Between AD 800 and 900, the Classic Maya civilization suddenly collapsed. The abrupt decline of this fascinating and highly sophisticated population has baffled archaeologists for decades. Nearly 100 theories purport to account for the collapse, including drought, revolution, and diseases. Now, Creek Indian architect and city planner Richard Thornton has added a new theory to the mix. Thornton believes that Maya commoners left the southern lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula…traveled thousands of miles…and ended up in Georgia.
Did the Classic Maya Resettle in Georgia?
His evidence is limited yet intriguing. The site in question – Brasstown Bald mountain – contains 300 to 500 rock terraces and mounds that date back ~1,100 years, roughly the time of the Classic Maya Collapse. The natives of that area apparently created pottery similar to Maya common folk. Their stone structures were “identical in form to numerous agricultural terrace sites in Chiapas, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.” And then there’s the linguistic evidence:
“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).'” ~ Richard Thornton
Thornton’s theory is that commoners, rather than the elite, escaped Mexico when the Classic Maya collapsed. Some of them made their way to Georgia and became elites themselves. These people soon blended in with the existing indigenous peoples, wiping out any traces of their original heritage.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
Professional archaeologists have rained scorn upon the theory, including several referenced by Thornton in his article. I can’t vouch for Thornton’s work and his evidence is far from conclusive. Still, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that some disgruntled Mayas left Mexico and ventured into what is now the United States. As to whether they made it all the way to Georgia, well, the jury is still out.