Aztec Tax Records Revealed

Scientists recently figured out tribute calculations from two ancient codices from between A.D. 1540 and 1544. The codices are from the town of Tepetlaoztoc. The codices record the number of tribute that each household required to pay depending on a number of variables that included the amount of land owned, the type of soil, etc.

DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites

New evidence establishes the earliest date where people lived in North America. 14,000 year old Coprolites, fossilize doodoo, was recently discovered in the Paisley Caves in the Cascade Range of Oregon. From the New York Times article reporting on the new findings…

the specimens preserved 14,000-year-old human protein and DNA, which the discoverers said was the strongest evidence yet of the earliest people living in North America.

No other artifacts where found in the Paisley Caves, so archaeologist know little of the people who left their mark.

Prior to these finding, the earliest archaeological record supporting the presence of humans in North America was of the Clovis people. The new fossils are about 1,000 years earlier than the artifacts found in Clovis sites.

Oldest Gunshot Victim in the New World

National Geographic is reporting the remains off the oldest gunshot victim found in the New World. The remains are that of an Inca warrior who has a musket ball entry wound in to the top on his skull. The remains where found with those of many other Inca remains. All the remains in the burial ground have the remnants of a violent death. The remains are thought to the from the Inca uprising against the Spanish conquistadores in 1536.

[tags]inca, peru, spanish, new world, conquest[/tags]

Divine And Human

The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. is hosting an exhibit tittled Divine and Human: Women in Ancient Mexico and Peru. You have one more month to catch the exhibit as it is scheduled to run through May 28, 2006. From the official NMWA website:

Divine and Human brings together 400 archaeological treasures from the unparalleled museum collections of Mexico and Peru. Magnificent sculptures, textiles, pottery, and jewelry explore the feminine “sphere” in cultures as varied as the Aztec, Mayan, Zapotec, Moche, Mixtec, and Incan.

One of the unfortunate truisms of history is that few women are mentioned by name and fewer still get their stories told.

If you are in the neighborhood stop by and catch the exhibit. If you can’t make it out, purchase the stunning catalogue.

[tags]women, arts, mesoamerica, exhibit, washington[/tags]

Oldest Portrait Of A Maya Woman

Near the city of Naachtun in Guatemala the earliest depiction of a Maya woman was found in a stelae, a large carved block of stone. At this point it is unknown if this is the portrait of a historical queen or that of a female deity. What is known is that her name was Ix Tzutz Nik, Lady Completion Flower. The stalea, which usually portray the deeds and ascensions of kings and gods, is two centuries older than any other depicting a queen and dates back to the fourth century A.D. It is unfortunate that we as of yet can’t decipher her official role but one can safely assume that Lady Completion Flower was an important figure in the in Naachtun.

There is more background on Lady Completion Flower and this great find here.

[tags]Maya, archaeology[/tags]

In Solidarity

BlogMouth, a partner and supporter of this site, recently posted We Are All Immigrants and La Gran Marcha 2006 in support of all immigrants in the recent wave of anti-immigration legislation. In solidarity which those articles I wanted to express the following:

Many Native American histories are filled with migration stories. Perhaps the most famous migration story is that of the ancient Aztec. The Aztec record how they migrated from Aztlan, located somewhere in the American Southwest, to the Valley of Mexico.

The Hopi also have migration stories depicting their journey across the North American landscape. When the Hopi arrived to current Fourth World they traveled from the back door in the cold arctic zone in Canada to the hot tropics of Mexico and Central America finally settling near Oraibi. The Hopi migration story tells that the Hopi Parrot Clan began their migration far to the south and founded pueblos in Mexico; some believe that Casas Grandes in Chihuahua, Mexico might be Palatkwapi, the Hopi Red City.

Unfortunately force migration such as the Trail of Tears has also been an integral part of Native American history. In 1838 thousands of Cherokees were force to relocate to Oklahoma some 1,200 miles away from their ancestral lands in Georgia and Tennessee. Along the long march an estimated 4,000 Cherokees died. In todays anti-immigrant rhetoric some mask their bigotry by arguing that since undocumented immigrants broke the law by entering the United States without proper documentation they should forcibly be removed from their homes, families, and jobs.

The Trail of Tears is generally considered to be one of the most regrettable episodes in American history. To commemorate the event, the U.S. Congress designated the Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail in 1987. It stretches for 2,200 miles across nine states.

The massive removal of Cherokees from their land was in compliance with law, the Indian Removal Act of 1830. HR 4437 intends to remove ‘undocumented’ immigrants in such a way. We cannot sit back and see history repeat itself again.

