Mythos 80 – Lost Western Civilizations

 

The Mississippi Mound Builder Civilization in Circa 1100 AD

Artists Impression of Mississippi Mound Builder Civilization in Circa 900 Years Ago

While most of the written history of the western hemisphere was destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors, archaeologists have reconstructed some pre-history of the American continents. The two oldest known civilizations in the western hemisphere are what archaeologists have dubbed the Mound Builder civilization of the Mississippi River, and the Norte Chico civilization of the Peruvian coast. These civilizations also appear to have started rapidly changing at the same time as ancient Egypt and Sumer circa 5,400 to 5,100 years ago. The oldest known evidence of civilization in the Mississippi region was found in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, radiocarbon dated to around 6,500 years ago.(1)Archaeo News (2003) “Important new findings in Louisiana” The oldest known remains of civilization in Peru was found in the Pativilca and Fortaleza regions, radiocarbon dated to circa 11,200 years ago.(2)Jonathan Haas, et al. (2004) “Dating the Late Archaic occupation of the Norte Chico region in Peru,” Nature, Volume 432, Number 7020, Pages 1020–1023

Ruins of Caral, Norte Chico Civilization Circa 4,500 Years Ago

Ruins of Caral, Norte Chico Civilization Circa 4,500 Years Ago

The Mississippi Mound Builder civilization began a phase of rapid development circa 5,500 years ago, producing at least one mount city in Louisiana, composed of 11 mounds from 1 to 8 meters (3 to 25 feet) tall, connected by ridges to form an oval nearly 270 meters (900 feet) across.(3)Joe W. Saunders in Mark A. Rees and Ian W. Brown editors (2010) Archaeology of Louisiana, Pages 69-76 Mound building continued for around 500 years, until approximately 4,800 years ago.(4)Joe W. Saunders in Mark A. Rees and Ian W. Brown editors (2010) Archaeology of Louisiana, Pages 73-74 The cause for the decline of Mound Building is unknown, however changes in river patterns or other environmental factors are generally considered likely causes. The formative period of the Peruvian Norte Chico civilization is dated to have been between 5,500 and 5,200 years ago.(5)Charles C. Mann (2006) 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Pages 199–212 Therefore both of these civilizations would have been around at the time of Krishna’s Dvārakā, the unification of Egypt, and the colonization of Sumer by the people of Dilmun. The Norte Chico civilization also appears to have been present during the time of Rama and the Yan Emperors.

Ruins of Monte Albán, From the Olmec Civilization Circa 2,500 Years Ago

Ruins of Monte Albán, From the Olmec Civilization Circa 2,500 Years Ago

Like the Mississippians to the north, the Norte Chico civilization built mound platforms and terraced pyramids, however, unlike the Mississippians, the Norte Chicians used rocks, and therefore many of their platforms and pyramids remain to this day. While the ancient platforms and terraced pyramids have been heavily eroded in the past few millennia, what remains is impressive with some terraced platforms being up to 100,000 m³ (3,500,000 cubit feet) in volume.(6)Jonathan Haas, et al. (2004) “Dating the Late Archaic occupation of the Norte Chico region in Peru,” Nature Volume 432, Number 7020, Pages 1020–1023 While this figure is dwarfed by the volume of the Egyptian Pyramids, where the Pyramid of Khufu alone accounts for 2,500,000 m³ (88,000,000 cubic feet) of quarried rock,(7)Janey Levy (2005) The Great Pyramid of Giza: Measuring Length, Area, Volume, and Angles, Page 17 it nevertheless indicates a region of high population density in South America approximately 5,000 years ago, possibly the highest population density on the planet.(8)Jonathan Haas, et al. (2005) “Power and the Emergence of Complex Polities in the Peruvian Preceramic,” Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, Volume 14, Number 1, Pages 37–52

The Overgrown Ruins of Calakmul, Mayan Civilization Circa 1,300 Years Ago

The Overgrown Ruins of Calakmul, Mayan Civilization Circa 1,300 Years Ago

Located geographically between the Mississippian Mound Builder and Norte Chico civilizations was Mesoamerica, a region of tropical jungles, covering ancient cities, most of which have never been excavated. The oldest documented major civilization in the region was the Olmec civilization, of which the oldest clearly Olmec sites date from around 3,500 years ago.(9)Richard A Diehl (2004) The Olmecs – America’s First Civilization, Pages 25-27 The roots of the Olmec civilization have been found in the earlier farming cultures of Tabasco, which date from approximately 5,100 years ago. These Tabasco farming cultures shared the same basic food crops and technologies of the later Olmec civilization,(10)Richard A Diehl (2004) The Olmecs – America’s First Civilization, Pages 23-24 indicating that the Olmec civilization was likely just the pinnacle of the Tabasco civilization. The Olmec culture endured for around 2,000 years, and its influence is seen in neighboring cultures throughout southern Mexico and Guatemala.(11)Richard A Diehl (2004) The Olmecs – America’s First Civilization, Pages 54

Human and Non-Human Figures Discovered at the Mayan Ruins of Jaina Island From Circa 1,500 Years Ago

Human and Non-Human Figures Discovered in Mayan Ruins From Circa 1,500 Years Ago

While the language of the Olmec and earlier Tabasco cultures remains unknown, ethnologists have proposed that they were likely the ancestors of the Mixe–Zoque(12)Lyle Campbell and Terrence Kaufman (1976) “A Linguistic Look at the Olmec,” American Antiquity, Volume 41, Number 1, Pages 80–89 peoples. The Mixe-Zoque language group is currently spoken in the heartland of the ancient Olmec civilization, and many other Mesoamerican languages use Mixe-Zoque loanwords, showing that the language was once widely used regional trade language, indicating a high level of civilization at the time. The divergence of the Mixe and Zoque languages is believed to have started during the time of the Olmec civilization,(13)Søren Wichmann, et al. (2008) “Posibles correlaciones lingüísticas y arqueológicas involucrando a los olmecas,” Proceedings of the Mesa Redonda Olmeca: Balance y Perspectivas, Museo Nacional de Antropología indicating a very high likelihood of the Olmec and earlier Tabasco being Mixe-Zoque speakers. This Mixe-Zoque language group was very influential in its time, not just leaving loanwords in Mesoamerican languages, but also in the Penutian language group, which runs up the Pacific coast of North America from California to British Columbia.

