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If an astronaut were ever to corroborate an aspect of my writings, I would have expected it to be in regard to planetary matters. Surprisingly, such a corroboration concerns, of all things, the Olmecs of ancient Mexico.

The unexpected corroboration is tucked away in the recently published book A Leap of Faith by the Mercury-7 astronaut Gordon Cooper, in which his story as a test pilot and astronaut is peppered with (to quote from the dust jacket) "his strong views on the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence -- and even the distinct possibility that we have already had contact."

The following segment is
© Z. Sitchin 2001
Reproduced by permission

The Olmec Enigma

Readers of my books, and especially of The Lost Realms, as well as of a previous article titled "The Case of the Missing Elephant," know by now that beginning with the discovery of a colossal stone head in 1869, an advanced civilization that preceded the Mayas and Aztecs of Mexico came to light. Its leaders and bearers were unmistakably black Africans. They were arbitrarily named by archaeologists "Olmecs"; and their embarrassing enigma -- of who they were, and how they had come across the ocean, and why, was compounded by the timing of their arrival in the New World.

Once it was conceded (very grudgingly!) that the 'Olmecs' did indeed represent the earliest or even Mother Civilization of Mesoamerica, the date of their arrival was at first set at about 250 B.C.; then at about 500 B.C.; then farther back and back, until 1500 B.C. was acknowledged.

But I have argued for a date twice as old!


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A God and His Secret Number

My conclusion that the Olmec presence in the New World went back at least 5,000 years, to circa 3000 B.C., was reached by many paths. The first one was an attempt to identify the great god of Mesoamerica, the Winged Serpent (Quetzalcoatl to the Aztecs, Kukulkan to the Mayas), and the significance of his promise to return to those lands on the first day of a 52-year cycle, (AD 1519, when the Aztec king Montezuma believed that the appearance of the Spanish conquistador Cortez was such a Return, coincided with the anticipated sacred date).

The peoples of Mesoamerica employed in addition to a practical calendar of 365 days, called the Haab, also a Sacred Calendar (called Tzolkin) of 260 days. The two cyclical calendars were conceived as two wheels with meshing teeth that turned and returned to the same spot once in 52 years; and 52 was the Sacred Number of the Winged Serpent god?

Since 52 was also the Secret Number of the god known to the Egyptians as Thoth; since Thoth as Quetzalcoatl, was the god of science and the calendar; and since Thoth was exiled from Egypt circa 3100 B.C., I have suggested that it was he who took a group of his African followers to a new land, bringing the "Olmecs" to Mesoamerica.

Accordingly, I said, Olmec presence goes back to at least 3000 B.C. -- a date twice as old as that conceded by established archaeologists.

The Mysterious "Day One"

By the time I was writing The Lost Realms, the book devoted to the prehistory of the Americas, I was sure that the arrival of the Olmecs with Thoth/Quetzalcoatl could be established with astounding precision. The key to unlocking the enigma was the Olmec Calendar.

In addition to the Haab and the Tzolkin, there was in Mesoamerica a third calendar, used to inscribe dates on monuments. Given the name the Long Count, it was not cyclical as the other two, but linear -- a continuous one, counting the total number of days that had passed since the counting began on a mysterious Day One.

By means of glyphs denoting groups of days
(1, 20, 360, 7,200 or even 144,000) and dots
and bars giving the number for each group-glyph, monuments were dated by saying: A total of so many days from Day One have passed when this Monument was erected.

But what was that Day One, when did it occur, and what was its significance?

It has been established beyond doubt that this Long Count calendar was the original Olmec calendar; and it is now generally agreed that Day One was equivalent to August 13, 3113 B.C.

But what does that date signify? As far as I know, the only plausible answer was provided by me: It was the date of Thoth/Quetzalcoatl's arrival, with his followers in Mesoamerica!

The Unexpected Corroboration

All official publications continue, however, to remain at 1250 B.C. -- 1500 B.C. at most -- as the date of the start of the Olmec presence.

