Languages and Cultures Section

Dept. of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies. ToRS

University of Copenhagen

Artillerivej 86, 0.13

DK-2300 Copenhagen S

Denmark

e-mail: hanne.veber@mail.dk

Posted by: Johan Normark | July 13, 2009

Among dragons and monitor lizards in Nusa Tenggara

I have not posted anything on my travels in a while. My blogging time has mainly been devoted to the bashing of the 2012 phenomenon. As a researcher I should perhaps not focus so much on this circus of nonsense. But I have to admit that it is fun to read completely wacky “theories” on aliens, crop circles, the pineal gland as a third eye, illuminati, Atlantis, Nibiru, Annunaki, numerology, unicorns, and dragons. This last “animal” is a suitable “bridge” to this post.

It was a rainy morning and I began to dream myself away to drier places. I came to think of my second trip to Indonesia in 2002. During this trip my wife and I travelled in an area called Nusa Tenggara, which basically consists of the islands east of Bali. We started the trip on the dry island of Sumba, then we went on a rough boat trip to Flores (more on these islands in future posts). On the west coast of Flores is the port of Labuan Bajo. Here one can take overnight boat trips to the islands of Komodo and Rinca where the Komodo dragon lives (most dragons actually live on Flores itself and some also inhabit the small islands of Gili Motang and Gili Dasami). These islands consist mainly of dry open grassland (savanna), but there is also some forested areas.

 

Rinca

Rinca

 

The Komodo dragon has several local names and one of them is buaya darat which means land crocodile. However, the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is the world’s largest monitor lizard. It is between 2 and 3 m long, and weighs roughly 70 kg (the largest known captive specimen weighed 166 kg). They are also the largest predators on the islands they inhabit and their enormous size is usually attributed to island gigantism. They mainly feed on smaller mammals, birds and other Komodo dragons. However, they also kill cattle and buffalos brought to the islands by humans. Since they have “poisonous” saliva they can kill much larger animals. If a buffalo is bitten by a dragon, it usually get away with severely infected wounds and the dragon(s) stalk the buffalo for days until it falls. The only mammal they do have trouble with is the pig. I could see small piglets walking very close to the lizards without any tragic incident. The reason is that pigs scream terribly loud and the dragon will soon be surrounded by a pack of angry pigs. However, the dragon’s strong tail can knock down pigs and deer. It uses its tongue to detect taste and smell and it can detect carcasses up to 9.5 km away.

 

Komodo dragon at the headquarter on Komodo island

Komodo dragon at the headquarter on Komodo island

 

At least five people have been killed by Komodo dragons since 1974 (the most recent one was earlier this year). The now famous “hobbit” of Flores (we passed through the area before it was discovered), must surely have encountered these animals on a daily basis since they once were far more widespread in the area. Fossils of giant monitor lizards have been found on Timor and the largest known fossil monitor lizard is Megalania, found in Australia. Unfortunately, the Komodo dragon is a vulnerable species. There are 4-5,000 specimens but only 350 breeding females.

 

Evening somewhere in-between Rinca and Komodo

Evening somewhere in-between Rinca and Komodo

 

I love reptiles and dislike stereotypical views of these animals. Please, do not say that the Komodo dragon looks prehistoric, that they are like dinosaurs. They do not look like dinosaurs at all (starlings look more like dinosaurs).

Posted by: Johan Normark | July 9, 2009

Ixk’abal Xook as a homunculus of her otoot

For the past six or seven years I have followed the “material agency” trail in archaeology, and I once coined my own approach polyagentive archaeology. The main sources of inspiration came from Bruno Latour, Alfred Gell and later it was (and to some extent still is) Gilles Deleuze and Manuel DeLanda. But all things must come to an end and my interest in these ideas is running out, and this is at a time when they are becoming mainstream. It is not that I will abandon these ideas but I will focus more on the “human” again in the future. So, maybe it is time to return to what originally drew my attention to these material agency ideas. It was Alfred Gell’s last book.

