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Open letter to science editors
MYTH AND THE SCIENCE OF CATASTROPHISM
Dr. Mullen is Assistant
Professor of Classics, Boston University.
Ever since the appearance of Worlds in Collision those who
have taken it seriously have been aware that it offers the possibility, not
merely of solving more and more problems by the methods of the established
specializations, but further of restructuring knowledge as a whole. Dr. Velikovsky showed himself conscious of his challenge to the structure of
knowledge when he set as epigraph to the book a question by the Roman
polymath, Seneca: "Quota pars operis tanti nobis committitur?"
"What part of so great a task is committed to us?" And he has given a kind
of private answer to that question by devoting the most massive share of his
researches in the last twenty-five years to the historical sciences, as
represented by the expansion of the sequel to Ages in Chaos into
several still unpublished volumes. In itself Ages in Chaos remains
deliberately independent of Worlds in Collision, only taking
as its starting point the event of 1500 B.C. as described in Hebrew and
Egyptian sources. But in a larger sense Ages in Chaos is an
extension of the historical method at the basis of Worlds in Collision,
and thus will continue to serve as a model to those undertaking to
reconstruct the history of other peoples from 1500 B.C. on.
In both books the study of man is at the center: what he has done (his
migrations and his rituals), what he has made (his monuments and his
symbolic art-forms), and what he has said (his myths and his annals). Two
specific methods stand out in Velikovsky's effort to order this material.
The first is chronological: to extract from the great mass of human
testimony all those elements that can be dated and to synchronize them. The
second method is interpretative: to extract common elements describing a
given real event from all the varying patterns of significance which
different cultures have assigned to it. This second method has consistently
been the stumbling-block for his critics, and it is probable that only a
patient elaboration of it by many hands in many cases will make it
sufficiently familiar to them. But it also raises a major question for
those attempting to measure the full potential of his work. In order to
understand the nature of certain fateful events in the history of the solar
system, we must divest human testaments of their patterns of significance
and use what we have culled as raw scientific data. But in order to
understand how human behavior was affected by these events, it is precisely
to such patterns of significance that we must return. The final goal of our
research, therefore, is not simply to have a better understanding of the
history of the solar system. It is rather to enter into a more vibrant
perception of the history of man's efforts to bring order out of chaos.
In this paper I would like to take one great civilization, the
Mesoamerican, and show how Velikovsky's historical method might be
applied to it. It has long been recognized that only the concept of a
single civilization is adequate to explain the similarities between a
set of cultures stretching from the Mexican highlands down to Honduras.
The oldest of these cultures is now accepted to be the Olmec, which
established itself around the northern coast of the Isthmus of
Tehuantepec. Inheritors of this culture lie in all directions from the
Isthmus. To the southwest the earliest high culture is the Zapotec,
centered around Monte Alban in the present province of Oaxaca. To the
northwest lie the series of cultures centered around the Valley of
Mexico where Mexico City now sprawls, starting with the "hegemony" of
the metropolis of Teotihuacan and ending with the "empire" of the
Aztecs. To the east and south are the highland Maya cultures of Chiapas
and Guatemala and, preeminently brilliant, the lowland Mayas stretching
from the Peten across the Yucatan peninsula. Different authorities make
different lists of traits common to these cultures but among them the
following are agreed upon: 1) the development of a form of urbanism in
which large populations were spread around single great ceremonial
centers; 2) the belief in cyclical world ages ended by different cosmic
agents (jaguar, wind, rain of fire, water, earthquake), and the practice
of calculating and recording these and lesser cycles by means of a
glyphic system; 3) human sacrifice; 4) a ritual ball game; 5) worship of
the planet Venus.
In applying Velikovsky's historical method I will try to establish two
conclusions following from its two aspects. The first is that recent
archaeological explorations of the oldest stratum of Mesoamerican
civilization, the Olmec, have constructed a record which suggests with
very satisfying chronological correspondence the events described in
Worlds in Collision. The second is that in the only
perfectly preserved sacred narrative left us by any Mesoamerican people,
the Popol Vuh or Book of Counsel of the Quiche Mayas,
these same events are stated to be the unifying cause for the complex of
practices by which Mesoamerican civilization is everywhere defined.
