First, let me describe the roots of my special interest in Maya archaeology and the importance of Maya ruins in Georgia. I am a registered Professional Engineer, living in Atlanta, and have investigated Maya ruins for over forty years. I am also the author of the book: The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology coming in April of 2012. The book reveals discoveries of lost Maya technological innovations including their methodologies in building construction.
Thornton reports that the site is approximately 1,100 years old and is located on the foothills of Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s tallest mountain. The ruins of the ancient city include a large five sided pyramid constructed of earth fill. Thornton stated that university of Georgia archaeologist, Mark Williams, led an expedition to investigate this pentagon shaped pyramid. In addition, he stated that this five sided earthen pyramid is similar to pyramids built by Maya architecture in Mesoamerica. In addition to the pyramid, archaeologists have unearthed at least 500 or more stone walls that were used for agriculture terraces plus evidence of a sophisticated irrigation system with the possibility of other structures hidden underground.
Thornton, who claims he is an expert in pre-Colombian architecture, theorizes that the Maya who built the city were refugees from the catastrophe that caused the collapse of the Maya civilization. He stated that for many years archaeological speculation has abounded about the fate of the Maya population after a disaster caused the collapse of the Maya civilization around 900 AD. Some historians believe they died out in plagues and food shortages; others have speculated about the possibility of the Maya migrating to other regions. Thornton accepts the premise that the Maya migrated northward away from Mesoamerica to the mountains of North Georgia.
He further relates that South African archaeologist, Johannes Loubser, has excavated the site and dated pottery shards found there. The testing of the pottery indicated that the site had been inhabited for decades before 1100 AD, placing the site in the approximate time period of the Maya diaspora.
My perusal of social media and internet news indicates that the announcement by Mr. Thornton has become an internet sensation. He has dazzled readers with his claim that the “find is the most important archaeological discovery in recent times”. His disclosure of this unique find conjures up fanciful images similar to the discovery of King Tut’s Tomb, and the crystal skull of Indiana Jones. It is apparent that the distinctions between social media, Internet news and professional news reporting have become blurred and has altered the authenticity of news stories read by the public.
I took the opportunity to analyze Thornton’s claim of discovery as well as the photographic evidence offered by Mr. Thornton. My review of the alleged evidence of ancient Maya construction with close examination of the photos of the “ruins” have determined that this “discovery” is a deliberately staged plot to perpetrate a grand hoax that is preying on the gullibility of the public. This type of archaeological hoax is intended to fool the public who want to believe in UFO’s, monster quests and the thrill of the unknown. Richard Thornton’s hoax is similar to famous archaeological fakes like the Piltdown Man and the Cardiff Giant.
I am a native Georgian and am familiar with the Southeast sector of the Brasstown Bald slopes. I have carried out a technical investigation and analysis of Thornton’s physical and archaeological evidence. During the investigation I closely examined photos of the isolated stacks of rocks referenced as “Maya ruins”, assessed the descriptions of typical Maya constructions and reviewed the reports of the professional archaeologists who are alleged to be a part of the discovery of the ancient North Georgia Maya city.
While assessing the evidence, I closely examined the photos of the “ruins" for indications of Maya building technology, construction practices and archaeological ageing. The “ruins” in the photo are isolated piles of irregular stones laid up without mortar in what is termed “dry stack”. The stones are stacked akimbo without any organization relative to masonry construction. The stones show no evidence of being “worked”, “carved, or “dressed” by the jadeite tools employed by Maya stone workers. The placement of dressed stones in the construction of walls using mortar or concrete is a common trait of Maya buildings.. Maya building stones are shaped to be a regular size and shape in order to be transported to the building site using manpower. Maya masonry stones are sized to be carried by a single worker using a backpack-like device called a “tumpline.” The Maya construction stones, with rare exceptions, did not weigh more than 125 pounds. This is the carrying capacity of one worker.