Objects, buildings, and natural phenomena in the Maya area are often attributed with animistic forces and anthropomorphism, both by researchers and by contemporary and past Maya groups. Anthropomorphism is when we impute human attributes to “inanimate” entities (Guthrie 1993). Animacy is not the same as biological life since Boyer (1996: 92) notes that an entity can possess “intentional psychology” without being alive. Social agency is therefore not defined from biological attributes, it is relational, and depended on a network of social relations (Gell 1998:122). For Gell, animacy is not a spiritual or religious concept, since “rational scientists” also attribute material objects with agency, such as when we beg our computer not to dysfunction.

But how do buildings become attributed with human characteristics and/or spiritual essence? Gell argues that there are two aspects of our attribution of “intentional psychology” to material objects. One is an “external or practical aspect”. Gell argues that we attribute a mind to others as we believe their behaviour to follow rules. If a human agent practically gets along with an object, like our computer, then it produces a meaningful behavior and can therefore be attributed with a mind and intention. Mind is therefore not only an inner experience; it is part of the public domain. This is an “externalist” agency attribution in which social individuals are the result of their temporally and spatially distributed relations with others. Our inner personhood is a replication of our external relations and vice versa (ibid:222). However, humans usually attribute the agency of others to a mental representation they have in their mind. This is the “internalist” agency attribution (ibid:126-127).

There are two ways in which material objects can become quasipersons. One is to stipulate the object as a social Other. The other way is to provide it with a homunculus or make it a homunculus of a larger entity. This relativises the contrast between external and internal attributes of agency. The “inner-person” attribution of agency reduplicates internally the relations that exist externally (ibid:133-136).

I will give an example of how I reasoned back in 2004, based on my reading of Gell. Structure 23 at Yaxchilán was called y-ool-tan-il tan ha’ Siyaj Chan which translates as “in the centre of the water Yaxchilán”. This structure was located in the architectural centre of Yaxchilán. The word ool has the meanings centre, heart, and soul and it is not necessarily only the physical centrality of the structure that was intended (Plank 2003:563). The structure’s name includes the moon glyph, and the owner was probably an impersonator of the Moon Goddess (ibid:121). This building was the otoot (“dwelling” or a building that belongs to one specific person) and burial place of Lady Ixk’abal Xook. It was one of at least three female associated structures at Yaxchilán which were labeled u-kab-ch’een (“his earth, his cave”), a metaphorical expression referring to an earthy or earthly realm. The buildings may be related to locations for death rituals and underworld entrances (McAnany and Plank 2001:106-119; Plank 2003:114-117). Since Ixk’abal Xook both lived and was buried in the building, it can be argued that it contained her agency even when she was not there or after her death (in the eyes of other human agents). Below an otoot can be seen (but this is Structure 33 since I could not find Structure 23 on the web).

A person standing outside Ixk’abal Xook’s otoot may have imagined her (without exactly seeing her) in the building, to be not only as the mind of her own body, but also as the mind of the building itself. Mind is thus seen as the interior person within the body, just as Ixk’abal Xook was the homunculi within the building. Ritually fed and ensouled buildings, such as Ixk’abal Xook’s otoot, did also possess iknal, a proximal area around an entity who possesses this iknal. Today, these corporeal fields are defined by generation and gender, encoding spatial and temporal constraints (Plank 2003:98).

Thus, Gell argues that the agent’s consciousness is not only found in an object or building, it has assumed the object’s or building’s form. The agent has been transformed into the materiality he or she has manufactured (or used). The agent’s consciousness exist outside of the human subject’s physical form, in a multitude of forms (Gell 1998:250). Whereas a human agent’s distributed production of materiality throughout his or her life is found in many forms, the single object or building itself is not only the location of one human agent’s agency. The single object/building contains the distributed agency of several agents, in a biography of materiality’s agencies.

I will expand on my old ideas in the future, and bring in more updated information from neurosciences. I am just getting tired of palaeoclimatic studies.