[tags]HR 4437, immigration, trail of tears, force removal[/tags]

Guns, Germs, And Steel In America

I recently read The New York Times bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond and found it a good read. Diamond points out that the reason that the 100 or so conquistadors defeated thousands of imperial guards at Cuzco, and not 100 Inca defeating thousands of imperial guards at Cajamarca, was simply because of guns, germs, and steel. Diamond does provide a somewhat new and interesting perspective but most of the facts I have read before and are available in any anthropology course book. I will let others review and critique Diamond’s point of view, here I am just going to quote a few known facts available in his book:

Sound evidence for the existence of human differences in intelligence that parallel human differences in technology is lacking. In fact, as I shall explain in a moment, moder ‘Stone Age’ peoples are on the average probably more intelligent, not less intelligent, than industrialized peoples.
— page 19

The sole Native American societies to develop writing arose in Mexico south of the Tropic of Cancer; the oldest New World pottery comes from near the equator in tropical South America; and the New World society generally considered the most advanced in art, astronomy, and other respects was the Classic Maya society of the tropical Yucatan and Guatemala in the first millennium A.D.
— page 22

However, it is uncertain when, between about 14,000 and 35,000 years ago, the Americas were first colonized. The oldest unquestioned human remains in the Americas are at sites in Alaska dated around 12,000 B.C., followed by a profusion of sties in the United States south of the Canadian border and in Mexico in the centuries just before 11,000 B.C.
— page 45

Through the Americas, diseases introduced with Europeans spread from tribe to tribe far in advance of the Europeans themselves, killing an estimated 95 percent of the pre-Columbian Native American population.
— page 78

One of the earliest cultivated plants in many parts of the Americas was grown for nonfood purposes: the bottle gourd, used as a container.
— page 90

For instance, 95 percent of the cotton grown in the world today belongs to cotton species Gossypium hirsutum, which was domesticated in prehistoric times in Mesoamerica.
— page 180

Within a short time, the Cherokees achieved almost 100 percent literacy in the syllabary, bought a printing press, had Sequoyah’s signs cast as type, and began printing books and newspapers.
— Page 229

Even in the countries with the largest surviving Native American populations, such as Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, and Guatemala, a glance at photographs of political and business leaders shows that they are disproportionately Europeans, while several Caribbean nations have black African leaders and Guyana has had Asian Indian leaders.
— Page 375


I don’t know what I dreamt about last night, but fragments of my dream lingered until I wrote down what I could remember.

You could go through a sundance without moving, you could go through a purification rite in the sweat lodge of your heart, you could pass the sacred pipe among your thoughts, and you could onto tradition even while commuting in a train.

Language Barrier

I read some rant online about an Indian that was mad that he was asked if he spoke Indian. He was upset at the question because he speaks Hindi, and there is no such thing as an Indian language. I was amused when an Indian ask me if I spoke Mexican, as there is no Mexican language. This is like asking if you or I speak American. Well, but is that really a stupid question?

Distribution of North American Languages

The above map of North America, Anahuac, found in wikipedia breaks down the regions where major Native American language groups reigned. The map clearly shows that there is no single Indian language and that a American language never existed. There are several interesting points in the map. The first and perhaps more subtle point is that the West coast from the Pacific Northwest to Southern California is occupied by many language families. I guess we can think of that region as the American Balkans.

The largest and most studied language group spoken in the American West was Uto-Aztecan. Nahuatl spoken by the Aztecs and the many Hopi dialects are part of this language family. Uto-Aztecan was spoken from California, Utah, and Texas all the way to Old Mexico in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan and beyond to Aztec controlled territories in Oaxaca and El Salvador. Nahuatl is still a very vibrant language spoken by millions of people, mostly in Mexico. After the conquest many Nahuatl stories, legends, songs, and poems where written down in Nahuatl using Roman characters. You can still appreciate the beauty of this language by studying side by side the Nahuatl and English versions of poems such as those attributed to the poet king Nezahualcoyotl.

Another interesting thing to notice from the above map is that the Eskimo-Aleut language family spreads out to cover thousands of miles but with an East-West axis along the frigid cold of the arctic circle.

But perhaps the most interesting anomaly is how the Navajo arrived in the American Southwest. The Navajo language is part of the Na-Dene language family which is mainly concentrated in Alaska and the Northwest territories of Canada. The Hopi record the arrival of the first few Navajo in the American Southwest after the arrival of the Spanish and now the Hopi live as a tiny tribe completely surrounded by the Navajo Nation; the Navajo themselves are surrounded by Uto-Aztecan speakers.

A lot of observations can be made from the above maps. The unfortunate truth today is that many of the Native American languages are dying. It is important to try to preserve the cultural uniqueness of all of these languages.


The next movie from acclaimed director Mel Gibson will be set in the ancient Mayan civilization. The teaser does not reveal much and I can’t find the storyline anywhere online. Variety covers mostly the finance of the film which Gibson is banking himself. What I have found out is that Apocalypto is being filmed in southern Veracruz in the vicinity of Catemaco. According to the official website for the movie, the Greek titled movie, Apocalypto, is about ‘a perilous journey to a world ruled by fear and oppression where a harrowing end awaits him.’ I could only speculate as to what the title means. Is this the story of Kukulcan, Pacal, or some other Maya king of mythological proportions? The film is scheduled for Summer 2006 release. I for one am glad that a film set in the ancient Mayan culture is produced with a Hollywood directory and budget. I can’t wait for its release.

The New World starring Colin Farrell is playing now. The New World is based on the highly anglicized and romanticized story of Pocahontas. The New World has been receiving a lot of positive must-see reviews. The New World should be a great movie to see. I haven’t seen it yet but know the ending, that first contact lead to the American Holocaust. An estimated 90% of the Native American population living in ‘The New World’ died to guns, germs, and steel after their first contact with Europeans.