Posts Tagged With: pre-Columbian transoceanic diffusion

Teotihuacan’s Underground Electrical Mercury Pools.


The 6th article in the Lost History of Ancient America is titled “An Ancient American Mexican Pyramid’s Liquid Mercury” by Frank Joseph.

Like the other articles in the edited volume, this one is brief and short on citations or evidence. What evidence that is offered is re-interpreted to try and hold up Joseph’s buried argument that Europeans brought electricity to the Mesoamerica by teaching them how to use liquid mercury to conduct it. He offers no reason for why or how this happened, and you have to read the final two paragraphs to even understand that this is the overall argument of the article in the first place.

Joseph begins with the 2015 discovery of traces of liquid mercury under the Temple of Quetzalcoatl also known as the Feathered Serpent Pyramid in ancient Teotihuacan. This discovery, made by Julie Gazzola and Sergio Chavez Gomez, director of the Tlalocan Project (Villarreal N.d.), and a graduate student with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, was only part of the massive and interesting excavations of an underground tunnel that appears to run from the courtyard in front of the main facade of the temple, to well under the temple itself (Yuhas 2015, Zorich 2015). Gomez discovered the entrance to the tunnel in 2003, and has since discovered five underground chambers, each filled with artifacts, offerings, animal skeletons, and other items that show the importance of women in Teotihuacan society as well as the long reach of their trade (Vance 2014, Yuhas 2015, Zorich 2015). Gomez and his cohorts speculate that the mercury could represent water in the underworld for the Mesoamericans (Yuhas 2015). It could also mark the possible burial chamber of a monarch, or the presence of an important ritual chamber (Vance 2014, Yuhas 2015, Villarreal N.d.).

Joseph attempts to tie this discovery to the tomb of Qin Shi Huang Di (sic) or as it’s better known the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, Qin Shi Huang (Unesco N.d). This is the same burial complex where the Terracotta soldiers were uncovered. The exposed burial complex, for it is truly a massive undertaking, mirrors the layout of the imperial city of Qin Shi Huang’s time (Unesco N.d). This mirroring reportedly includes using liquid mercury to mimic the lakes and rivers of the Qin’s China (Unesco N.d).

Now, there have been readings taken of the mound over the location of the burial mausoleum, and they do show incredibly high readings of mercury (Qingbo 2007, Moskowitz 2012). However, the ground entombing the mausoleum has not been breached (Moskowitz 2012), and at the time of this writing, we do not know exactly what is going on down there.

That said, this comparison between the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl isn’t that far fetched. More importantly however, I don’t believe Joseph placed it in his article to really show a cultural connection. I think this was a setup for a statement that is made later in the article.

But we’re not done with the Temple of Quetzalcoatl yet. Joseph makes an interesting comment about Quetzalcoatl.

“The Feathered Serpent Pyramid is so called because of the exterior representation of an ‘overseas’ culture bearer, who arrived in the distant past from his Homeland across the Atlantic (Joseph 2017)”.

Joseph is speaking about the god Quetzalcoatl here, and I have never seen these attributes assigned to him. Quetzalcoatl is a god of knowledge, the priesthood, the giver of corn, the creator of books and the calendar, sometimes death and reincarnation, but nothing about being an overseas culture bearer. What’s more, Joseph offers no explanation of where he got his interpretation of the engravings around the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, so we don’t know what he means or who he got this apparently erroneous information from. (I’m willing to update this section if solid evidence comes to light to challenge this.)

So we move back from misinterpretation of god traits to the presence of liquid mercury. Joseph informs us that Rosemary Joyce of UC Berkeley says there are other sites in Mexico with liquid mercury in them (Joseph 2017). To this he is right. Dr. Joyce is a recognized expert in Mesoamerica Culture and the presence of mercury has been discovered at other location in the ancient Mesoamerican world. Joyce outlines several of them in her 2015 blog article Liquid Mercury Found Under Mexican Pyramid. What Joseph ignores from all of the articles he no doubt read in order to write his own, is why the mercury was there in the first place.

