The Terrace Complexes of the Chiapas Highlands

They are identical to the ones in North Georgia

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner

One Summer In Mexico – Part 36

Where have the years gone? It seems like last year, but it was eight years ago that a great mound of false information was being fed to the media by the so-called “Maya Myth-Busting In the Mountains” propaganda campaign . . . co-sponsored by the Chattahoochee National Forest Office of the US Forest Service, the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Society for Georgia Archaeology. No one was allowed to challenge their statements made in newspaper articles. The USFS Public Relations Office pressured the media in Georgia not even to mention the forthcoming premier of American Unearthed, which was filmed at archaeological sites in Georgia and Mexico. As a result, most Southerners were not even aware of the premier, until it was bought seven years later by the Travel Channel then heavily promoted. That program is now the most watched one hour program ever broadcast by History Channel H2.

Chattahoochee is the Anglicization of two Itza Maya words! Chata means either “ancient ruins” or a carved stone stela, depending on the accent mark. Hawche means “shallow river or creek” in both Itza Maya and Itsate Creek. Haw is the word for river in both languages. Itsate merely means “Itza People” and was the name of the largest Creek town where I live now.

Those of you, who have purchased the Native American Encyclopedia of Georgia are probably now astounded at how many geographical place names in Georgia are of derived from Mexican or South American indigenous words. No one ever bothered to look up these words in official dictionaries, but rather relied on folklore. As far as I can tell, I was the first person in the United States to look up the Georgia Creek word for a summer house, chiki, in a Mexican indigenous dictionary. The Choctaw, Chickasaw, Alabama, Muskogee and Itsate Creek word for a winter house, choko, is also an Itza word, meaning “warm.”

Native American Anthropology curricula in most universities in the United States has devolved into a requirement that students parrot whatever is dictated to them by professors. There are very few jobs (currently almost none) for anthropology graduates, so there is no incentive for the brightest students to go into that comatose profession. That is a primary reason for other professions such as land surveyors, architects, urban planners and civil engineers, who have viable means of financial support, to continue research into the Southeast’s ancient past.

I am currently finishing up a spectacular video on Michoacan. However, I thought it was important for The Americas Revealed readers to get a better understanding of what Mexican archaeological sites look like . . . in particular, the terrace complexes. Perhaps 99% of the occupation sites in Mexico are constructed of earthworks or stacked fieldstones. There is absolutely no difference between the earthworks of Mexico and the earthworks of the Lower Southeast . . . the same architectural forms. The stone veneered mounds of Georgia are very similar to the earliest stone-veneered mounds in Mesoamerica. The stone-walled agricultural terrace complexes in both regions are identical.

In the forested regions of Mexico, such as Michoacan, Chiapas, Guerrero and Vera Cruz, the agricultural terraces initially were created by stacked logs. After the logs decomposed, exposed fieldstones were stacked to maintain the terrace forms. I observed many agricultural terraces in Chiapas and southern Guatemala that had neither stone walls nor log walls. I strongly suspect that Georgia’s terrace complexes began with primarily log walls, also. There may be many other terrace sites in Georgia, which had no stone walls, and so now are barely visible.

Here are some slides of ancient and currently cultivated terrace complexes in Chiapas, Michoacan and Guatemala. These slides are exactly 50 years old, so some have faded or blurred. It seems that some photo labs in Mexico used better chemicals than others.

This terrace complex is virtually identical to the one at Track Rock Gap.
Acropolis of terrace complex in Chiapas.
Tonina, Chiapas
Momostenago, Chiapas
Earthen terraces in Michoacan
Near Palenque, Chiapas


  1. Howdy, Wide range of types/styles. Did you get any feeling of age as to each? Broken clouds so got out for a spell. New area, found a (LIZARD?)…my camera decided not to speak to my laptop (again)…photos are on the card…see what I can do.

    On Fri, Sep 4, 2020 at 8:45 AM The Americas Revealed wrote:

    > alekmountain posted: ” They are identical to the ones in North Georgia by > Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner One Summer In Mexico – Part > 36 Where have the years gone? It seems like last year, but it was eight > years ago that a great mound of false infor” >


    1. Most of the ancient terrace complexes are still in use because their soil is so fertile. My guess is that most of them began around 2400 years ago. Some may be much older. The only radiocarbon dating anywhere are three test pits at the top of Track Rock Gap, which came in at around 1018 AD. The ones in Mexico are much, much older.


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