Imagine my pleasant surprise to come across an eye-witness report by the astronaut Gordon Cooper in chapter 11 of his book Leap of Faith : An Astronaut's Journey into the Unknown: "During my final years with NASA," he writes, "I became involved in a different kind of adventure: undersea treasure hunting in Mexico." One day, accompanied by a National Geographic photographer, they landed in a small plane on an island in the Gulf of Mexico; local residents pointed out to them pyramid-shaped mounds, where they found ruins, artifacts and bones. On examination back in Texas, the artifacts were determined to be 5,000 years old!

"When we learned of the age of the artifacts," Cooper writes, “we realized that what we'd found had nothing to do with seventeenth-century Spain... I contacted the Mexican government and was put in touch with the head of the national archaeology department, Pablo Bush Romero."

Together with Mexican archeologists the two went back to the site. After some excavating, Cooper writes,

"The age of the ruins was confirmed: 3000 B.C. Compared with other advanced civilizations, relatively little was known about this one --called the Olmec."

Proceeding to describe some of the amazing discoveries about the Olmecs and their achievements, Gordon Cooper continues thus:

"Engineers, farmers, artisans, and traders, the Olmecs had a remarkable civilization. But it is still not known where they originated... Among the findings that intrigued me most: celestial navigation symbols and formulas that, when translated, turned out to be mathematical formulas used to this day for navigation, and accurate drawings of constellations, some of which would not be officially 'discovered' until the age of modern telescopes."

It was this, rather than his experiences as an astronaut, that triggered Gordon Cooper's "Leap of faith": "This left me wondering: Why have celestial navigation signs if they weren't navigating celestially?” And he asks: If ‘someone’ had helped the Olmecs with this knowledge, from whom did they get it?

My readers, of course, know the answers.

Has the Cover-up Ended?

The outstanding museum on the Olmec civilization in Jalapa, in the Veracruz province of Mexico, included when it was built a wall panel showing the extent and dates of Mexico's various cultures. On my first visit there, I could hardly believe my eyes: The first (earliest) civilization, that of the Olmecs, was shown as begun circa 3000 B.C.!

I urged the members of my group to take pictures of me pointing to the date: Finally, the date claimed by me has been officially accepted!

On a second visit, however (to which the previous article, The Case of the Missing Elephant relates), not only the telltale elephant-toy disappeared; the Olmec column starting at 3000 B.C. was also gone... And the official Museum Catalogue, reviewing the Olmec civilization, reverted to 1500 B.C.

But now comes the astronaut Gordon Cooper, and innocently and inter-alia tells, as an eye-witness, what he was told by the chief Mexican archaeologist: 3000 B.C.

And thus, when all is said and done, I stand vindicated.

Zecharia Sitchin
November 2000

© Z. Sitchin 2001 Presented with permission.

Masters of Time

By Will Hart

It has been 23 years but I remember the morning like it was yesterday. A mist shrouded the jungle above the Temple of the Inscriptions. A series of roaring sounds suddenly split the silence as a band of Howler monkeys made their way through the trees. The cacophony added to the sense of mystery.

My head was exploding. By the time I had reached Palenque we had already visited dozens of archeological sites from the northern most down to the Yucatan Peninsula. I was steeped in questions and mysteries.

Several things had become clear to me: the cultures that built the pyramids and other buildings had been advanced in the arts and sciences. I had seen many beautiful things emblematic of advanced culture as well as many enigmas.

The Olmec civilization surprised me the most. I had read about the Maya and knew of the Aztecs but I was unprepared for what I found in Villahermosa: Large stone heads with Negroid features and stone Stella carved with depictions of curious emissaries. The figures clearly were not from any Mexican culture.

These artifacts were more than just a fascinating puzzle they represented a headache for science. They are an anomaly. Who carved the heads? Who created the Stella? Where did they get the models for these heads and figures? These were questions that arose because of the way scientists have reconstructed the human history of Mesoamerica. Africans don't fit and neither do the cloaked Caucasian figures carved on the Stele. They shouldn't be there, however, they are there as bold and undeniable as sunlight.

Scientists do not claim to have solved this enigma. Anthropologists and archeologists admit they do not know much of anything about Olmec culture. So we don't know the ethnic group or the language and nothing of their social organization, beliefs or traditions. No one has any idea of why they carved the helmeted heads or what these curious people called themselves.