As we discussed above with Gazzola and Gomez’ discovery in Teotihuacan, mercury probably was used for its mirrors like properties and it’s apparent similarity to water. Both mirrors and water were sacred to Mesoamerica Culture and used in religious ceremonies. Mirrors were seen as being a portal to the underworld or spirit world, one you could look though, but not interact through (Healy and Blainey 2011). They were probably used for scrying and divination as well, and there are written accounts of bowls of water being used for the same purposes (Healy and Blainey 2011). (We simply don’t have the space to cover how important mirrors were, there are libraries full of research that you can read over about this topic, and a Wiki entry that seems to do a fair job of abbreviating it. I’ve even got a few links in the resources section following the blog.)

Mercury no doubt, also held a place of significance. Not only was the liquid form shinny like a mirror and fluid like water, the red ore it was extracted from, cinnabar, was ground up and used as a red paint on the dead and in art (Healy and Blainey 2011). All of this, the mercury, the cinnabar paint, even mirrors, had a logical place in Mesoamerica Culture that Joseph has to willfully ignore in order to push his argument forward.

But now we get to the formation of Joseph’s argument. After hinting at the presence of mercury at various Mesoamerican sites and probably at the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, Joseph is points out that Europeans were manufacturing liquid mercury long before either the Chinese or Mesoamerica even discovered it (Joseph 2017). This is more subtle ground work. Keeping in mind the overall goal of the book this article is in, the implication here is that Europeans were the first to ‘discover’ mercury, and so were the source of this information. Thereby implying that any other culture that also has this information must have gotten it from the Europeans.

Joseph makes a leap of logic that is not supported in anything he’s presented so far. He introduces Larry Brian Radka, a retired broadcast engineer and author of books such as Historical Evidence for Unicorns (1995) and Astonomical(sic) revelations or 666 (1997) . The most recent title I can find for him is, The Electric Mirror on the Pharos(sic) Lighthouse and Other Ancient Lighting (2006) which sells for a mere $4,491.00 on Amazon.


Radka is a big believer in ancient electricity and mostly seems to reinterpret Egyptian hieroglyphs to be light bulbs and lamps.

Next Joseph uses a large quote from the Wikipedia entry on Mercury to try and bolster the argument that Mesoamerica mercury was used for electrical purposes. I want to be bothered by this, but I realize that the differences between linking to a Wiki article for reference and using a Wiki article as evidence might be lost on many, so I’m just going to let this one go.

Lastly, Joseph brings up the discovery of a chamber beneath the Temple of the Sun, also located in the Teotihuacan complex (2017). I’m guessing he’s referring to the 1971 discovery of what appeared to be a cave (Heyden 1975) and has been further explored and expanded on (Sugiyama et al. 2013). The tunnel and chambers beneath the Temple of the Sun appear to follow a similar layout like that under the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (Sugiyama et al. 2013). Joseph claims that there was a shelf full of micro thin wafers of Mica on it. If you know anything about mica, you know it basically peels apart in thin sheets, or flakes very easily like that. It’s almost impossible to keep thick sheets of it together. It’s also naturally shiny and was used by the Mesoamerica as (you guessed it) mirrors (Healy and Blainey 2011).

What I can’t place is Joseph’s claim of “wafer thin Mica that had been imported nearly 2,000 years before from Brazil 4,615 air miles away (Joseph 2017).” The only other place I can find this, besides other fringe sites that are quoting Joseph, is a USA Today fluff piece on Teotihuacan that has no references at all. I do know that mica occurs naturally almost everywhere, so I don’t think there would have been a need for the inhabitants at Teotihuacan to go 4,000 + miles out of their way to find any.

Joseph closes his article with the statement:

“Why would the Teotihuacanos have gone to the immense trouble of bringing such delicate materials from so far away only to conceal them deep underground where they would never be seen? Like liquid mercury, mica has important electrical properties. Perhaps both were employed in tandem to power the “place where Gods become men” (Joseph 2017).”

So much to unpack here, let’s keep it brief. There are two massive, unsupported assumptions here.