To support this second conclusion I will adduce more fragmentary
narratives from other Mesoamerican cultures which clearly refer to these
same events even though the mythical molds into which they cast them
differ substantially from the Popol Vuh. The first conclusion is
chronological, the second is interpretative, and only through combining
the two can the unity of the civilization be appreciated.
1. ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE OLMECS
The archaeological record first, then. The general reader is fortunate
to have at his disposal a thorough and recent summation of this evidence
in a book entitled The Olmec World, written in 1968 by Ignacio
Bernal. Bernal takes the three major Olmec sites excavated so far, La
Venta, Tres Zapotes, and San Lorenzo, to comprise what he calls the
"Metropolitan Zone" in which the first flowering of Mesoamerican
civilization is to be traced. In his scheme this flowering begins
around the 12th century B.C., and its antecedents, the "specialization
of a regional style," begin around the 16th. Surveying the Olmec
artifacts found in other regions before the 12th century, he notes that
they never allow us to think of a civilization but only of an advanced
culture: there is as yet no urban planning or monumental sculpture, only
ceramics (Bernal, 1969: 106-7). Already in this general scheme readers
of Worlds in Collision and Ages in Chaos will recognize a
congruence. One of the first consequences of Velikovsky's alignment of
the fall of the Middle Kingdom with the Exodus was to allow him to
reinstate the roughly 400-year period for Hyksos rule in Egypt which
scholars had originally felt reasonable (Velikovsky, 1952: 76). In the
revised chronology this corresponds to the 400-year period covered by
the Books of Joshua and Judges, and the shaking off of the Hyksos yoke
is shown to be the work of a coalition between Saul and Ahmose in the
11th century. The suggestion is that this 400-year period was one of
extreme chaos and terror due to recurring threats from the close passage
of Venus, a time in which cultural enterprises were almost totally
thrown over in the struggles of separate and often still migrating
peoples for survival. Since Worlds in Collision does not
undertake to specify precisely how long before the 8th century Mars and
Venus came into the close approach which resulted in minimizing the
danger posed by the latter planet to the earth, it is possible to
speculate that the 12th century marks a crucial phase in that event. In
any case, the Olmec flowering gives an example from the other side of
the globe of a people coming to life after the same centuries of
Let us now look more closely at the datings which Bernal has correlated
from the work of archaeologists at the three principal sites of the
Metropolitan Zone, La Venta, Tres Zapotes, and San Lorenzo. The first
period from 1500 to 1200, which Bernal calls Olmec I, corresponds to La
Venta I in the nomenclature of Piña Chán, Early Tres Zapotes in that of
Drucker et al., and pre-San Lorenzo in that of M. D. Coe. The second
period, from 1200 to 600, Bernal's Olmec II, corresponds to La Venta II
and Middle Tres Zapotes. However, according to the finds of Coe at San
Lorenzo, the cultural period beginning in 1200 ends abruptly in 900 with
indications of a movement of the inhabitants of that site two or three
miles north to what are now the banks of the Rio Chiquito at the town of
Tenochtitlan (M. D. Coe, 1966, 1967, 1967A; also Stirling, 1955).
