Monday, February 28, 2011

There Be Gold ...

Bild magazine has just published an article about German mathematician Joachim Rittstieg's claim that page 52 of the Dresden codex records an earthquake on October 30, 666 B.C. destroyed the Maya capital city of Atlan, which sank beneath the waves of Lake Izabal, concealing a treasure of 2156 tablets of gold, that together weigh 8 tonnes. It is not clear which "Page 52" Rittstieg is referring to (there are two pages bearing this number, depending on which sequence you follow), but it matters not which of these two he is considering. This claim, of course, should be laughable. There is no evidence the ancient Maya had any gold, let alone 8 tonnes of it, prior to the Late Classic and even then it arrived only as small jewels brought in from lower Central America as trade items. Even when the Spanish arrived, at the end of the Late Postclassic, there was so little gold in the Maya area that it was one of the last areas of Mesoamerica to be subjugated by the conquistadors, as there simply wasn't the financial incentive to conquer lands so bereft of the primary resource they were after. "The Maya" had no capital city, certainly not in the 7th century B.C., when most Maya sites were still relatively simple farming villages. The Lake Izabal area, in fact, never saw the rise of any major cities along its banks, or on any islands, a curiosity given how attractive this area should have been for Maya settlement.

This situation would be laughable if the story hadn't been picked up by Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre and reported as if this was a credible theory and not simply utter nonsense without even the slightest credibility. Prensa Libre reports a lot on ancient Maya discoveries in Guatemala and should have higher standards than this. Bild magazine isn't even held in high esteem by Germans, and should never form the source for a story, especially one on the ancient Maya. Sadly, journalism today is all about sensationalism and the "scoop" and it seems that too often a lot of the news media feel it is easier to print a retraction rather than do the necessary background information to vet a "fantastic" story that too easily is shown to be pure fantasy. 

No comments:

Post a Comment