1) ‘Teotihuacanos’ were using mercury and mica to electrify Teotihuacan, and

2) That knowledge came from Europeans from across the ocean.

First, aside from the incredible lack of evidence for the use of electricity at Teotihuacan, or Joseph’s lack of an attempt to provide any, Joseph is completely ignoring the cultural significance of both mercury and mica to Mesoamerica culture. This is even more puzzling because the very sources he cites, namely Wikipedia, clearly have sections, with citations, that explain this. Even the 2015 Guardian article by Alan Yuhas, (that I think he used based on terms he mentions in this article) goes to great lengths to explain the cultural significance of mercury. As does Dr. Rosemary Joyce, who Joseph reference by name (but fails to cite), so I can safely assume he read her blog post, since he directly quotes it.

The second part of this is the re-occurring diffusion argument that unnamed Europeans were the fathers of all culture and invention and though transoceanic travel, disseminated it to everyone else. Again, there is a resounding lack of evidence for this, and this article does nothing to add to that.


The major argument that Joseph appears to be making here is that the Mesoamericans had the knowledge of electricity, and were using it at Teotihuacan, and that knowledge came from unarmed Europeans from across the ocean. Joseph offers no evidence to support any part of this claim beyond quoting a Wikipedia article about how mercury can be used to conduct electricity in the modern era. There is nothing at Teotihuacan that would suggest the mercury found beneath the Feathered Serpent Pyramid was being used for anything resembling electricity. There is however, ample evidence that both the mercury and the mica at the site fit with the known cultural aspects of Mesoamerican society, and Joseph has offered nothing to challenge that.

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Healy, Paul F. and Marc G. Blainey
2011 Ancient Maya Mosaic Mirrors: Function, Symbolism, and Meaning. Cambridge. Ancient-Mesoamerica, Volume 22, Issue 2
October 2011, pp. 229-244. Published online: 30 December 2011 DOI: Retrieved 3/2/17

Heyden, Doris
1975 An Interpretation of the Cave underneath the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico. Retrieved 3/2/17

Holloway, April
2015 River of Mercury in Underworld of Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl may lead to Royal Tomb. Retrieved 3/2/17

Joyce, Rosemary
2015 “Liquid mercury found under Mexican pyramid”…Berkeley . Retrieved 3/2/17

Moskowitz, Clara
2012 The Secret Tomb of China’s 1st Emperor: Will We Ever See Inside? Live Science. Retrieved 3/2/17

Shaer, Matthew
2016 A Secret Tunnel Found in Mexico May Finally Solve the Mysteries of Teotihuacán. Smithsonian Magazine. June 2016. Retrieved 3/2/17

Sugiyama, Nawa, Saburo Sugiyama, and Alejandro Sarabia
2013 Inside the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan, Mexico: 2008-2011 Excavations and Preliminary Results. Latin American Antiquity. 24(4), 2013, pp. 403–432. the Society for American Archaeology. Retrieved 3/2/17

N.d. Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. Unesco website. Retrieved 3/2/17

Vance, Erik
2014 New Artifact-Filled Chambers Revealed under Teotihuacan
Rooms beneath the mysterious city contain jade statues, jaguar remains and thousands of other objects. Scientific American. Retrieved 3/2/17

Villarreal, Jose
N.d Archaeologists Find Tunnel Below the Temple of the
Feathered Serpent in Teotihuacan. Art Retrieved 3/2/17

Yuhas, Alan
2015 Liquid mercury found under Mexican pyramid could lead to king’s tomb. Retrieved 3/2/17

Zorich, Zach
2015 Mythological Mercury Pool. Teotihuacan, Mexico. Archaeology magazine online. Retrieved 3/2/17

Categories: ArchyFantasy Reviews, The Lost History of Ancient America, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hindu Corn Goddesses and Tobacco Mummies: New World Plants and Old World Trade.

IMG_20170115_061833_processed-01.jpegThe second article in The Lost History of Ancient America is titled ‘Plants Connect the Old and New Worlds’. It’s penned by Dr. Carl L. Johannessen (2017), a retired professor of geography from the University of Oregon.