I have for some time thought about who would become the tenth prophet of nonsense. As I was looking at an online video by the UFO/conspiracy/illuminati prophet David Wilcock, his completely absurd ideas looked promising but at the very end of this video he mentions a Ukrainian prophet/mathematician called Sergey Smelyakov. Smelyakov’s ideas are somewhat absurd so I go for him now, Wilcock just have to wait. As it turns out Smelyakov have ideas not to dissimilar to Calleman’s and McKenna’s futile attempts to divide history into predefined periods, somehow related to the Maya Long Count calendar. I found this information on the website Souls of Distortion created by the Dutchman Jan Wicherink. I am not sure if all the information is Smelyakov’s own or if some of Wicherink’s own ideas are interwoven. In this presentation their ideas are conflated.

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Smelyakov has developed what is termed Auric Time Scale Theory and it is supposed to resonance to the 13 Baktun cycle. What he has done is to apply the golden section to the Long Count cycle, and thereby creating  periods, or boundaries that is supposed to correspond to important global historical events, demographic trends, astronomical events, natural cataclysms and spiritual developments as well as the introduction of calendar systems. The golden section is a line segment divided according to the golden ratio: the total length a + b is to the longer segment a as a is to the shorter segment b. This is an irrational mathematical constant of 1.6180339887. Wicherink says that “the bifurcation points of the Infinite Auric Time Scale (IAST) theory divide the total length of the Maya calendar into an infinite number of segments. Each successive segment is a Golden Mean (phi = 0.618) fraction shorter that its predecessor. If you add up all the segments from the start date of the Maya calendar you end up at 12:00 GMT on 21st December 2012.” No reflection seems to exist that the Calendar ends on GMT rather than on a time at a longitude associated with the Maya area. In addition there is apparently no reflection that the Maya calendar itself does not show any reliance on the golden mean, but such problems are of no concern to prophets/hoaxers.

Smelyakov begins in 3114 BC. The idea is then that we divide the length of the Long Count by the Golden Section to find the first order bifurcation point (BP) where great things happened. Since there are also other great events in history other than the 12 great ones, there are also bifurcation points of second, third, fourth and fifth order. Not even with these infinite fractal patterns can this nonsense be used to predict any event accurately.

BS 1 would have occurred in 1155 BC, and this is according to the hoaxers the beginning of the Iron Age. Reality is this: there were profound changes in the eastern Mediterranean area around 1200 BC, which roughly is the boundary between Bronze Age and Iron Age in this part of the world. This is not the case in Scandinavia and this is after all just an archaeological division of time and corresponds to no important single events whatsoever.

BP 2 happened in AD 55 and is believed to be the time of Christ and the beginning of Christianity. Call me ignorant but is not 55 even after Jesus is supposed to have died? Would not the birth of Christ or his crucifixion have been the bifurcation point here?  BP 3 occurred in 803 and refers to the long period of time known as the “Middle Ages”, why not choose the coronation of Charlemagne, it is at least a little more specific event than the Middle Ages, but even this would be off by a couple of years.  BP 4 took place in 1265 and relates to the “Late Middle Ages”. The most significant event this year seems to have been the brewing of the Budweiser Budvar beer in Bohemia. Alcohol and other drugs seem to have affected most of the hoaxers minds.  

BP 5 happened in 1550 and is supposed to relate to colonialism and imperialism. Nevermind that the European colonialism of the rest of the world began in the late 15th century. BP 6 is correlated with 1727 and the death of Isac Newton and the foundation of science. So Kepler, Galilei, and Copernicus did not do anything scientific? BP 7 occurred in 1836  and relates to the industrial revolution. As any history book will teach you, this had already been going on for a couple of decades. BP 8 occurred in 1903 and is apparently WWI according to these hoaxers. I believe we have to rewrite the history books then, since I was taught WWI lasted 1914-1918. BP 9 occurred in 1945 and is correlated with WWII. Hoorah, one correct date (correct year at least)!