Finally, at the beginning of Bernal's Olmec III, there is a sudden
cessation of major construction in the La Venta and Tres Zapotes
ceremonial centers around 600, and in the La Venta III and Upper Tres
Zapotes sequences that follow cultural life is at a markedly inferior
level. The Olmec primacy seems then to be passed on to the cultures of
Oaxaca and the Valley of Mexico, who are approaching the beginning of
their classical periods (Bernal, 1969: 106-117)
The signs of abrupt cessation noted by the various archaeologists, and
the causes adduced for them, bear close examination at each site. I
will consider chiefly La Venta here, not because there is a consensus
that it preceded the others in its growth, but because, during the
flowering of the Metropolitan Zone in Olmec II, it is by far the largest
of the centers and thus likeliest to give clues to both the intentions
and the misfortunes of its builders. Here are to be found the major
Olmec expression of the two features which will continue to distinguish
the Mesoamerican ceremonial center: pyramids serving as platforms for
temples, and subsidiary courts and mounds all strictly aligned according
to a north-south axis. The existence of a ceremonial center at La
Venta during Olmec I is far from established; it has only been inferred
from the presence of three stratigraphic levels under a layer of sand
(Drucker, Heizer, and Squier, 1959: 38, 44; Piña Chán and Covarrubias,
1964: 18). Bernal infers that it was completely destroyed by invaders
whom he calls simply the Olmec II people (Bernal, 1969: 109). The Olmec
II ceremonial center, by contrast, was clearly recognized by the
original excavators to have gone through three major renovations under
one continuous group of leaders; the area in question was termed
'Complex A' and its history divided into Phases I through IV. In 1957
Drucker and Heizer obtained radiocarbon dates for nine wood charcoal
samples from Complex A: five from Phase I, one from Phase II, one from a
trench cut into the north platform of the great pyramid and presumed to
be from Phase III or IV, and two from the lowest level of the drift sand
mantling the site and interpreted as of early post-phase IV date. The
five Phase I specimens covered a time-span, within one sigma, from 1454
B.C. to 304 B.C., and averaged to 814 B.C.; the two post-Phase IV
specimens averaged to 309 B.C. (Drucker and Heizer, 1957). On the basis
of these the four phases were assigned to the period 800-400 B.C.;
subsequent study of the dates retained the 400-year-period but revised
it back to 1000-600 B.C. (Berger, Graham, and Heizer, 1967).
The overlapping of these dates with the catastrophic events assigned by
Velikovsky to the 8th and 7th centuries evokes two contradictory
reactions. The first is that the whole set of dates should be held in
reserve because of the possibilities of contamination during
large-scale combustions attendant upon the events (Velikovsky, 1973:
Pensée IV, 12 ff.). A particularly forceful example of such
contamination is to be found at Tres Zapotes, where a C-14 dating of a
piece of wood charcoal from the Early Period
yielded the date 9000 B.C. (Bernal, 1969: 109, n. 7). Examination of
the sample showed that it was mixed with asphalt, as was also the case
with one sample from San Lorenzo (Coe, Diehl, and Stuiver, 1967: 1400).
Moreover, much of the Early Tres Zapotes level was sealed with volcanic
ash (Drucker, 1943: 34). Coe reports that lumps of asphalt were found
everywhere at the San Lorenzo excavation. Their presence accords with
Velikovsky's comprehensive documentation of bituminous deposits around
the world connected with the events of 1500 B.C. (Velikovsky, 1950:
53-58; 1955: 64-67). In presenting the radiocarbon dates for San
Lorenzo Coe notes that the 'true' age for the beginning of construction
activity may be pushed back from 1200 to 1350 if the correlation taking
account of the fluctuation of C-14 activity of atmospheric CO2
is used. So far he has only specified the time of construction at this
site as within the general Mesoamerican period called the Early
Formative, 1500-800 B.C.
The second reaction is that the dates as they stand, particularly
according to the revision proposed by Berger et al., bring to prominence
the kinds of explanation for the four-phase sequence at La Venta which
the catastrophic hypothesis would suggest. In a simplified version,
the complete destruction of the Olmec I ceremonial center would
correspond to the beginning of a new phase of celestial instability; the
three renovations of the Olmec II Complex A would be accounted for by
recurrent destruction caused by the close approaches of Mars; and the
final abandonment of the site would reflect the last acts of the
celestial struggle. In a more complex version, some of the destructions
might be attributed to the migrations of warrior hordes such as
Velikovsky has proposed elsewhere were initiated by the Mars events
(cf. Velikovsky, 1950: 253-4); some of the renovations to propitiatory
planetary cult; and the final abandonment to the collapse of a
theocracy whose self-proclaimed power to regulate celestial events had
been proven manifestly lacking.