Georgia Ruins Photos
Maya Ruins at Chichen Itza under Excavation
Maya Ruins with Mortar and Concrete
The stones on the North Georgia site are not dressed or carved blocks and are not laid up in an organized manner using mortar. Instead, the piles of stone were obviously laid up “dry” with irregular shapes. The joints are open and do not indicate the presence of mortar. This technique is not even remotely typical of Maya construction practices.
The age of the “ruins” is questionable due to several factors. The large gaps and crevices between adjacent stones are clean and clear and do not indicate the presence of debris or growth of vegetation. If the “ruins were stacked as shown for a millennium, windblown compost material would be collected in the crevasses of the stones and would support the growth of vegetation. The exterior of the “ruins” would then be covered with mats of vegetation. In addition, the growth of moss on the exterior faces of the stacked stones in the pile would be obvious. None of the photographs of the “ruins indicate vegetation or the growth of moss on the exterior faces of the stones. This is despite moss growth on bottom level of the stack.
Another characteristic of the piles of stones is their haphazard stacking in loose order. The uncertain stability of a loose pile of stacked stones is an anomaly of physics. Maintaining a balanced stack of stones in place for over a millennium is a conundrum. Earthquakes in recent history would have toppled the stone piles and scattered them across the slopes of Brasstown Bald. The site is relatively close to the epicenters of the two most violent earthquakes in the recorded history of the United States. The New Madrid earthquakes of 1811 and 1812 were the most powerful seismic events in recorded history. The epicenter on the Missouri-Tennessee boarder is 365 miles from Brasstown Bald. During the New Madrid earthquakes serious damage to constructed buildings was recorded over a radius of more than 400 miles. During this seismic event the ground surface was seen rolling like the waves at sea and it changed the course of the Mississippi river. The Charleston, South Carolina, earthquake of 1886, with its epicenter 268 miles to the east of the site, is the second most powerful seismic event in US history. This event toppled chimneys in Atlanta and rang bells in New York City.. Either one of these recorded earthquakes would have toppled the so-called “Maya ruins” and scattered them down the mountainside.
Relative to the similarity between the architecture at the site and architecture of the classic Maya, the five sided pyramid at the site constructed of earth is entirely atypical of Maya pyramid construction. Maya pyramids did have an earthen core but the soil was confined by closed cells of stone and concrete retaining structures. Often pyramid construction was carried in phases with larger pyramids built over earlier constructions. The exterior of Maya pyramids was concrete and carved stone which developed the rectangular plan and the cosmologically required nine steps of their classic pyramid shape.
However, the existence of Maya in Georgia could have been a reality. Maya technology had the abilities to build large seagoing vessels, with capacities for 50 crew and passengers. They were accomplished seagoing traders, and the 450 mile trip to Florida and northward to Georgia was easily within their range. However, this narrative is not about Maya seamanship, but about the evidence of a ruined Maya city in North Georgia.
The claim that the ruins are Maya in origin is an apparent hoax as indicated by technological and archaeological evidence. Furthermore, the archaeologist from the University of Georgia who Thornton claims was part of the discovery, Mark Williams, has posted: “I am the archaeologist mentioned in this article. This is total and complete bunk. There is no evidence of Maya in Georgia. Move along now.”
Archaeologist Johannes Loubser, in his site report, did not say who erected the structure but said “I think that Thornton selectively presents the evidence. As the controversy surrounding the claim grew, Thornton was apparently stinging from criticism and posted a message on face book: “I know a hellava lot more than those professors. I doubt if the University of Georgia has anyone who is knowledgeable about Mesoamerican architecture. That being said I made a hellava lot of money off the controversy so I am crying all the way to the bank. LOL.”
With those unprofessional and profound comments Thornton’s goal is apparent: he wants to cry all the way to the bank with his hoax. It is also suspicious that he chose to make the announcement of the discovery on
December 21, 2011, exactly one year in advance of the ending of the
Maya calendar on December 21, 2012. Doomsday believers are latching
onto anything related to that target date.