BP 10 happened in 1971 and marks the beginning of space age. Well, by 1971 there had already been a couple of people on the moon, so before this they were apparently not in the space age. How did the astronauts get through space to walk on the moon beats me and where did Gagarin fly in 1957? BP 11 occurred in 1987 and is said to be the year of the Maya harmonic convergence. I have no freaking idea of what this means, it is some New Age mumbo jumbo I have missed, but it certainly has nothing to do with beliefs associated with the Classic period Long Count calendar. BP 12 took place in 1997 and relates to the New Age movement. Is it the beginning, an awakening, or what? As far as I know New Age have existed far longer than the past 12 years. BP 13 occurred in 2003 and is said to relate to the War on terror. Did not 9/11 occur in 2001 and if I have not lost my memory, I think George W mentioned the war on terror shortly after this date. BP 14 occurred in 2006 and relates to a nuclear cold war with Iran and North Korea. I have not heard about a “cold war” with these two countries, but I am not an expert on contemporary geopolitics.

Oh, and they have added two bifurcation points before the beginning of the Long Count as well and it is here where they are completely nuts. BP-1 happened in 6282 BC and is related to the “Second ruin of Atlantis” and a geomagnetic inversion. I do not know where these particular prophets locate Atlantis, but archaeologists have found few really monumental ruins that might correspond to this date (maybe it is Catal Hüyük?). Finally, BP-2 took place in 11407 BC  and of course relates to the end of the Ice Age, the biblical deluge, and yet another geomagnetic inversion.

As you can see this so-called theory does not fit any major events other than in very broad terms. This is why they have introduced lesser order bifurcation points as well to cover up the gaps in-between. Of course, if you continue to divide any number multiple of times you will eventually get it right. At least the hoaxers indirectly acknowledge that their “theory” is complete BS because they have added a disclaimer: “We do not suggest that the Auric Time Scale and its corresponding Auric Time Scale calculator is a perfect prophecy tool. No such tools exist. We only suggest, based on the theory of the Infinite Auric Time Scale, that the bifurcation points represent quantum probabilities of major worldly events taking place on or around the dates of the bifurcation points predicted by this theory.” No major worldly events (perhaps with the exception of 1945) have occurred on these supposed bifurcation points. Get real, read some history, Wikipedia will do just fine to get some basic facts.

It is apparently not just Carl Johan Calleman who connects the “end date of the Maya calendar” with Sweden. This already occurred during the Middle Ages, long before any people on this side of the Atlantic knew about the Maya and their calendar! Or perhaps they did? Maybe some of the old Vikings that sailed down to Mexico and gave rise to the Quetzalcoatl cult and built the pyramids brought back the knowledge to Sweden and it was a well kept secret for ages? On Facebook I received a link to a Youtube clip, put together by Prophecyfilm.com (although they seem to have borrowed quite a lot from a Japanese movie). Their primary hoax seems to focus on the prophecies and revelations of Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden (1303-1373).

 

I do not know anything about her prophecies and revelations but judging from the Youtube clip it appears that we all must become Christians in order to save our souls before planet Nibiru hits the Earth. So here we find a bizarre mixture of Sitchin’s made up planet (which he derives from his reading of Sumerian mythology), the Maya long count calendar and a Christian saint. It makes perfect sense does it not? I wonder how they fit all these things together within their Christian faith?

Btw, the website has more astonishing videos, such as Amazing Scientific Miracles of the Bible where we can learn that the Bible describes atoms (“…so that things which are seen are made of things that are unseen”, Hebrews 11:3) and informs us that the Earth is round (“It is he that sits upon the sphere of the earth”, Isaiah 40:22). Strong evidence indeed… Anyway, it is fun to watch, it gives you some laughs.

Posted by: Johan Normark | July 3, 2009

Chicxulub – slayer of dinosaurs and slayer of Maya?

You have probably heard the story before. A meteorite/asteroid impacted a shallow Late Cretaceous sea where the Yucatan peninsula lies today. It has been seen as the cause for the iridium-rich ejecta that covered much of the earth at the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) boundary. Mineral grains showing shock metamorphism have been found at Chicxulub. The K/T impact ejecta decreases in thickness further away from the impact crater and possible impact-generated tsunami wave deposits have been found in the Gulf of Mexico. Radiometric analyses of the Chicxulub impact melt and Haiti K/T tektites date this event to 65 million years ago.