A yet more sophisticated explanation of these destructions, renovations
and abandonments exists which in a sense bridges the gap between the
present uniformitarian school of Mesoamerican archaeology and the
emerging interpretation of the school of catastrophism. That is that
they were all grounded in the familiar Mesoamerican rituals based on
large cycles of time. The practice of ritual mutilation, applied to
everything from elaborately carved stelae to simple household objects,
is well-known among both the lowland Mayas of the Classic Period and the
Aztecs right up to the Spanish Conquest. Heizer, one of the three in
the original excavating team at La Venta, used this concept in several
ways to explain the state of the finds there (Heizer, 1960: 218-220).
He noted that 24 of the 40 monuments showed clear signs of mutilation.
In this he is supported by the even more impressive evidence registered
by Stirling at San Lorenzo (Stirling, 1955: 9), where the stone
monuments "appear all to have been intentionally overthrown and many of
them cast into ravines." This was later interpreted by M. D. Coe as a
'revolution' against the priestly caste which brought the San Lorenzo
culture to an abrupt end ca. 900 B.C. (M. D. Coe, 1967A: 21-26). It
should be noted that the change from San Lorenzo to the Rio Chiquito
site near the present village of Tenochtitlan seemed explicable to
Stirling by a change in the course of the river, except for the puzzling
fact that the stone monuments were not moved when the change was made.
A catastrophic interpretation would solve this discrepancy by assuming
that at a time when planetary instability was causing, among other
things, the change of river-courses, there were simultaneously violent
cult reactions of which the mutilation of monuments or ritual casting of
them into ravines might form part.
Heizer went on to suggest that the apparent regularity of the La Venta
renovations, one every hundred years, could be correlated with the
great ceremonies performed in cycles of 52 or 104 years. He even toyed
with the idea that "when the site was first built the intention was that
it should serve its function for a predetermined span of time, such as
eight 50-year periods or four 100-year cycles" (Heizer, 1960: 220).
This seems less implausible when we consider the central importance of
the 400-year cycle (baktun) to the Classic Mayans and the
evidence of ritual destruction at the end of them.
The fact seems to be that this kind of interpretation, when applied to
sites of the period of La Venta, affords the spectacle of the
catastrophists and the uniformitarians approaching from opposite
directions and meeting at the same place. Velikovsky has argued that
the obsessional fear connected with the termination of the 52-year
cycle is to be explained by the original close passages of Venus at that
interval starting around 1500 B.C. Heizer, on the other hand, has no
explanation for the obsessional force of these cycles but finds the
testimony for them compelling enough in later Mesoamerican cultures to
be willing to project them back into the Olmecs. In this he is
supported by the evidence from late Olmec stelae (particularly the
famous Stele C from Upper Tres Zapotes) that the Olmecs used the same
calendrical cycles as are later found in such abundance among the
Mayans, including the Long Count in which the 400-year baktun is
the initial unit.
It is unnecessary to try to reach a conclusion here as to the fate of
the four phases of Complex A at La Venta. Enough has been said to show
that a complete reevaluation of the Olmec archaeological evidence in the
light of catastrophism would be fruitful. We have in fact been brought
to the verge of the mythological aspect of the record, and before
passing on to that I would like to look briefly at what the great Olmec
stone sculptures themselves seem to be representing. The Olmecs have
been called the "people of the Jaguar" because that animal, chosen as
the most ferocious known to them and thus the best symbol of a
terrifying force which is divine and must be propitiated, was the major
subject for the sculptor's skill. Mythical testimony from both the
Mayans and the Aztecs associates the jaguar with one of the world
destructions. In the opening pages of the Annals of
Cuauhitlan it is stated: "The second sun was founded and '4 Jaguar'
was its day-name; it is called 'Jaguar Sun.' In its time the sky was
destroyed, and the sun did not follow its path; it was noon and then
suddenly it was night, and when it became night the people were eaten
up" (Lehmann, 1938: 61, #33). In the first part of the Popol Vuh
it is stated:
And so they were killed;
They were overwhelmed.