The only records we have are the monuments they left behind, which are impressive. But how do we understand them? Where do they fit in the mosaic of human history? There are no direct clues in Mexico. The Olmecs didn't leave us any written records. However, we do have a clue.

The bible is an extremely important document. It doesn't matter whether you are a believer or not. It contains a very ancient accounting of human history compiled from a variety of early sources. At least this is true of Genesis. But it is not always easy to decode. Do we find any reference in the bible that might help us solve the Olmec enigma?

Turning to Genesis Chapter 11 we read " Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words." This indicates that there was a period in man's history when there was a global human civilization. Let us call it the "zero" civilization. We learn that during that epoch men wanted to build a tower: "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven; and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."

The fact that the Olmec civilization presents science with an anomaly indicates something quite profound: the data does not fit the model. Scientists can't change the observable data, it is as hard as data can get. But they could change the model to conform to the data. There is the rub. Anthropologists and archeologists have a huge investment in that model, an intellectual edifice that has been built up over generations.

Scientists would rather ignore the tough questions and leave the Olmecs alone relegated to the dim mists of forgotten antiquity. That is not a very scientific approach. Where is the pursuit of truth? What happened to the scientific method? It is just not acceptable. Why?

Some ancient society built the huge mound; dragged the basalt heads about 60 miles from the quarry to the burial site; those heads weighed from 5 to 18 tons; and they also carved the figures into the stele. They wouldn't have gone to all that trouble unless the people the monuments represented were important to them. It is a logical assumption to make and we can only hope that scientists in the distant future will reach the same conclusion when they study Mount Rushmore.

Since we have the artifacts we know that there has to be an explanation for who the builders were. As with any mystery you search for clues. You begin in the most likely places and work your way down the list: Mexico. The problem is that the Olmecs disappeared from the scene long before Cortez arrived. None of the cultures contemporary with the Aztecs made any references to the Olmecs, they seemed to know nothing. No other Negroid heads have been found in Mesoamerica. Another curious fact is that the developmental period that must have preceded the mound building and head carving is nowhere to be found.

The Olmecs just suddenly appeared then disappered!

It took me years of investigation to finally realize that the most probable answer was in the bible and that was about the last place I thought to look. Did the Olmecs come from outer space as some researchers have proposed? Not necessarily. For one thing there is no evidence to support that theory. Secondly, the Negroid heads and the people depicted on the stele are obviously human.

The idea that there was a global civilization in ancient times does not conform to the current model of science. However, it is corroborated by the reference in the bible. The problem with the scientific model is that it can't explain the available data and that is a serious issue that has many consequences. If the problem was limited to the Olmec civilization we might just let it go. But there are artifacts in Egypt, South America and other parts of Mexico that also don't fit the orthodox scheme.

Scientists have often shown a willful blindness regarding artifacts and developments that they can't explain using their belief system. Worse, they have either ignored key questions or discredited the facts. Many other hard facts including the remains of lost civilizations, and the cultural records of numerous peoples corroborate the Olmec enigma and the bible.

References to the cataclysmic Flood occur in 230 different cultures. Mayan history includes the story of how they came from a land to the east that had been destroyed. The historian Herodutus' recounted of the tale of lost Atlantis. These accounts may sound like romantic myths spun out of early imaginations, however, when you stand at an ancient site surrounded by strange ruins…you begin to wonder if they just might have more than a grain of truth?

I climbed the steps of the Temple of Inscriptions and visited the tomb of Pacal. Then I decided to take a long trip down to the Rio Usamacinta to Bonampak and Yaxchilan. It was 100 miles of bad dirt road. Heavily rutted in places. It finally became so muddy that we mired the van up to the axles. We had reached the destination. Bonampak was a short walk.

I visited Bonampak. My next destination was Yaxchilan, a ruin secreted in the jungle about 8 miles from Bonampak. I decided to try and hack my way there with a machete against the advice of the natives who had warned me: "la selva is cerrado!" They were right. I gave up after a grueling four-hour stint that netted less than a quarter mile mostly on my belly trying to avoid razor-sharp thorn shrubs. The insects were ravaging my body.