In this scenario tsunamis followed the impact as did acid rain and the whole world was set on fire. Once these immediate effects had passed the whole world still lay in darkness due to particles blown up into the atmosphere during the impact and the ensuing forest fires. Not just dinosaurs, but a whole range of animals got extinct in the dark and cold aftermath of the impact. When plant eating animals died the carnivores soon followed. Through the remains of the Late Cretaceous flora and fauna the mammals could take over niches left once held by other animals. Mammals ruled the world from then onwards (despite the fact that there are far more bird [feathered dinosaur] species than mammals today).

Not all palaeontologists agree with this scenario. The tsunami has been questioned as has the forest fires and acid rain. The Chicxulub impact, according to some, predates the K/T boundary and its iridium layer by roughly 300,000 years. Gerta Keller suggests there was another impact responsible for the iridium layer, and one likely candidate would be the Shiva crater west of Mumbai.

However, the multi-impact model is just a variation of the first one, both rely on the assumption that sudden global catastrophes killed off the most specialized animals. Just to make one common misunderstanding clear: the dinosaurs did not go extinct because they were “primitive” and therefore predestined or doomed to failure. On the contrary, dinosaurs and mammals emerged more or less at the same time in the Triassic and it was not until after a possible global catastrophe that mammals had opportunities to diverge in greater intensity. it was because dinosaurs were well adapted and specialized to their niches that they could not survive possible disasters.

Still, there are signs that many animal groups were becoming fewer and fewer towards the Late Cretaceous before the impact(s). This has partly been blamed on gigantic volcanic eruptions (Deccan Traps) that created the Deccan plateau in India. However, the so-called Signor-Lipps effect has been used by the proponents of the impact theories to suggest that these earlier extinctions are not real, they only appear so because palaeontologists randomly excavate randomly preserved fossils. We simply have not found all fossils they argue. Proponents for the gradual extinction model suggest that all animals show this pattern, particularly among the marine ammonites for which there are much more fossils available.

It is a fascinating problem. Why is there no non-avian dinosaur in the early Tertiary? Our categorization of vertebrate animals into Classes down to species is only an invention of essentialist thinking of pre-Darwinian times (Linnaeus). In a temporal continuum there are no species, etc. Just because we decide to classify a very large group of animals as dinosaurs, because they share common ancestors and traits different from mammals (well, not if you go back to Perm), does not explain why this whole classified group disappeared since the variation was huge. Why did not some small, non-specialized non-avian dinosaurs, survive? Why did I not become a palaeontologist instead? It seems so much more interesting nowadays.

Whatever the answer to the extinction of dinosaurs is that is not the major issue in this short series of blog posts that deals with my current research. I shall focus on the Chicxulub impact crater itself and how this has affected the geology and human settlement in the northern Yucatan peninsula. As it turns out, the greater Chicxulub fracture zone may well have been a slayer of Colonial period Maya as well.

Posted by: Johan Normark | July 1, 2009

Dante and the multilayered model of the Mesoamerican cosmos

Readers of this blog may by now know that I am skeptical to the Mayanist, often uncritical, use of ethnographic analogies. This is the use of contemporary ethnographic studies in order to explain patterns in archaeological data. There are many flaws that you may encounter with this methodology. I have discussed them several times before, on this blog and in my article in Cambridge Archaeological Journal (2008). Recently I have read an interesting article in Antiquity (2009:399-413) that elaborates upon this problem. It is called “Dante’s heritage: questioning the multi-layered model of the Mesoamerican universe”. It is written by the Danish Mesoamericanists Jesper Nielsen and Toke Sellner Reunert (Jesper was my opponent when I defended my Licentiate thesis five years ago). The article shows the importance of investigating and tracing social and religious changes in time and space.

 

They argue that the common assumption that people in Mesoamerica believed in a cosmos with several vertical layers (that is, several layers in the heavens and in the Underworld). This is a model very similar to Dante’s Divine Comedy, and it is therefore based on Christian beliefs, a post-conquest European-Aztec hybrid. They find no evidence of this model of 13 layers in the heaven and 9 layers of the Underworld in Prehispanic hieroglyphic or iconographic records. There they do find only three levels (Underworld, Earth and Heaven/Sky) but each level was horizontal rather than consisting of stacked layers.

