No. Nobody found Mayan ruins in Georgia


I hate to lend any dignity to this story by commenting on it, but it's making the rounds, so here goes. Two things:

1. Nobody found Mayan ruins in the U.S. state of Georgia. An article posted on The Examiner claimed this was the case. That article is full of it. So full of it that even the scientist cited in the article is (in a more polite way) publicly calling out The Examiner for being full of it. Mark Williams of the University of Georgia does do research on North American archaeology. He has spent 20 years excavating sites in Georgia's Oconee River valley. But these sites are not Mayan. Instead, they're part of what are broadly known as "Mississippian cultures," a conglomeration of ancient North American peoples who built a lot of earth mound structures and whose cultures are distinct from those of the Mayans and other Central Americans. 

2. Do not automatically trust anything you read on The Examiner website. The Examiner is a content farm that allows anybody to write whatever they want about anything with absolutely zero oversight or fact-checking. The guy who wrote the bogus story on Mayan artifacts in Georgia appears to have just made up the entire Mississippian/Mayan connection out of his own imagination. As archaeologist Mark Williams told ArtInfo, "No archaeologist would defend this flight of fancy." (Again, this is polite scientist speak for, "Oh, my god. That guy is full of it.") While you're at it, apply the same level of skepticism to anything that comes from Hubpages, which has a similar model to The Examiner and was the source of that bogus "There's a secret cure for cancer!" story  earlier this year. In general, remember that just because it's formatted like a newspaper story, with a dateline at the beginning, does not mean it has been written according to any kind of standard of quality. Check the sources of the article. Check what you read against what Wikipedia and other people have written on the same subject. 

Thanks to John Hoopes for bringing this foolishness to my attention

Image: Herb Roe, used via CC 


    1. True. The people who write here are better vetted. But yeah, these rules should be generally applied across the board. To us, to newspapers, to every place. The two sources I mentioned, however, just have a particularly bad habit of being filled with complete nonsense and rumors. 

      1. Oh, I think the immediate comment pile-on triggered by the slightest questionable inference here on BB constitutes a sort of peer review. After years of it, I’m sure the painful feedback cycle has built habits of care in posting.

  1. While you’re at it, apply the same level of skepticism to anything.

    No need to continue the sentence.
    You just don’t now what people are writing what. Nearly Anywhere. I know someone who “owns” a dozen blogs or more and writes not one text. He just pays random people a few bucks to write the texts. If you are lucky, you get someone like me who writes only on topics he knows, mostly for fun, not the 3-4 bucks per hour. If you are unlucky the writer doesn’t even now the meaning of the topic and does not even bother with the wikipedia article.

    1. Exactly, I had managed to figure out that many Examiner articles are garbage without knowing how their content farming model works. I just figured they were a really crappy news source. Like, you know, most instances of the printed word.

  2. “Do not automatically trust anything you read ANYWHERE, including here”

    Fixed that for you. Skepticism should be applied to everything (!)

  3. Thank you!  Pretty much my entire department saw this yesterday and started picking it apart.  Such a crap article.

  4. I made the mistake of reading the comments on the original story on the Examiner site.

    I’m all depressed now at how many likes the people attacking the real scientists get vs the scientist refuting the story

  5. Thank you!  I had found some of the actual papers regarding the subject & was pointing at those to interested parties, but this silliness raises my hackles.

    Especially when we should all be preparing for the sighting of the dragon Ryumyo, Daniel Howling Coyote starting the Native American’s march to reclaim their lands, the start of UGE & Goblinization & the return of magic in the Sixth World, chummer.

  6. The article itself seems outrageous enough to send most rational people on a hunt to find corroborating stories. Anyone who takes such obvious BS as fact ought to check their email; I hear there’s a Nigerian prince looking for some assistance.

  7. Unfortunately, while content farms tend to have the worst content, they also tend to have the best SEO (search engine optimization).  That means their crap content will get to the top of a google search for something, often burying legitimate, helpful publications on the same subject.

     It’s one of the reasons searching for something on the web has gotten a lot more frustrating in recent years.

    1. Google and Bing have made substantial improvements to their algorithms and feedback systems that have largely countered the efforts of most content farms over the last year to stay at the top of their search results.  They still get in there, but it’s nothing like it used to be just one year ago.

    2. An idea. If instead of passing SOPA they would ban SEO… The web would indeed be a better, safer place. (It would also put a hot female friend of mine out of business. But I could live with that.)