Yaxchilan is situated on the river and it was alleged to be the center of the flourishing Maya civilization in this region. In Feb. 1989, James O'Kon did manage to make it to the site. Archeologists had been studying it for a century. A particular mound of rocks caught O'Kon's trained eye. Scientists had dismissed it as a minor mystery but the amateur archeologist was also a forensic engineer and he immediately knew what it really was: part of bridge.

He turned to modern technology to help prove a bridge once existed at the site. O'Kon, a former chairman of the forensic council of the American Society of Civil Engineers, had used similar techniques during investigations. He compiled field information at the Mayan site and used computers to integrate archeological studies, aerial photos and maps to develop a three-dimensional model of the site and determine the exact positioning and dimensions of the bridge.

O'Kon ended up making a startling discovery: The Mayans had constructed the longest bridge span in the ancient world. When he finished calculations and computer models the bridge turned out to be a 600-foot span, a hemp rope suspension structure with two piers and three spans. It connected Yaxchilan in Mexico with its agricultural domain in the Peten, which is now Guatemala and where Tikal is situated.

What archeologists had assumed was an insignificant rock pile turned out to be part of a crucial finding, a pier 12 foot high and 35 foot in diameter. Aerial photos located a second support pier on the opposite side of the river. Both piers were constructed of cast-in-place concrete and an exterior of stone masonry. That is exactly how the Mayan pyramids were made.

In interviews O'Kon, who has been studying the ancient Maya for 30 years, said, "the Mayas were very sophisticated mathematically and scientifically." He claimed the design requirements of the Mayan bridge parallel 20th century bridge-design criteria.

Today we marvel at the ruins and speculate on how and why they built the ceremonial sites. We shouldn't forget that the Maya were an advanced race. They understood astronomy. They had an accurate calendar. They invented the concept of zero at least 700 years before it was incorporated into European mathematics. They built paved roads and as we have recently learned the longest suspension bridge in the ancient world.

What occurred to me while standing atop another the pyramid at Coba in Quintana Roo surveying a trackless jungle was the fact that the Maya had achieved all this in a jungle. No other advanced civilization I could think of had emerged from a jungle environment. It deepens the mystery of this lost race.

The sacbe are a system of roads that interconnect the sites. This is another feature that has long puzzled scientists and independent investigators alike. The roads were built up with rocks, leveled and paved over with limestone cement. They vary in width from 8 feet up to 30 feet. The mystery is simple: Why would a 'stone age' people without wheeled vehicles or dray animals need such an elaborate and sophisticated road network?

The fact that they had to construct and maintain these roads in the jungle makes the question more pressing. The historical chronicles prepared by the conquistadors, mostly bishop Diego de Landa, suggest a network of all-weather roads that linked Mayan urban sites.

You almost have to stand at a site and image the scene as it was during the peak of Mayan civilization to really grasp the magnitude and appreciate what this culture achieved. Today we see ruins and jungle. Pyramids that are little more than bare stone. Crumbling buildings surrounded by wilderness. However, in that day the pyramids were coated with stucco. They were smooth and gleamed in the sun and shimmered under a silvery full moon. The walls of the structures were painted with various designs using bright colors. The courtyards were paved. The flat white roads radiated out in all directions connecting the centers together.
Despite their advanced knowledge of astronomy and mathematics and their achievements in art and architecture scientists still consider them a 'stone age' culture.

Is there something wrong with this picture? Should the Maya be considered a Neolithic culture when they were advanced in every other regard except having metal tools? The Romans did not have the concept zero and their mathematical system was crude compared to the Mayan, yet they were adept engineers and had metal tools. O'Kon dismisses the idea that the Maya were 'stone age' by pointing out that the nearest iron ore deposits are 1500 miles away. He contends that the Maya used jade for tools and that it is harder than steel. He calls them a "technolithic race".

Time is the essence of life. Human beings have always been immersed in it, keeping track of it in one way or another, measuring it as minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and millennia. We know of many of its dimensions and we have used them to our advantage. We know when the dinosaurs roamed the earth; how long it takes for various radioactive isotopes to decay; when our early hominid ancestors branched off from apes; the exact dates of lunar and solar eclipses long into the future.

