Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Calixtlahuaca head

Calixtlahuaca is an ancient Mesoamerican site located near the present-day city Toluca in Mexico. The site was occupied by the Aztecs, but the structures there were built by a people who came before the Aztecs, a people whom the Aztecs referred to as "Toltecs," or "the Builders."

While the site is important in its own right for the impressive ancient structures there, particularly the distinctive circular temples (possibly related to astronomical observations), it is also noteworthy for the discovery of the controversial "Calixtlahuaca head," an image of which can be seen on this Wikipedia entry (and in other places on the web). It is worth clicking through to check it out, as it clearly depicts an individual with European features including a beard and mustache.

The head was discovered in 1933 during the excavation led by Jose Garcia Payon, underneath two undisturbed cemented floors predating the Aztec period, according to this article describing the find. It sat mostly forgotten in storage in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City until 1990, when an archaeology student named Romeo Hristov, who had read the accounts of the head and initiated a search for it, located the artifact after two years of research.

Not only does the sculptured head clearly display European features, but details of the style used indicate that it is Roman in origin and style. Professional scholars have examined the head and declared that it is "unquestionably" Roman in origin. Dating by thermoluminescence in 1995 suggested that the head is not a modern fake, but was sculpted some time between 870 BC and AD 1270, an admittedly broad range but old enough to indicate that it was made well before historically known European contact with the civilizations of the Americas.

Predictably, defenders of the conventional paradigm, which disallows regular contact between ancient peoples who were separated by the vast oceans of the Atlantic or the Pacific, have suggested that the head was either planted at the site as a prank prior to its discovery in 1933, or that early Spanish conquistadors introduced it and that the twentieth-century excavators mistakenly thought it had come from an undisturbed older area, or that some Roman ship may have been blown off course and the head kept as a treasured object by the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica.

A good example of the kind of alternative explanations that skeptics propose in order to avoid the possibility that ancient civilizations could have had sustained contact with the Mesoamerican civilizations (or that ancient Europeans, Phoenicians, Egyptians or other Old World peoples could have actually been living in Mesoamerica for extended periods) can be found here, from a professor at Arizona State University.

As we have said before about other "anomalous" finds (such as the head of the Ruamahanga woman, which is not a sculpture but an actual skull which can be dated with radiocarbon dating and analyzed using mitochondrial DNA examinations), if this Calixtlahuaca head were the only piece of evidence suggesting ancient trans-oceanic contact, then it is certainly appropriate to suggest alternative explanations and to prefer them to a possibility that has no other support. However, the fact is that there are many other pieces of evidence that ancient mankind was far more advanced than we give credit for, and that ancient civilizations could and did traverse the oceans, including:
In light of all the evidence (and the above examples are merely the tip of the iceberg), why do so many professors and historians privilege speculative explanations with absolutely no evidence to back them up over the obvious conclusion that ancient civilizations could and did cross the oceans regularly? Why is it that orthodox scholars find it more likely that some of the other participants in the 1933 excavation that unearthed the Calixtlahuaca head just happened to have an authentic Roman head with them on the dig, which they planted as a joke? Or that early Spanish conquistadors happened to haul an ancient sculpted Roman head along with them into the jungle on horseback for some unknown reason, in order to leave it in Calixtlahuaca? At least in this case the ridiculous explanation that ancient Mesoamericans simply sculpted a head that accidentally and unintentionally looks European has not been trotted out, as is the case with other sculpted faces and figures found in other sites.

Again, if it were to turn out that the Calixtlahuaca head were to be proven to be a hoax, or that somehow it really was brought to Mexico in the 1500s by the Spaniards for some reason, this would not really damage the thesis that advanced ancient civilizations were in contact with the Americas. The Calixtlahuaca is only "one data point" in a huge pile of other pieces of evidence which point to conclusions other than the conventional storyline. However, in light of all the other evidence, it is very likely that the Calixtlahuaca head is another important sign declaring that most of what we have been taught about the ancient history of mankind is wrong.

Why is it that most people have never heard of this important 1933 discovery? And why is it that conventional scholars are so anxious to dismiss it?