Non-Human Figure Discovered at the Mayan Ruins of Jaina Island From Circa 1,500 Years Ago

Non-Human Figure Discovered in Mayan Ruins From Circa 1,500 Years Ago

Regardless of the language they spoke, the Olmec left a major imprint on the heartland of Central America. They are the first known American civilization to have used a form of writing, dating back to at least 2,900 years ago.(14)John Noble Wilford (September 15, 2006) “Writing May Be Oldest in Western Hemisphere,” New York Times One of the oldest examples is the Cascajal block, a stone slab with Mayan-like symbols on it dating to between 3,100 and 2,900 years ago.(15)Mary Pohl, et al. (2002) “Olmec Origins of Mesoamerican Writing,” Science, Volume 298, Number 5600, Pages 1984–1987 It is also believed by some archaeologists that the Mesoamerican calendar, more commonly called the Mayan Calendar was invented by the Olmec, as three of the calendars were found in the Olmec homeland, while none were found in the Mayan homeland.(16)Richard Diehl (2004) The Olmecs: America’s First Civilization. Ancient peoples and places series. Page 186 This long-count calendar was claimed in Mayan beliefs to date the beginning of the world of man to 0.0.0.0.0, or around 5,100 years ago (August 11, 3,114 BC). In Mayan mythology, Raised-up-Sky-Lord led the gods in setting three stones in place, and thereby centering the cosmos, which had previously been chaotic.(17)David Freidel, et al. (1993) Maya Cosmos: Three thousand years on the shaman’s path, Path 59-75 This was not the beginning of the universe though, but directly after the year 13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.0.0.0.0,(18)Linda Schele and David Freidel (1990) A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya which Mayan scholars have calculated as being approximately 41,341,050,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years since the beginning of the universe in Mayan beliefs.(19)Dan Falk (2009) In Search of Time, Page 82

Human Figures on a Machine, Discovered in Mayan Ruins From Circa 1,500 Years Ago

Set-like Figure on Flute, Discovered in Mayan Ruins From Circa 1,500 Years Ago

In the ancient Mesoamerican calendar 0.0.0.0.0 was the beginning of the world of man; everything before had been the world of the gods. 0.0.0.0.0 was the beginning of the Mesoamerican long count calendar, corresponding to approximately 5,100 years ago, roughly the beginning of the archaeologically attested Tabasco cultures that later evolved into the Olmec culture. Olmec era carvings show they used a writing system similar to later Mayans, who would have clearly been influenced by them. The long-count calendar was no longer in use in Central America by the time the Spaniards invaded the Yucatán; instead a short-count calendar was in use by the Maya and neighboring tribes.

References   [ + ]

1. Archaeo News (2003) “Important new findings in Louisiana”
2. Jonathan Haas, et al. (2004) “Dating the Late Archaic occupation of the Norte Chico region in Peru,” Nature, Volume 432, Number 7020, Pages 1020–1023
3. Joe W. Saunders in Mark A. Rees and Ian W. Brown editors (2010) Archaeology of Louisiana, Pages 69-76
4. Joe W. Saunders in Mark A. Rees and Ian W. Brown editors (2010) Archaeology of Louisiana, Pages 73-74
5. Charles C. Mann (2006) 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Pages 199–212
6. Jonathan Haas, et al. (2004) “Dating the Late Archaic occupation of the Norte Chico region in Peru,” Nature Volume 432, Number 7020, Pages 1020–1023
7. Janey Levy (2005) The Great Pyramid of Giza: Measuring Length, Area, Volume, and Angles, Page 17
8. Jonathan Haas, et al. (2005) “Power and the Emergence of Complex Polities in the Peruvian Preceramic,” Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, Volume 14, Number 1, Pages 37–52
9. Richard A Diehl (2004) The Olmecs – America’s First Civilization, Pages 25-27
10. Richard A Diehl (2004) The Olmecs – America’s First Civilization, Pages 23-24
11. Richard A Diehl (2004) The Olmecs – America’s First Civilization, Pages 54
12. Lyle Campbell and Terrence Kaufman (1976) “A Linguistic Look at the Olmec,” American Antiquity, Volume 41, Number 1, Pages 80–89
13. Søren Wichmann, et al. (2008) “Posibles correlaciones lingüísticas y arqueológicas involucrando a los olmecas,” Proceedings of the Mesa Redonda Olmeca: Balance y Perspectivas, Museo Nacional de Antropología
14. John Noble Wilford (September 15, 2006) “Writing May Be Oldest in Western Hemisphere,” New York Times
15. Mary Pohl, et al. (2002) “Olmec Origins of Mesoamerican Writing,” Science, Volume 298, Number 5600, Pages 1984–1987
16. Richard Diehl (2004) The Olmecs: America’s First Civilization. Ancient peoples and places series. Page 186
17. David Freidel, et al. (1993) Maya Cosmos: Three thousand years on the shaman’s path, Path 59-75
18. Linda Schele and David Freidel (1990) A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya
19. Dan Falk (2009) In Search of Time, Page 82