There came a great rain of glue
Down from the sky...
There came Lurking Jaguar
And ate their flesh.
There came Aroused Jaguar
And tore them open,
And shattered their bones
And their cartilage (Edmonson, 1971: 26-7, 11. 691-7040).
Thus there is little difficulty in reconstructing among the Olmecs the
original meaning of their supreme symbol.
To strengthen the connection with later mythology, it should be noted
that rarely is the jaguar sculpted in its natural form; the predominant
mode was to infuse elements from other creatures and thus create a
monster even more irrefutably divine. In a few instances these
elements include a bifid tongue representing the snake and feathers
representing the bird (Bernal, 1969: 97-9), so that the great image of
the Plumed Serpent, Quetzalcoatl, is shown to have its first expression
among the Olmecs. The serpent-motifs have also led scholars to
recognize in the Olmec jaguar the predecessor of the omnipresent
Mesoamerican gods of thunder and rain, the Tlalocs among the Nahuatls
(Caso, 1942: 44) and Chacs among the Mayans (Thompson, 1951: 1, 36).
These gods were unquestionably worshipped in later times as the source
of rain necessary for crops, but as with the Greek Zeus, sender of rain
and wielder of clouds and thunderbolts, the earlier planetary nature of
the deity lingered to create awe. In the Florentine Codex the separate
functions are stated in the terse definition given of the nature of the
god: "Tlaloc: to him was attributed rain; for he made it, he caused it
to come down ... And also by him were made floods of water and
thunderbolts" (F. C. 1, Ch. 4; Anderson and Dibble, 1950: 11, 2).
Sometimes human elements are also infused into the face of the jaguar,
or else a man's face is shown emerging from a jaguar's jaws or a
jaguar-headdress. This situation of the human is in turn symbolically
interwoven with the few other standard representations of the human face
which the artistic canons allowed. Basically there are three human
types represented in pure or mixed form: the baby, the dwarf, and the
athlete. The baby and the dwarf have been explained as subjects because
they seem to have been pre-eminent victims chosen for human sacrifice.
The victim sacrificed is considered to represent the god, hence to be
divine and worthy of being sculpted. The athlete's head has been
explained in several ways. Since he was a participant in the ritual of
the sacred ball-game which is known from Toltec and other sources to
have ended with decapitation of the leader of one of the two teams,
there may be a peculiar appropriateness in the practice of always
sculpting the head alone without the body. This ritual ball game, as
will be shown later, was itself a reenactment of the celestial
ball-game, played at a time of world-destruction, in which the sun and
moon defeated the lords of hell who were disturbed by the shaking of the
earth which their ball practice had caused. Hence the element of human
sacrifice in the reenactment is again to be explained by the
traumatizing hold of the cataclysmic prototype. Another explanation has
been given for the peculiarly shaped helmet to be found on many of these
athletes; it is seen as reflecting the devices by which cranial
deformation was practiced on infants, among the Olmecs and among the
Mayans (Davalos and Zarate, 1953: 99). It has been observed that this
kind of deformation may produce a V-shaped cleft in the upper part of
the head which is to be found on the head of the jaguar in its natural
state (Bernal, 1969: 72). Hence the victim of this deformation, whether
the symbolic athlete or the real infant, is merely one more material in
which the Olmecs sculpted their obsession.
