by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner
One Summer in Mexico – Part 51
The understanding of the cultural relationship between the Creek Indians of the Southeastern United States and the indigenous civilizations of southern Mexico has changed radically since I embarked to Mexico on the first Barrett Fellowship from Georgia Tech in June 1970.
Our story begins in 1969, when the famous archaeologist, Arthur Kelly, announces the discovery of apparent Mesoamerican artifacts on Georgia’s Chattahoochee River. His regional peers in archaeology are outraged and railroad him out of the University of Georgia. Soon thereafter, I am awarded the first Barrett Scholarship to study Mesoamerican architecture in Mexico. My faculty advisor at Georgia Tech, who is also a friend of Dr. Kelly and President of the Atlanta Archaeological Society, suggests that my research question be, “Are there similarities between the indigenous architecture of Georgia and some area of Mexico.”
Because so little is really known about the Olmec Civilization and the early history of the Creeks, I do find a region, Tabasco, where there are many mounds, but cannot go much further than that. Most of the answers to the mystery would not come until the 21st century.
A key element of that unraveling of a complex past in the Americas was the research in the 1990s and early 2000s by Floridian Douglas T. Peck. He proved that the Chontal Mayas of the State of Tabasco were skilled mariners, who constructed wood-plank boats, capable of carrying large quantities of cargo and traveling long distances across the open ocean. The larger boats had sails and rudders and were similar to Viking Longboats in size. He discovered descriptions of regular trips between Yucatan, Tabasco and Veracruz to Florida and the Gulf Coast of the United States.
Peck’s discoveries were accepted and published by Florida archaeologists in their journals, but never republished in national archaeological media. Thus, today it is a similar situation to the discovery by the University of Minnesota scientists in 2012 that Georgia attapulgite was used to make Maya Blue stucco in the Maya regional capital of Palenque in Chiapas. The guardians of that profession hope that by concealing recent scientific research, they may hold on to a very faulty orthodoxy!