|Author||Douglas T. Peck|
|Publication Date||March 29, 2007|
This book differs from past publications related to the prehistoric Maya in that it was written as a chronological narrative history using William Dray’s “rational explanation” philosophy (Dray 1970), rather than a highly technical treatise on the subject organized by subject matter and following the “covering law” model (Honderich 1995:364-365) as common in works on the Maya written by an anthropologist/archaeologist. In writing this book I can be accused of going over well-trodden ground previously published by astute scholars whose works have been largely accepted by the academic community. In essence that is the basic approach of this eclectic historical research, - to examine the widely divergent views expressed in published works and reexamine primary source evidence to determine an accurate and viable historical pattern for the origin and diffusion of Maya civilization.
From this comprehensive reexamination and study (see Acknowledgements), there evolved a new pattern for the origin and diffusion of the major elements of Maya civilization that is defined and named as the; “Olmec/Chontal/Itzaì-Centric Theory. The philosophy of presenting history as a “rational explanation” pattern rather than a loose compilation of facts was voiced by William Dray in stating: “History has to do with the activities of human beings, and understanding the latter standardly involves notions of desire, belief, and purpose whose explanatory role cannot be adequately comprehended within the ‘covering law’ theory“ (Honderich 1995:365). A perhaps oversimplification of this basic idea can be expressed in the popular adage that, “pots are not people.” William McNeill in his book Mythistory and Other Essays has summarized this philosophy on historical research in stating: “To become history, facts have to be put together into a pattern that is understandable and creditable; and when that has been achieved, the resulting portrait of the past may become useful” (McNeill 1986:5). And in this book, these “facts that have been put together as a pattern,” consist of evidence derived from several sources; including analysis of artifacts and art from archaeological investigations, examination and interpretation of related early Spanish documents, and study and interpretation of oral Maya mythology and legends.
The book presents verified evidence for a cultural pattern that challenges the popular view that the advanced Maya civilization in the Yucatan only developed late in the Classic and Post Classic period and was largely influenced by acculturation from the Mexican highlands or the jungles of the Peten. This popular view has little creditable historical foundation and is supported primarily by the “authority” of predecessor archaeologist/historians and by circular reasoning that since some motifs of art and architecture in the Yucatan can be found in the highland area; therefore that is their source. Contrary to this consensus, the theory or historical pattern presented in the book shows that the Olmec cultural heritage and knowledge did not die out or disappear with the questionable destruction and abandonment of their early centers, but melded unbroken into the growing power of the militaristic, mercantile oriented Chontal Maya, their close neighbors residing only a short distance east in Tabasco.
Part I details how the Chontal Maya; later known by their true name as the Itzaì, spread the Olmec/Chontal/Itzaì Kukulcan myth, writing, mathematics, and other vestiges of advanced civilization, first to Yucatan and subsequently throughout the Maya lowlands and peripheral highland areas. This is contrary to current consensus which sees the flow of acculturation in the opposite direction or developing independently as contemporary widely dispersed centers with no defined pattern.