II. MYTHOLOGY AND THE POPOL VUH
When we turn to the mythological record, our earliest indigenous written
testaments are separated by approximately two millennia from the end of
the Olmec flowering. I am taking the Popol Vuh as my chief
source because it seems to be the only Mesoamerican epic-the telling of
the story of a people-which was written down in the true form and at the
full length an ancient narrator would originally have used. It was not
extracted by a monk or an anthropologist; rather, one of the Quiche
learned men consciously chose to preserve it and had the fortune not to
be censored by the new regime. To illustrate Velikovsky's method of
extracting common elements from various accounts, I will juxtapose to
its main sections legends from the Valley of Mexico—that is, from the
Aztecs and from peoples of neighboring cultures who were absorbed into
the Aztec empire and brought with them their more ancient 'Toltec'
traditions. The two principal sources for these legends are the
Annals of Cuauhitlan and the Florentine Codex.
It is unnecessary to trace here the sequence of cultural intervals
connecting the Olmec people with whom we began and the Quiche and
Nahuatl peoples whose annals we are now to listen to. This has been one
of the principal tasks of Mesoamericanists from the start, and however
well they have been able to perform it there has been no doubt but that
the sequence is unbroken. Many migrations and conquests occupy the
interval, but there seems to be no case of a people totally
exterminating the culture of those they conquered. Rather the opposite
phenomenon seems to have continually occurred, namely that strange
process by which a conquered culture conquers its conquerors, submitting
to their sway while indoctrinating them in its ancient beliefs.
Nevertheless something should be said about the structure of the annals
in order to defend our contention that they in fact span, if they do not
fill, the whole period of time from the catastrophe of Venus to the
catastrophe of the Spanish Conquest. If Mesoamerica had enjoyed the
awesome dynastic stability of literate empires such as Egypt or China,
or if it had developed the linear temporal sense of peoples sustaining
the tension of an historical burden such as the Romans or the Jews, then
there probably would have existed at the time of the Conquest books
accounting for every generation from the earliest Olmec migrations to
the last Aztec king. No such books survive and there is no ground to
suppose they existed, for the simple reason that each people that did
give an account of itself insisted on beginning it with their own
migrations and ending it with their submission to the Spaniards. In
each case the generations memorialized are those of the people's period
of greatness as symbolized by its successive rulers, and these seldom
amount to more than twelve. Rulership had to come from the gods, and
the times when the gods manifested themselves were the times when the
people migrated under their commands until it came to the place where it
had been destined to rule.
Now it would be wishful thinking for the catastrophist to assume that
all Mesoamerican migrations occurred during the times of planetary
instability. But the present uniformitarian approach is no alternative,
for it is always forced to throw out the first part of an account as
'legendary' and begin computing chronology only when kings and their
years of rule begin to be mentioned. The efforts of Mesoamericanists to
give historical substance to the catastrophic legends by which the
period of migration and foundation is always preceded are unimpressive,
in the few cases where they have deigned to make them at all. (See for
example Recinos, 1950: 61-75; Piña Chán, 1972; 55-61) A more
complicated case is that of Laurette Séjourné (1957: 53-78; 1969:
17-35), who takes the legends of the five suns and of the passion and
rebirth of Quetzalcoatl as allegories for spiritual initiation
bequeathed to the Aztecs by the Teotihuacanos, whom she identifies with
the Toltecs. That these legends, whose origin was historical and
catastrophic, were later placed at the base of esoteric spiritual cults
can neither be proven nor disproven, but is not at all improbable. (A
strong parallel from a North American tribe which claims itself to be a
splinter group from the Mesoamerican high cultures is to be found in
Frank Waters' Book of the Hopi, 1963; this book was rejected by
the Hopi elders themselves as a falsification of their beliefs, but that
fact is not inconsistent with the possibility that they were also
enraged to see their esoteric doctrines in print, however distorted.)
Nevertheless, a spiritual allegory expounded in terms of Western
mysticism cannot pretend to be an explanation of the legends.
A few scholars have at least had the anthropological sophistication to
recognize that because a migration legend is not datable it is not
therefore to be banished forever from the effort of interpretation.
