by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
While doing research on the evolution of the Nikwasi Mound in Franklin, NC, I reviewed architectural and archaeological reports on the earthen mounds of Tamaulipas State, Mexico. Their original appearance and construction details are better preserved because of the hotter, dryer climate of that region.
Several of the Mexican professional articles included some Huastec words. I immediately recognized several of these words as meaning the same in Chickasaw. A random comparison of nouns, adjectives and verbs in the Huastec, Choctaw and Chickasaw languages revealed that many meant the same and were pronounced the same or similarly.
David Kaufman, a candidate for a doctorate in anthropology & linguistics at the University of Kansas, gave a lecture on November 2, 2012 where he described shared or similar words in the Choctaw language to Maya and Totonac. He did not compare Choctaw to Huastec . . . which is actually much more similar. He also found some shared or similar words in the Chitimacha and “Creek” languages. His dissertation was entitled: “Possible Language Evidence of Gulf Maritime Trade Between Mesoamerica and Eastern North America. (A preliminary study.)“ Mr. Kaufman also created a web site for his linguistic studies.
Introduction to the Huastec People
The proto-Huastecan language was the first to split from Mayan proper. The second split, in the non-Huastecan main branch, was between proto-Yucatecan, now spoken across the Yucatan Peninsula, and the ancestor of all other Maya languages. Linguists have approximated that the precursor to the language of the Huastecs diverged from the Proto-Mayan language between 2200 and 1200 BCE.
The Huasteca region of Mexico extends from the easternmost limestone ranges of the Sierra Madre Oriental, across the coastal plain and the Otontepec hills to the Gulf of Mexico, in northern Veracruz state, eastern San Luis Potosí state, and southern Tamaulipas. The region is typified by earthen pyramids rather than stone veneered pyramids, which were common in other areas of Mexico other than Tabasco.
The ancient Huastec civilization is considered a distinct culture in ancient Mesoamerica. Radiocarbon dating suggests that an advanced civilization emerged around the 10th century BC. Their most advanced period of civilization is usually considered to be the Postclassic era between the fall of Teotihuacan and the rise of the Aztec Empire. The Pre-Columbian Huastecs constructed temples on stepped earthen pyramids, carved independently standing sculptures, and produced elaborately painted pottery. They were admired for their abilities as musicians by other Mesoamerican peoples.