  8. What is this “it” substance that you speak of the article being full of?  

    Much like certain inexplicable fashion trends, the Mayan culture has made a big comeback lately.  Nothing changed on their end, but they’ve been appropriated by those wanting to Hollywood-ize the marketable properties they represent, tangible and not.  Too bad the current owners of the culture haven’t been able to capitalize on it themselves, as long as it was their time to be hot anyway.

  9. Not to defend the Examiner, but some archaeologists are proposing connections between Mississippian/Cahokian cultures and Mesoamerican cultures. Artifacts of Mesoamerican origin have been found at several Mississippian sites. Certainly many scholars site the introduction of maize from Mesoamerica as allowing the shift to the more sedentary Mississipian settlements.  Anyway, this in response to the scoffing, dismissive tone, which may be appropriate, given the Examiner’s reputation, but which isn’t really appropriate to the current state of scholarly discussion. Those may not be “Mayan ruins,” but there’s increasing likelihood that the step pyramid structures and other similarities are the product of cultural transfer and not independent invention.

    1. The goal of the Examiner is to anticipate human curiosity, and get there first, before the reputable archeologists, scientists, and other “knowledgeable” people have the chance to convert a consumer into a student. They make the world safe for advertisers.

  10. I think the history of humans in North America goes much, much further back in time than most current thinking allows for. I read just last night about a Mammoth that was found near Miami, Mo. with alongside signs of humans and the site dated to 35,000 years ago.

  11. Archaeological zone 9UN367 at Track Rock Gap, near Georgia’s highest mountain, Brasstown Bald, is a half mile (800 m) square and rises 700 feet (213 m) in elevation up a steep mountainside.

    Doesn’t anyone know how to write a simple lead sentence? Am I looking at something that’s optimized for non human intelligence?

  12. Saltine means some *Mormon* archaeologists and apologists who have a religious bias that generates theories that lie well outside mainstream archaeology. It’s all in the vein of trying to prove a link between the Americas and the middle east. According to that line of reasoning, step pyramids are based on Egyptian pyramids.

    1. Um, Mormon? Not that I know of. The person foremost in my mind was an art historian I had dinner with last week, but I’ve also read something that appeared in Salon a few years ago, along with something that popped up in a colleague’s ancillary materials for an introductory humanities course. How do you get Middle East out of Mesoamerica? I didn’t say a word about lost tribes of Israel or anything like that….

  13. That sort of beginning is an indicator of hoo-ha to follow. It’s to establish a scientistic, truthy mood. It’s also the sort of gobbledygook to expect from people who can’t distinguish between information and style. When you see an opening like that, be prepared for links between the current topic, the Marfa lights, Denver Airport Lizard Men, and the Kennedy assassinations.

  14. Open your eyes, children of Babylon.

    Am I the only one who sees that it is NO COINCIDENCE that these ruins were discovered ON THE SOLSTICE which marks THE START OF THE NEW MAYAN YEAR 2012?

    The Timewave Zero Singularity is going to happen IN GEORGIA. This is proof of what statisticians call “correlation” which proves scientifically with a high degree of statistical mathematical certainty that the singularity will happen in Georgia.

    I think we all secretly knew that the end of the world would start in the Deep South.

    (This post is intended as a humorous commentary and does not actually reflect the point of view of the author.)

    1. Don’t forget that there’s also a new astral herald (or comet) sweeping the sky (at least south of the equator.)

      And Pope “Glory of the Olives” Ratzinger is looking pretty green around the gills, meaning that “Peter of Rome” could be elected soon.


    2. Further, I’ve calculated with a high degree of confidence that the singularity will reveal itself and begin the “great suck” of all matter 11″ under the third barstool from the right in the Platinum Club,
      2723 Manchester Expy, Columbus Ga., 31904.

  15. I am forced into speech because men of science have refused to follow my advice without knowing why. It is altogether against my will that I tell my reasons for opposing this contemplated invasion of the antarctic – with its vast fossil hunt and its wholesale boring and melting of the ancient ice caps. And I am the more reluctant because my warning may be in vain.

  16. My favorite part was, when challenged on his conclusions, his response was he knows it was built by Mayans because —- IT’S A MAYAN TYPING THIS ON THE COMPUTER RIGHT NOW.        That might be the “Get out of the house, it’s coming from the upstairs extension!” gambit. 