Paul Radin (1920: 6-7) points out that the interests of most primitive
peoples are "centered not on the idea of growth but of origins," and
that this is not inconsistent with the more historical interest of the
highly developed Nahuatl or Mayan cultures in the "development of
institutions." Munro Edmonson, in the notes to the translation of the
Popol Vuh on which I rely here, states that "The central
institution (of the Quiche) was the patrilineage, and all Quiche
versions of the origin myth begin with the heads of the maximal
lineages, the First Fathers. The suggestion in these myths is strong
that the lineage structure had little depth, perhaps rarely more than
six or eight generations, remote genealogy being made up of syncretistic
status claims 'inherited' or preempted from other families.... The list
(of chiefs) appears to reflect, albeit somewhat confusingly, the
changing fortunes of the lineage over a period of 12 'generations,'
probably no more than 220 years" (Edmonson, 1971: 148, n. to 1. 4823, &
254, n. to 1. 8552).
In interpreting the annals a middle course lies open to us. This is to
suppose that a basic structure for the experience of peoples was laid
down in centuries following the catastrophic events and rigidly adhered
to thereafter. The structure is essentially tripartite, consisting of
1) destructive acts of the gods which ended one world age and initiated
the next; 2) wanderings of the people at the time of transition under
the guidance of heroic leaders who interpreted the god's will; 3)
termination of the wanderings with the passing on of leadership by these
heroes to the first generation of rulers in the newly occupied land.
Once this structure was established it became the basis for every
subsequent telling of the history of the people; and if later migrations
occurred and later kingships were founded they were inevitably
accommodated to the earlier ones of the sacred era, and finally
identified with them. This is in effect the grand structure of the Old
Testament; and how many subsequent groups in the Judaeo-Christian
tradition have declared to the world their all-important 'Exodus' from
this or that place or state. Subtract from such annunciations their
dating according to the system of 'Anno Domini' (itself a testimony to
the power of the lives of significant leaders, when fit into the mold of
more ancient myths, to cause later generations to restructure cosmic
time around them); add instead a complex system of cyclical dating; and
you have essentially the same kind of account as the Mesoamerican
annalists leave us. It was necessary at all costs to preserve an
account of sacred origins, and the tellers held to their instinct that
the sacred had been declared at the times of catastrophe. Here is a
prime case where the pattern of significance which a people has given to
its experience must be accepted as an obstacle to reconstruction of the
history of events, only to be returned to later as an essential source
in reconstruction of the history of human obsession and of its
metamorphosis into human order.
How then does the Popol Vuh declare the sacred origins of
Mesoamerican institutions? Let me recapitulate the five I gave at the
beginning, placing them now in the order in which the epic accounts for
them: 1) belief in world ages, 2) ritual ball-games, 3) urbanism around
ceremonial centers, 4) human sacrifice, 5) worship of Venus. Each is
in the narrator's mind successively as he leads us through the fateful
The existence of four world ages is the first fact which the author of
the present version of the Popol Vuh gives us after the
preliminary statement of his intention to write down his people's sacred
We shall save it
Because there is no longer
A sight of the Book of Counsel,
A sight of the bright things come from beside the sea,
The description of our shadows,
A sight of the bright life, as it is called.
There was once the manuscript of it,
And it was written long ago,
Only hiding his face is the reader of it,
The meditator of it.
Great was its account
And its description
Of when there was finished
Of all of heaven
The four creations,
The four humiliations ...
four humiliations, it was told.... (P. V. 47-64, 71-72).
The insistence on four humiliations leads the student of Nahuatl beliefs
to expect that the four agents of humiliation will be forthwith
enumerated. In the "Legend of the Suns" appended to the Annals of
Cuauhitlan these four agents are given in an elaborate
systematization: each is assigned to a different "Sun," this "Sun" like
other gods is named by the date of its birth, this date consists of the
number 4 plus the name of the destructive agent, and the duration of the
"Sun's" life is given in years. The first sun was "4 Jaguar," it lasted
676 years, and finally the people were eaten by jaguars; the second was
"4 Wind," it lasted 364 years, and finally the people were torn up by
wind and turned into monkeys; the third was "4 Fire-rain," it lasted 312
years, and finally it rained fire all day and the people were turned
into hens; the fourth was "4 Water," it lasted 52 years, and finally
water covered all the mountains and the people were turned into fish
(Lehmann, 1938: 323-27, # 1400-1403).