In fact, the K’iche’ creation myth Popol Wuj (Popol Vuh), written down in the mid 16th century, describes the underworld (Xib’alb’a) as consisting of caverns/houses on the same level.  The contemporaneous Aztec Codex Vaticanus A places the underworld regions on top of each others, but this is apparently a postconquest creation. Nielsen and Reunert argue that it was the Mayanist Eric Thompson who proposed the multilayered view where horizontal directional gods were transformed into vertical layers. In 1970 Thompson wrote that “there are thirteen layers of the skies […] just as there are nine layers of the underworld.” (p. 401). This model has been used to interpret Mesoamerican architecture, landscapes, etc. Even though supernatural beings and places sometimes are associated with numerals like 9 and 13, they are mainly associated with these numbers and not horizontal layers of the cosmos.

Dante’s model of the heaven ultimately goes back to Aristotle’s nine heavenly spheres. However, he had seven or nine levels on earth and nine in the heavens (not thirteen). The Franciscan friars in Mexico were well acquainted with Dante’s multi-layered cosmology and this world view became the basis for their description of local accounts. Nielsen and Reunert suggest that “such images are a result of the appropriation of Euro-Christian ideas by well-educated Nahuas [Aztecs]” (p. 407). The creation couple was also placed in the heavens according to Christian beliefs, whereas this couple actually resided in a cave in Prehispanic thought. The authors conclude that “a basic three-tiered model combined with a strong emphasis on the horizontal divisions of each layer is more likely to have been the dominant scheme before the Spanish invasion and the introduction of Euro-Christian ideas relating to the cosmos” (p. 411).

Let this article be a lesson to both researchers and New Age prophets. I cannot but imagine what prophets like Carl Johan Calleman have to say when not even the basics of his made up nonsense is based on preconquest ideas. However, the prophets of nonsense are the least of our problems, more problematic is the continued use of ethnographic analogies in Maya studies. This is not just a problem for those who tries to understand what ancient people believed but also for those who use ethnographic and/or ethnohistoric data to explain climate changes, like Richardson Gill has done. The mixture of “European” and “Maya” created something new in religious views, social organization, political organization, economy, etc. If we do not get this right we will have flawed models, ranging from cosmology to climate.

Posted by: Johan Normark | June 29, 2009

Mesoamericanist quote of the day: on knowledge before language

“We can to some degree participate in some of the non-verbal knowledge of this kind that was held by the ancient people we study. Indeed, precisely because such knowledge is acquired non-verbally, we may…be at lesser disadvantage than we are in trying to infer discursive knowledge in the absence of texts.” (Cowgill 2004:276-277)

I have recently been reading some of the chapters I decided not to read in DeMarrais, Renfrew and Gosden’s edited volume “Rethinking Materiality: The Engagement of Mind with the Material World”  from 2004. One of these is the final chapter by George L. Cowgill. I admit that my own prejudice against generalizing Mesoamericanists/Mayanists was the reason why I did not read this chapter before. However, it turned out to coincide with ideas not dissimilar to my own. It is always positive when one have to rethink one’s own prejudices.

The great strength of archaeology, compared to other social sciences, is that it mainly deals with a material record. Many archaeologists see this as problematic; how can we know what people thought? Most Mesoamericanists rely on ethnographic data to fill in the blanks and since the blanks are many we tend to get a quite flawed picture of the past. Of course, epigraphic and iconographic data has given us important information, but there were so much going on in the past that were not discursive. I do therefore have a more optimistic view of archaeology. The lack of texts and linguistic data is not at all bad. The Swedish/Gothenburg anthropologist Göran Aijmer argues that this is where archaeology can make its greatest contribution. We can say very little of what people thought “consciously” in the past, but we can say much more of their non-linguistic knowledge, what he calls the iconic order. Aijmer relies on Wittgensteinian ideas and talk about an ontology of ontologies, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, we could rather use a flat ontology that is not based in social constructionism. A neo-materialist and neo-realist ontology is therefore one way for archaeology. If you look for that in archaeology you have come to the right blog.