Johannessen’s article is the longest in the first section of the book and claims that there are 14 plants that were present in both the Old World and the New before 1492. It’s obvious that this article was meant to be a powerhouse of evidence for the book, yet the evidence provided is less than convincing.

The article itself suffers from the same shortcomings as the rest of the articles in the book. There are no citations to back up the claims made or to document research. Everything in the article revolves around the unverified assumption that transoceanic travelers did exist and that they did participate in trade with pre-Columbia Peoples. Johannessen even goes on to assign value to certain commodities, declaring some “moneymakers”, and creating transportation methods for other “attractive” commodities. He muses that Annona was probably used to combat scurvy on long cross ocean trips and that beans and peas would have been good food stuff for these travelers because they could be dried and are high in protein.

Johannessen spends a lot of the article weaving an intriguing story about how and why “tropical sailors” would have been coming to and from the New World. He even references “new evidence of dated discoveries” (Johannessen 2017) that support the reality of these sailors, yet fails to provide any information about what these are or even provide citations in the article documenting them.

Johannessen then acknowledges the “evidence and contributions” of the Norse in pre-Columbian times:

“The fact that there is acknowledged genetic, artistic, cultural, and biological evidence for regular and repeated contact between these Nordic peoples and populations of the northeastern region of North America simply strengthens the hypothesis we are proposing about the tropical sailors of Southeast Asia, India, Africa, and the Middle East. (Johannessen 2017)”

This statement is not supported by any evidence that I am aware of, nor does Johannessen provide any. I can guess that he’s referring to the actual Viking settlement in L’Anse aux Meadows, and mixing in fringe theories such as the Kensington Runestone, the Newport Tower, and other various ‘Viking’ claims.

Johannessen then makes an appeal to authority by shoehorning a quote by Stephen J. Gould (1941-2002) into his article. With this quote, he is trying to set the groundwork for his argument of transoceanic trade by implying that the probability of an identical plant species evolving in two sperate places on earth would be astronomical. Therefore the only explanation would be trade. He then makes the correct observation that when people travel to new places they always leave behind traces of their presence and often bring back evidence of their travels. In this case, Johannessen argues the evidence is plants. What argues against Johannessen’s claim is the exact observation he made earlier, there is no physical evidence that any of the cultures Johannessen mentions interacted in any way.

There are also no shipwrecks to support pre-Columbian trade routes or massive shipping expeditions. There are no settlements that demonstrate massive (or any) transoceanic trade among pre-Colombian people. There are no artifacts here in the New World that can be traced directly to trade in the Old World that date to pre-Columbian times. Simply, there is no real evidence to support Johannessen’s claims.

Johannessen then mentions John Sorenson, a professor emeritus of anthropology at Brigham Young University. Sorenson is known for his insistence that the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) view the Book of Mormon (BoM) as a scientific document. (They rejected that request.) He’s also written several books and articles trying to prove the BoM to be factual. In one such project, Sorenson tried to catalog all known sources of available literature supposedly providing evidence of pre-Columbian transoceanic diffusion. It’s from this project that Johannessen appears to pull the majority of his claims and evidence for trade, but I can really only extrapolate this as there are no citations given.

Johannessen claims that there are an upwards of 97 plant species that could be used to prove transoceanic trade, but he narrows it down to his top 14 (Johannessen 2017).

These plants are:

  1. Tobacco
  2. Coca
  3. Marijuana
  4. Datura
  5. Prickly Poppy
  6. Corn (Zea Mays)
  7. Amaranths
  8. Agave
  9. Annona
  10. Peanut
  11. Kidney beans
  12. Lima Beans
  13. Phasey Bean
  14. Spice Basil

I’m not going to go over every one of these right now. I will fill them in as I have the time. However, I do want to go over a few that are of particular interest.

Tobacco, Coca, and Marijuana.

Using Johannessen’s list, we begin with Tobacco, Coca, and Marijuana. Johannessen brings up the mummy of Ramesses II. Legend has is that there is evidence for tobacco in the remains of Ramesses. However, Buckland and Panagiotakopu (2001) suggest, with cited documentation, that this is actually evidence of body preservation techniques in the 19th cen.

