As Emi McLean writes on the Open Society Justice Initiative's blog about the genocide trial in Guatemala, "Semana Santa (or Holy Week) seemed to slow down Guatemala City everywhere but in Judge Jazmin Barrios’s courtroom on Monday."
And the trial continues at breakneck speed. The prosecution of Jose Efraín Rios Montt, the Army general who ruled Guatemala from 1982-1983, and his then-chief of military intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, re-opens for the 6th day today in Guatemala City. The charges of genocide and crimes against humanity they face are based on evidence of systematic massacres of Mayan citizens by Guatemalan troops and paramilitary forces during a most bloody phase of the country's 36-year civil war. The US government provided assistance to Ríos Montt and other Guatemalan military dictators that followed in that era, in the form of funding, training, military and CIA personnel, and weapons that were used against the indigenous population.
On Monday, March 25, the court heard 13 witnesses for the prosecution recount horrifying accounts of atrocities they witnessed and survived, committed by soldiers under Ríos Montt's command.
An archaeological expedition in the northeastern lowlands of Guatemala yields an amazing discovery: the "9th-century workplace of a city scribe, an unusual dwelling adorned with magnificent pictures of the king and other royals and the oldest known Maya calendar."
From Thomas Maugh's report in the Los Angeles Times, on the dig in the ruins of Xultun led by William Saturno of Boston University:
This year has been particularly controversial among some cultists because of the belief that the Maya calendar predicts a major cataclysm — perhaps the end of the world — on Dec. 21, 2012. Archaeologists know that is not true, but the new find, written on the plaster equivalent of a modern scientist's whiteboard, strongly reinforces the idea that the Maya calendar projects thousands of years into the future.
To paraphrase modern-day Maya priests I've spoken with on past travels in rural Guatemala: "Well, duh."
The findings were first reported Thursday in the journal Science. The full text of the report requires paid subscription, but a recent Science podcast covers the news, and is available here (PDF transcript or MP3 for audio).
Cloths embroidered with signs are seen in front of the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City January 26, 2012. Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who ruled the country from 1980-1982 during a bloody civil war, went to the Supreme Court of Justice to declare for the genocide accusations committed during the armed conflict. Rios Montt is one of those accused by Spain of genocide during the 36-year conflict in which some 250,000 people died and 45,000 disappeared from 1960-1996. The sign reads, "In memory of the victims of armed conflict."
Below: Ríos Montt speaks on the phone at the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City, while indigenous Maya protesters outside carry banners with the faces of "desaparecidos," relatives who disappeared during his military era.
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.