    1. Is that sort of the pseudo Native American equivalent of “And I can see Russia from my backyard?” 

  17. i was really excited and taken in for a second when i read this yesterday. that is until i realized that the main argument was based on the similarity of names and did nothing to take into account the fact that there were no traces of Mayan culture anywhere in the intervening geography between Guatemala and Georgia. surely a non-ocean-going culture would leave behind plenty of evidence if they trekked overland across 4,000 miles.

    i’m sure there’s a term for such an Erich von Daniken level of non-scholarship. 

    it really bugs me when people look at the sophistication of past cultures and have to imagine outside intervention, such as aliens building the pyramids. all the while ignoring the fact that humans have been as smart as we are now for thousands of years. there probably was an Isaac Newton or Einstein level of genius 10,000 years ago. look at DaVinci.

    the real difference between now and then is that we can record, store and freely access information. the depth of our knowledge is not dependent on memory alone. couple that with an abundance of food, surplus leisure time and relative life security and it’s no wonder we seem more intelligent.i wonder if current cultures are more complex or if they are really just more externalized and prosthetic.

    1. There’s no trace of intervening culture between Hungary and Finland, though the languages are related (Finno-Ugaric).

      Then, of course, a deep enough dig DOES show some linear connections.

      I’m also not clear on what an argument from authority by a MISSISSIPPIAN expert has on allegedly MAYAN findings.

      I don’t see any reason there couldn’t have been trade between said cultures, or even eventually some transfer of concepts.  Certainly it is not proven, but to categorically state it’s impossible destroys any scientific credibility the man might have.

  18. The multi-model agnostic in me wants the title to be: No Evidence Found of a Georgian location for the Mayan Civilization, Yet.

  19. Post Script: I have as much respect for the ‘discipline’ of archeology as I have for the ‘disciplines’ of theology, sociology, biology, et cetera. Not much, for those who want an easy read.

    1. Yes, I agree. The discipline that gave us the filioque controversy and the discipline that gave us antibiotics are exactly the same in scientific rigor. 

      1. The reductionist/mechanistic model is the 19th century reaching from beyond the grave to choke the potential of biology. In my small opinion. To look at the implicit analogy, building materials, when brought to a location, turn into a building sui generis. I won’t give the Watchmaker any respect, but it seems that something is missing, is all.

  20. As someone who grew up in and lives in this very area, I can tell you exactly where this story came from. Georgia is on the edge of the Mound Builder (Mississippian) culture. One set of such mounds is a Georgia State Park:

    Local legend, that I’ve heard all my life, is that these are Mayan and/or Aztec (depends on the teller) mounds and once had temples on top. Apparently, the exurban Mayans couldn’t afford stone pyramids.

    So there you go. It’s local urban legend.

  21. I can’t speak to the article in question, but I do note that Examiner is the only site that is paying me for content. And I don’t have my stories assigned by some search algorithm, I just write about the Craft beer scene in Chicago. Meantime, EX has been picked up as a content provider for Google News’ Editor’s Picks section. Associated Content they ain’t. They do have a lot of cornballs writing, just like Huffington.

  22. The Hawaiians have stories of sailing eastward, landing on the west coast of the Americas, and interacting with the people there.  The Tlingits have stories of migrating from Mediterranean Europe, across the Atlantic bridge to the Northeast coast of the Americas, traveling down to the gulf and westward, then north to Alaska.  But contact between the Mexican cultures and the Mississippian tribes?  Obviously absurd, to those who already have all the answers.

    1. As far as the Tlingit stories are concerned, it’s fact that Vikings had established colonies in Greenland (hence the name, it was green then), and the east coast of mainland North America, and runic inscriptions have been found scratched on allustrades in buildings in Constantinople. Phoenician traders were regularly trading for tin with the inhabitants of Cornwall.
      Sea-going cultures were travelling much further than was originally thought.

  23. Oh god the Examiner. The only reason I recognize that name is because I remember the sundry evangelical bloggers there who use it as a pedestal for some truly mind-warping bigotry.

    There is no minimum allowable threshold of decency there. The worst human being on earth would be allowed to post their rantings freely.

  24. True – maize did come from Mexico. However, there has never been a single Mayan or Aztec artifact found at a Mississippian site. There have been lots of rumors from looters — none have turned out to be true. I’m an archaeologist and this is my field. I have an open mind but I’m not gullible.

    1. Did the Mississippians have Clovis?  Did the Mesoamericans?  Not evidence of direct contact, of course, but proof that the tribes in Arizona and Texas hadn’t built their “illegal aliens” fence yet, and commerce would have been possible.

  25. I didn’t find any Mayan ruins in Georgia either, but I wasn’t trying. Maybe someday I’ll go to Georgia to look.

  26. So, this is saying there are ruins, they’re just not mayan?  Who care, ruins are ruins!  Still cool…

  27. As others have pointed out, this bit of advice could be reduced to “do not automatically trust anything you read on the Internet,” or, even more broadly, “do not automatically trust anything you read, period.”  Even the best peer-reviewed journals are subject to errancy.

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