Mayans in Georgia?. . . Here we go again

Over the last couple of weeks, a number of people have, after searching some combination of the terms “Maya” and “Georgia”, landed on a post of mine from a year ago.

Now I know why. From today’s Savannah Morning News, History Channel program probes Mayan presence in north Georgia:

Tonight at 10 p.m. on History Channel’s H2, “American Unearthed” will address the question on whether the Mayans established villages in north Georgia. The program keys on a site in Towns County known as Track Rock.

The Athens Banner-Herald reports that the show’s producer, geologist Scott Wolter of Minneapolis, heard about the sites in Georgia, but was told by several Georgia archaeologists “that there was nothing to the Track Rock site. They knew for a fact that no Mayan immigrants ever came to the Southeast,” he said in a press statement.

Contacted Wednesday, Wolter wouldn’t discuss what the program will disclose.

“I can’t tell you how the episode ends, but let’s say I was very, very surprised at what we found,” Wolter said. “This is not a matter of faith. It’s a matter of evidence.”

One Georgian that the History Channel producers interviewed is Richard Thornton, an architect and city planner, who has studied the Track Rock ruins, a large series of about 150 terraces.

Richard Thornton, mentioned above, is the same person who wrote the dubious article last year: Ruins in Georgia mountains show evidence of Maya connection. In that piece, he cited the work of Mark Williams, but Williams himself dismissed Thornton’s ideas. Williams’ Facebook comment has subsequently been deleted from Thornton’s article (as have dozens or hundreds of other comments).

Here’s an extended passage from my post a year ago that includes a screencap of Williams’ comment, plus a link to Williams’ paper about Kenimer Mound:

In 1999 archaeologist Mark Williams of the University of Georgia and Director of the LAMAR Institute, led an archaeological survey of the Kenimer Mound, which is on the southeast side of Brasstown Bald in the Nacoochee Valley. Residents in the nearby village of Sautee generally assume that the massive five-sided pyramidal mound is a large wooded hill. Williams found that the mound had been partially sculpted out of an existing hill then sculpted into a final form with clay. He estimated the construction date to be no later than 900 AD. Williams was unable to determine who built the mound.

Williams is a highly respected specialist in Southeastern archaeology so there was a Maya connection that he did not know about. The earliest maps show the name Itsate, for both a native village at Sautee and another five miles away at the location of the popular resort of Helen, GA. Itsate is what the Itza Mayas called themselves. Also, among all indigenous peoples of the Americas, only the Itza Mayas and the ancestors of the Creek Indians in Georgia built five-side earthen pyramids as their principal mounds. It was commonplace for the Itza Maya to sculpt a hill into a pentagonal mound. There are dozens of such structures in Central America.

And here’s one of the comments appended to the article:

For more, you can actually read Williams’ report on the Kenimer site here. From the summary:

Having worked in many areas of Georgia and seen sites over the eastern United States for over 30 years, I am forced to conclude that the Kenimer site is a very unusual archaeological site. Strange might be a better word. This site clearly was established by people during the Late-Woodland Napier period. This information alone is valuable, because this site may represent the only known Napier mounds in existence. A few other mound sites have small amounts of Napier pottery, but in no cases that I know, is there a single-component mound site of this period.

The nature of the Kenimer site is also strange. Its location on the steep slopes away from the floodplain of the Chattahoochee River would make village life difficult at best. Indeed, the Kenimer site is not a village, since the shovel tests show that the occupation is almost completely confined to the mounds themselves. There is no surrounding occupation. There is no “village”. Perhaps there is a true small village of this period in the floodplain of the river nearby, but its location has not been identified as of this writing. The Kenimer site, then, is perhaps best thought of as a special purpose site of some sort.

Well maybe there’s something new? Maybe some of Williams’ questions have been answered? Who’s this geologist Scott Wolter?

From the Wikipedia entry about Wolter:

Scott F. Wolter is a Minnesota geologist and author best known for his theories and books about the Kensington Runestone, an artefact claimed to be a medieval Scandinavian stone-inscription found near Kensington, Minnesota.[…]

In his 2009 book The Hooked X Wolter claims that the stone was made by the Knights Templar in 1362, 50 years after the dissolution of the organization in Europe. He also claims Columbus was a member of the Knights of Christ order and had a map he used to find his way around the West Indies in 1492. Wolter’s fellow researcher Dr Richard Nielsen states that “Wolter’s geological theories still remain unproven”. Nielsen subsequently rebutted many of the statements in Wolter’s 2011 “Report of Digital Microscopic Examination”; according to Neilsen, Wolter had failed to “meet the Popper’s Falsification Criterion, the pre-agreed formula to test Wolter’s results” and had “not presented any replicable evidence that the KRS is at least 200 years old.”

I would very much like to believe in all sorts of cryptozoological and historical possibilities, from Bigfoot to the Face on Mars.

But if there were credible evidence that the Maya mysteriously migrated to north Georgia (really?), mainstream archeologists and anthropologists would be all over it.

Enjoy tonight’s program.