Radioimmunoassay showed that nicotine was generally distributed through the body, and it is probable that this reflects the application of tobacco water as an insecticide during conservation in the 19th century. This explanation is also probable for the group’s other findings from Central Europe (Parsche et al. 1993) and China (Balabanova et al. 1995), although the lack of care shown by many archaeologists and conservators even in the recent past makes contamination by cigarette smoke always a possibility. (Buckland and Panagiotakopu 2001)”

There is also the presence of an insect,  Lasioderma serricorne, or the tobacco beetle, that was supposedly found in association with wrappings that came from Ramesses’ mummy. Buckland and Panagiotakopu (2001) point out that L. Serricorne is native to the Old World and there is a fossil record in the Mediterranean to back this up.

“The third beetle from Rameses’ mummy, Lasioderma serricorne, has led to most speculation, inevitably, because of its vernacular names, all of which seem to refer to tobacco (Steffan 1985). Described by Fabricius (1798) from dried American plants (‘in Americae plantis siccatis’), it was assumed that the species was associated with Nicotiana tabacum, yet despite widespread earlier cultivation of tobacco, the species was first recorded in the United States in 1886 (Reed & Vinzand 1942), and has several congeners, largely feeding on thistles in the Old World (Steffan 1985); Hill (1994) regarded the species as of tropical origin. There are Mediterranean fossil records, which would support this interpretation. As well as Alfieri’s (1931) examples from the tomb of Tutankhamun, Panagiotakopulu (2000) reports the species from Bronze Age Akrotiri on Santorini in the Aegean, and has more recently [in press) found it in the midden deposits associated with the Workmen’s Village at Amarna in Egypt (Buckland and Panagiotakopu 2001).”

Buckland and Panagiotakopu also point out that this pest prevention is the most likely cause of the presence of Cocoa and THC, pointing out that Egyptian culture was more than aware of the narcotic properties of plants:

“The Egyptians were fully aware of the narcotic qualities of certain plants (cf. Emboden 1989), and Andrew Sherratt (pers. comm.) has drawn attention to the symbolism of alternating poppy, mandrake and lotus on the throne of Tutankhamun as an example, but it is surprising that the abundant archaeological, pictorial and documentary record from Egypt does not provide any evidence not only for the use of hashish, but also for the use of hemp fibres, derived from Cannabis spp., for ropes and fabrics (Germer 1985; Vogelsang-Eastwood 2000: 269). (Buckland and Panagiotakopu 2001)”

Wrapping up their paper Buckland and Panagiotakopu (2001) leave us with a warning about testing evidence out of context:

“Scientific techniques without context do not produce valid answers, and there is a real need for researching individual artefact biographies before each method is applied. Lack of information produces unacceptable stories, which often enter the literature as fact. Artefacts and their history have to be viewed as an entity, and the application of scientific techniques cannot be effectively carried out in fragments; each intervention has to be seen as a dialogue with the artefact  itself.” (Buckland and Panagiotakopu 2001)”


This one had me at a loss for a moment. It wasn’t that I believed Johannessen’s claim that there are images of corn cobs on Hindu temples. It was that I couldn’t readily discover what these cob like images were. However, it didn’t take too much research into the divine images on the shrines to finally find out what this plant is.

Johannessen says in his article that unnamed archaeologists have found evidence of corn stalks and seeds, along with peanuts and annona in an unspecified cave. As there is no citation for this discovery, we can set it aside. However, he does get a bit more specific when talking about the Hindu Temples. He mentions temples in Karnataka Pradesh, India that date to the fifth and eighth centuries. Though he provided no actual images in the article to compare his claims too, some unprovenanced images can be found on the internet (see below).

