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The Maya Connection

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People coming, people going, people talking, always talking- the idea of cultural transference is complex, and not easily condensed into a brief Internet format. Culture is spread  by people, and people love to travel, then and now. The spread of culture is not a simple one way flow; ideas have moved in one direction or in both directions, or in one direction at one time and another direction at another time, or in almost any combination that you can think up.

Toltec Pochteca Traders

One theory gaining wider acceptance is that of  a Maya cultural connection to the American Southwest. In this model, the origin of many Southwestern myths and cultural icons occurred through cultural diffusion, primarily brought about by the Toltec Pochteca  and earlier traders from Mexico and Central America, laden with burden baskets of trade goods. Was this the origin of the Kokopelli figure in rock art? 

Comparson of Pochteca Traders  from Illustration in the Florentine Codex with the popular Kokopelli Icon of the Southwest.

However, the flow of travelers and ideas was not all one way. It seems evident now that first, the collapse of the Chaco Culture, followed later by the general collapse and retreat of the Ancestral Puebloan Culture (Anasazi), probably produced some aggressive and adventuresome refugees moving back down into Mexico. These people would have added their cultural, spiritual and political beliefs back into the melting pot of culture that eventually produced the Aztec.


Comparison of  El Castillo at Chichen Itza with Summit Path near Gila River, AZ.

Evidence for this flow of ideas is widespread. Established archaeological research has produced trade goods from Mexico in the form of parrot  bones, parrot feathers, copper bells and shells, unearthed from ancient Native American ruins in the Southwest. There is the obvious similarity of the Mayan temple pyramid with the less complex Lower Colorado  and Gila River Summit Paths, with both of these forms a derivative of the concept of a Spirit Mountain, where Gods, Spirits and Man could communicate.


"T" Shaped Windows From Palenque

Another example of Maya influence is  the widespread architectural use of  the Mesoamerican "T" Shape, the symbol associated with I'q, the Breath of Life, and regarded as a portal  to the spirit world. ( See The Breath of Life of the Maya ) The T shape is not only found in Maya cities and temples, but is also found in the American Southwest, in such famous sites as Mesa Verde, Montezum Castle, and Chaco Canyon.


"T" Shape Doorways and Windows in (Left to Right) Chaco Canyon, NM, Mesa Verde, CO, and Montezuma Canyon, AZ.

The spread of maize horticulture can be traced from Mesoamerica northward over many hundreds of years. An area of research that is showing promise for identification of widespread trade routes  is based on the scientific "fingerprinting" of obsidian points that links them specifically to the exact volcano from which this material came. Turquoise can also be traced to the original mine. This is significant in the cultural sense, because when people trade goods, they also trade ideas.