Homer's Travels: TV: The History Detectives ... And Mayan Artifacts

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

TV: The History Detectives ... And Mayan Artifacts

For all you history buffs out there, I would like to recommend PBS' History Detectives (Usually Monday nights, check your local listings). The show's been on since 2003. I can't remember where I heard about the show but I've been hooked from the first episode. Why? I strange coincidence.

The show consists of three stories. A team investigate historical mysteries sent by the viewers. Some of them are quite fascinating. I guess deep down there is a little history geek trying to get out.

Now for the strange coincidence. The first episode covered a story of a small stone face. The stone face was found on a Jersey beach that turned out to be an Aztec relic over 1,800 years old. This reminded me of something from my childhood. Back in the 70s my family moved to Guatemala where my Dad farmed Cotton, Corn, and Sorghum. The farm, name Esperancita or A Little Hope in Spanish, was located near the Pacific coast of the country. During my exploration of the farm pieces of pottery were found that we called artifacts. We believed that they were probably Mayan in origin but we really didn't have any way to confirm their origin or age. When I moved back to the States, I brought some of the best back with me.

After seeing the episode I dug through my stuff and found the artifacts. I'd forgotten exactly what I had so I was surprised when I found a small stone face. Below is my artifact and you can see it is similar to the one on the History Detectives.

My artifact is obviously not as high quality as the one found in New Jersey but it is similar. Makes me wonder if it's almost 2,000 years old like the one of the show.

I have posted pictures of my other artifacts here. Note that the faces are missing noses - statuary and paintings were often defaced by invaders to rid them of vengeful spirits. Another interesting one is the animal hind quarters. What interests me is the fact that Maya did not have any domesticated animals with curly fur or wool. The nearest such animal would have been a South American llama. It is possible that this is a sheep. If it is then it dates the artifact sometime after the arrival of the Spanish and thus less then 500 years old.

The wheel (I have several of these) is thought to be either a toy wheel or part of a loom. The Maya didn't use the wheel for transportation but there is some evidence of using them as toys. They could also be decorations of some sort.

All the artifacts that we found were pottery. A story went around the farm that a mirgrant worker had found a gold statuette on the farm once but we never found out if it was true or not.

Are my artifacts really Mayan? I have no idea. They could be ... well 30 - 40 years old but I like to think they really are old with some cool story attached to them. Maybe I should write a letter to the History Detectives.


  1. Ever thought about a second career as an archaeologist?

  2. GH: Not really but when I was a kid I was interested in geology and dinosaurs. Archeology isn't too far from those.

  3. Very cool. You have treasures.

    Does this make you a pirate?

  4. JaG: Not sure. Might make me a grave robber but pirate sounds so much better.

  5. I looked like that once after a long night of drinking. Well, maybe the face on the rock looks better than I did.