I was able to locate a few images on the internet that do seem to depict voluptuous women posing with what can be thought to be ears of corn. That said, the objects the women (and apparently some men) are holding can be identified in the context of the native plants in the area. The Muktaphala, or Whipcord Cobra Lilly, produces a vibrantly red cob of berries and are native to India, being known for their narcotic properties.

arisaema_tortuosum2_at corn3

Payak and Sachan (1993) explain how carvings, like the above images, found in Kesav Temple at Somnathpur near the city of Mysore, Karnataka State, India, couldn’t be corn. They point out that there is no connecting linguistic, religious, sculptural, archaeological, agricultural, or botanical evidence for this (Payak and Sachan 1993):

“The stone inscriptions associated with the temple list items or commodities used in worship, maize is not included. We find no evidence for maize figuring in any kind of religious ritual or worship. The word for maize used currently in the Kannada language is “Musukin Jola” which refers to a kind of millet resembling sorghum (“jola”). (Payak and Sachan 1993)”

“We hold that these temple sculptures do not represent maize or its ear but an imaginary fruit bearing pearls known in Sanskrit as “Muktaphala.” (Payak and Sachan 1993)”

It is far more likely that the cob like images in the hands of gods and goddesses on Hindu temples represent something familiar to the culture that was carving it. As there are no ancient references to corn in Hindu mythology, traditional food-stuffs, or anywhere really, it is highly unlikely that these cobs are corn. Rather, it is much more likely that this is the fruit of the  Whipcord Cobra Lilly, also known as Muktaphala. A familiar, traditional, and native plant to India.


Though I didn’t go over all 14 plants mentioned, it’s clear to see a developing pattern in the presentation of this evidence. Mainly that, Johannessen falls back on familiar habits that the fringe often exhibits.

  • There are no citations or documentation of sources for any of the plants.
  • Johannessen tell us what ‘is’ and provides no specific evidence to back it up. At best we are given vague accounts of someone, often given a generic academic title, who might have found something, somewhere, that is evidence of his claim. Who these people are and where they found these things is often left out.
  • Johannessen’s transoceanic sailors must have been a very busy lot as well. They not only needed to be expert sailors, by master botanists, traders, and farmers as well.
  • Where are the sunk ships? Every culture that has ever done trade on the water has lost ships, so where are these? Where is the other evidence of trade? What were they paying for these plant stuffs with?

Most of the evidence that Johannessen attempts to supply is far from irrefutable. Its mear presentation makes it questionable, and the easy that inconsistencies can be found in his data points to issues with its validity. His evidence is neither clear nor rock solid and falls far from the mark of proving transoceanic travel and trade.

If you’d like to support this blog, consider donating on Patreon or PayPal under
Want more on this topic? Go to: ArchyFantasies Reviews – The Lost History of Ancient America.
Comment below or send an email to


Buckland, P.C. and E. Panagiotakopu
2001    Rameses II and the Tobacco Beetle. Antiquity Vol 75 (2001): 549-56 Retrieved 1/14/17

Edlin, Duncan
N.d    The Stoned Age? A look at the Evidence for Cocaine in Mummies. The Hall of Ma’at.

Johannessen, Carl L.
2017    Plants Connect the Old and New Worlds’. The Lost History of Ancient America. Edited Volume Frank Joseph. The Career Press. Wayne, NJ.

National Museum of Natural History (NMNH)
N.D    Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon. National Museum of Natural History. Smithsonian Institution Washington D.C. Retrieved 1/14/17

Panagiotakopu, E.
2003    Insect Remains from the Collections in the Egyptian Museum of Turin. Archaeometry Vol 45, 2 (2003) 355–362 Retrieved 1/14/17

Payak, Mukesh and J. K. S. Sachan
1993   Maize ears not sculpted in 13th century Somnathpur temple in India. Economic Botany 47(2). April 1993. Retrieved 1/14/17

Sorenson, John L.
1995     A New Evaluation of the Smithsonian Institution “Statement regarding the Book of Mormon”, (28 March 1995), Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute. Retrieved 1/14/17

Wells, S.A.
N.d.    American Drugs in Egyptian Mummies. Retrieved 1/14/17

Categories: Columbus was Second-ish: Who Discovered America Anyway, The Lost History of Ancient America, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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