A claim that the Mayans left stone ruins in the mountains of North Georgia has sparked a controversy. The claim was made by Richard Thornton, an architect, who says he has been studying the history of the native people of southeastern United States.
According to Thornton, in an article on Examiner.com, architects have long recognized that there are significant similarities between the architectural forms and town plans of Maya civilization in Mexico and ruins of southeastern United States. Thornton writes that archeologists do not link the ruins in southeastern United States with Mayans of Mexico because of their "unfamiliarity with the descendants of the Southeastern mound-builders, tribes such as the Creeks, Alabamas, Natchez, Chitimachas and Choctaws." Thornton claims there is a link between the ancient Mayans and the indigenous people of Georgia. He argues that the languages "of the Creek Indians contain many Mesoamerican words."
Thornton's thesis is that when the Maya civilization declined in Central America, at least part of the population migrated to Georgia in southeastern U.S.A. He writes on Examiner.com:
"Historians, architects and archaeologists have speculated for 170 years what happened to the Maya people. Within a few decades, the population of the region declined by about 15 million. Archaeologists could not find any region of Mexico or Central America that evidenced a significant immigration of Mayas during this period, except in Tamaulipas, which is a Mexican state that borders Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. However, Maya influence there, seemed to be limited to a few coastal trading centers. Where did the Maya refugees go? By the early 21st century, archaeologists had concluded that they didn’t go anywhere. They had died en masse."
Thornton claims that the conclusion by archaeologists that the Mayans "didn’t go anywhere, they died en masse," is wrong. He claims that a 1,100-year-old archeological site near Georgia's highest mountain Brasstown Bald, is the fabled Mayan city of Yupaha the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, searched for unsuccessfully in 1540.
"The name of Brasstown Bald Mountain is itself, strong evidence of a Maya presence. A Cherokee village near the mountain was named Itsa-ye, when Protestant missionaries arrived in the 1820s. The missionaries mistranslated 'Itsaye' to mean 'brass.' They added 'town' and soon the village was known as Brasstown. Itsa-ye, when translated into English, means 'Place of the Itza (Maya).'”
Thornton cited the work of an archeologist Mark Williams, of the University of Georgia. The archeologist reacted to the article and posted a comment on the article page on Examiner.com:
"I am the archaeologist Mark Williams mentioned in this article. This is total and complete bunk. There is no evidence of Maya in Georgia. Move along now."
But Mayan history and archeology enthusiasts who had taken interest in Thornton's claim, apparently in connection with the Mayan 2012 apocalyptic prophecies, took exception to Williams ticking off Thornton. In the comments section of the article, someone criticized Williams, saying: "Your response to this article is completely pompous and arrogant. Is the whole article 'bunk' or just the part that mentions you being 'a highly respected specialist in Southeastern archaeology'? If examiner.com is incorrect in their findings and research, then please, by all means, enlighten the rest of us." Another accused Williams of disrespecting "the Public at large." Yet another person wrote that he would "urge the state of Georgia to cut off funding for Williams' academic department at the University."
Thornton says he is surprised at the reaction to Williams' comment. But he claims that he was able to connect Mayan civilization to Georgia mostly from evidence of oral history. Thornton argues there are place names in Georgia and North Carolina that sound Mayan and the stone ruins near Brasstown Bald have structures similar to those found in Central American Mayan sites. He writes:
"...both the Itza Mayas of Central America and the Hitchiti Creeks of the Southeast actually called themselves Itsate...and pronounced the word the same way. The Itsate Creeks used many Maya and Totonac words. Their architecture was identical to that of Maya commoners. The pottery at Ocmulgee National Monument (c 900 AD) in central Georgia is virtually identical to the Maya Plain Red pottery made by Maya Commoners."
Some have, however, defended Williams. Someone commenting on Examiner.com said: "While there are many, many compelling parallels between Central American and North American indigenous mythologies, that does not mean there was direct evidence that the post-Classic Period Collapse Maya emigrated all the way to Georgia." Another comment said: "Mark, it kills them when REAL archaeologists know how to blog! My father, southwestern Archaeologist Dr. Claude Warren, has been laughing aloud at such wishful conclusions for years! Thanks for chiming in!"
Williams maintains that Thornton's theories that Mayans migrated to Georgia are "wild theories." He says the sites are those of Native Americans of prehistoric Georgia who have no necessary links with the Mayan civilization.