Time causes all living things to grow old and die. It seems so obvious and ubiquitous we are like fish and time is water. We never ask the basic question: What is it? Do we understand it? Is it more than a system of measurement whether of the present moment or of the age of the universe?

All cultures certainly have a focus on time; however, the Maya had an obsession with it.
They tracked and measured the day length of Venus, which is 528 earth days. The 365-day Mayan calendar year was more precise than the Gregorian calendar. They devised three different calendrical systems: the tzolkin (sacred calendar), the haab (civil calendar), and the long count.

The tzolkin is a cycle of 260 days (13 months of 20 days each) and the haab is the solar cycle. These two calendars were combined in an interlocking fashion to produce a cycle of 18,980 days, which was known as a calendar round. That is about 52 years.

Each day had a particular glyph and meaning ascribed to it and at the end of the 52-year cycle they had a renewal ceremony. The long count period ended at 5200 years. This was equivalent to an age. According to the Maya humanity was in the 4th Sun or age. That would end 5200 years from the beginning of their calendar, which started in 3011BC. And expires on 2012.

The longest cycle in Mayan cosmology is 26,000 years, which corresponds to the precession of the equinox. There would be yet another 5200 year cycle left in the grand cycle since there are 5 long count cycles or suns and we are nearing the end of the 4th.

Why did the Maya have such a fascination with astronomy? Why did they create such an intricate calendrical system? Would a 'stone age' agrarian society need all this advanced astronomical and mathematical knowledge? How did they acquire it in such a short time? How would they have any awareness of such a complex phenomena as the day length of Venus or the precession of the equinoxes?

They are either more ancient than science allows or they had more sophisticated technology than we know of or someone passed the knowledge down to them. Is it coincidental that the beginning of the 4th age was 3000 BC, which corresponds to the birth of the Jewish calendar? The assertion that the "world" is only 5000 years old may have more truth to it than we know. Is it also a coincidence that so many Christians believe we are in the End Times? This 5,000-year cycle is nearing completion.

The Maya obsession with time may have been based on a deep awareness of how it functions on a cosmic scale and then unfolds on earth in short and long- term cycles. That may be the message that the lost civilizations have been trying to deliver to us and we may just be starting to get it.

© 2002 by Will Hart


The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness
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Breaking the Maya Code
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An Introduction to the Study of the Maya Hieroglyphs
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Jaguar Wisdom: Mayan Calendar Magic
by Kenneth Johnson
Galactic Alignment: The Transformation of Consciousness According to Mayan, Egyptian, and Vedic Traditions
by John Major Jenkins

The Supergods: 
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by Maurice Cotterell

Solving the Greatest Mystery of Our time : The Mayan Calendar
by Carl Johan Calleman

The Mayan Prophecies: 
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Adrian Gilbert & Maurice Cotterell

Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 : 
The True Meaning 
of the Maya Calendar End-Date

John Major Jenkins

Popol Vuh : The Mayan Book 
of the Dawn of Life

Dennis Tedlock (translator)

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The Art of Mesoamerica :
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National Geographic's Lost Kingdoms of the Maya

Release Date: April 14, 1997
Run Time: 60 minutes

Fall of the Aztec and Maya Empires
Release Date: June 22, 1999
Run Time: 65 minutes


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Read an article by Brian Haughton >>

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International explorer, archaeologist and author Jonathan Gray has traveled the world to gather data on ancient mysteries. He has penetrated some largely unexplored areas, including parts of the Amazon headwaters. The author has also led expeditions to the bottom of the sea and to remote mountain and desert regions of the world. He lectures internationally.

"Dead Men's Secrets" by Jonathan Gray is 373 pages of discovering ancient technology and lost secrets. Do not miss his new books that followed "Dead Men's Secrets":

Book 1 – "The Killing Of... PARADISE PLANET"  lays out stunning evidence of a once-global paradise, with a temperature-controlled climate, idyllic landscape and long-lived human giants… but a super culture ready to wipe itself out. The world BEFORE the Great Flood of 2345 BC

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To order visit this page: Jonathan Gray


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KEYWORDS: Mayan and Aztec Calendars, Olmec, civilization, culture, history, solar, lunar, calendar,
Sun Stone, history of calendar, Mexico, Museum, Anthropology, Mayan Ruins,