Cowgill, G. L. (2004). Thoughts about rethinking materiality. In DeMarrais, E., C. Gosden och C. Renfrew (red). 2004. Rethinking Materiality: The Engagement of Mind with the Material World. 273-280. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research: Oxford.

Posted by: Johan Normark | June 27, 2009

Mormon reasoning and how to create a hen out of a feather

The Swedish idiomatic expression “att göra en höna av en fjäder” translates as “to create/make a hen out of a feather”. It basically means to make up facts about something we know very little of, to blow things out of proportions. This pertains to the multitude of side effects in creationist thinking. One of them is the Book of Mormon. According to Wikipedia this “is a sacred text of the churches of the Latter Day Saint [LDS] movement. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr. as The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. According to Smith, the book was originally written in otherwise unknown characters referred to as “reformed Egyptian” on golden plates that he discovered in 1823 and then translated. The plates, Smith said, had been buried in a hill near his home in Manchester, New York, where he found them by the guidance of an angel, a resurrected ancient American prophet-historian named Moroni. The Book of Mormon is the earliest of the defining publications of the Latter Day Saint movement. The churches of the movement typically regard the Book of Mormon not only as scripture, but as a historical record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas, written by American prophets from perhaps as early as 2500 B.C. to about 400 A.D.”

The book states that America was colonized by Middle Eastern people, some known from the Bible. These transatlantic  migrations also occurred on several occasions. But there is no genetic, linguistic or archaeological evidence for this nonsense. You have to be blind if you cannot see the physical similarities between Amerindians and East Asian people. There are few Middle Eastern looking people among the Maya and even DNA studies would not be necessary to detect this difference. There is not much similarity between Semitic languages and Maya languages but the creationists can always come up with counterarguments and say that the lost tribes of Israel was not the only ancestors to the current Amerindians.

The LDS movement has sponsored archaeological investigations in the Maya area (which I must admit have been of importance, but that is because the investigations have been done by non-LDS members). Here again I quote Wikipedia (I am a bit lazy right now): “In 1955 Thomas Ferguson, an LDS member and founder of the New World Archaeological Foundation, with five years of funding from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, began to dig throughout Mesoamerica for evidence of the veracity of the Book of Mormon claims. In a 1961 newsletter Ferguson predicted that although nothing had been found, the Book of Mormon cities would be found within 10 years.” However, 15 years later he stated that we cannot “set the Book-of-Mormon geography down anywhere — because it is fictional and will never meet the requirements of the dirt-archeology. I should say — what is in the ground will never conform to what is in the book.”

This was over 30 years ago but there are still people trying to find archaeological evidence that support this fictional book. I’ll bet we have more archaeological evidence for the Lord of the Rings books than The Book of Mormon. Today I found a website called Lehi’s Library. It is here where the Swedish expression comes in. I quote again: “I recently watched The History Channel’s special “The Maya: Death Empire” in which Dr. Stephen Houston of Brown University was quoted very extensively throughout. One notable quote is found near the very end of the program: “Maya archaeology is just beginning. There are innumerable cities, innumerable temples, innumerable settlements that we have not been able to study and excavate.” INNUMERABLE CITIES, TEMPLES AND SETTLEMENTS!!! How can anti-mormons so confidently claim that the deadline for discovering proof for the Book of Mormon has passed?”

This is indeed a hen made out of a feather. What this blogger tries to say is that just because we have not investigated all archaeological sites this is an indirect proof that The Book of Mormon is true! The blogger has interpreted too much from Houston’s statement, blown it out of proportions. We will never be able to investigate all sites in the Maya area or elsewhere. Even if we could we would not be able to investigate all buildings within the site, etc. There will always be the possibility for a Mormon archaeologist to squeeze in an ancient Middle-Easterner in an unexcavated mound. Despite how much evidence archaeologists or other scientists can show that either these ancient migrations occurred or that no God created the Universe, creationists will always look for gaps in our knowledge. These gaps will always be there and that is what drives research, to gain new knowledge. Creationists try to destroy knowledge by attempting to fill the gaps with nonsense.

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