In the Popol Vuh no such systematization is to be found.
Instead we are told of the intention of the creators to shape a perfect
people to praise them, and how three times the product did not perform
and had to be abandoned. First they created the beasts and when the
beasts could not praise them they were simply given over to the wild
places (330-422). Second they created men of mud and when these spoke
nonsense they just let them dissolve (423-478). Third they made men of
wood, dolls, but these had no hearts or minds and had to be destroyed
(505 ff.). Finally they created men of maize, fine men, handsome men,
but these saw too far and understood too much, so they had to be
humiliated. They were not destroyed, they just lost their great
wisdom; "their eyes were chipped" (4822-5012). The story of the first
two humiliations is told laconically. For the third, however, the
narrator reserves all his art; and between the destruction of the third
and the creation of the fourth comes fully half of the book, in a
virtuoso narrative sequence whose themes we will come to presently.
Moreover, it is for the death of this third race that the narrator
reserves mention of any real agents of destruction, and when they come
they all descend from the sky at once: a flood (673), a rain of glue
(693), aroused jaguars (701), and a rain of darkness (713-darkness and
wind in Nahuatl mythology being always put together in a linguistic
couplet, whether attributed to Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc or Tezcatlipoca).
Here all the elements of the Nahuatl annals seem to be thrown together.
Uniformitarian Mesoamericanists have never been bothered by these
discrepancies. The catastrophist, on the other hand, is faced with the
reasonable task of defining the mechanisms of distortion with reference
to the original events posited. In regard to the Popol Vuh, it
is not hard to recognize in the four agents of destruction grouped
together four phases of the single catastrophic event Velikovsky has
reconstructed involving Venus ca. 1500 B.C. The flood is due to
disturbed tidal motions, the rain of fire comes from the hydrocarbon
content in the tail of the proto-planet, the jaguar is a typical animal
interpretation of the shape of the threatening celestial body, and the
darkness was caused by the cloud covering in which the earth lay
enshrouded for over a generation. In regard to the Nahuatl account, it
is necessary to attempt to reconstruct the phases in which such an
elaborate systematization might take place. Since Velikovsky has
indicated that the two catastrophic sequences in Worlds in Collision
are only the last two in a series, and that the preceding series
includes the universally described deluge (destruction solely by water),
it is not hard to see how a tradition of several world destructions each
involving distinct agents might arise. The systematization then begins
when the sequence of destructions is lost hold of and in its place comes
speculation on the fundamental elements of the cosmos and the capacity
of each to cause universal destruction by itself. Such speculation is
documented in the opening chapters of Worlds in Collision
(Velikovsky, 1950: 29-35). Then, once a system is established, the
desire to define it numerologically arises, so that calculations of
future cycles may seem to be grounded in the inevitable. The final step
taken in Aztec speculation, as indicated by their great Stone Calendar,
is to assign the four earlier world ages to the four world directions,
with the satisfying result that the present age belongs to the center of
the world, the place where man likes lo think of himself existing. This
spatialization of temporal sequences still contains some elements of
catastrophic experience in it, insofar as the cardinal points of the
present world age were laid down at the end of the last catastrophe.
The terror of experiencing a derangement of the cardinal points is
transmuted by systematization into the comfort of knowing that all
resulted in placing man at the center.
The ritual ball-game is the unifying subject of the long narrative
sequence interposed between the destruction of the third race and the
creation of the fourth, which despite the lessening of knowledge
inflicted upon it is affirmed to be our own. In conscious distinction
from the sharp horror with which the third destruction was conjured and
the solemn anguish with which the wanderings of the present race will be
sustained, this middle section grants the gods their full brio.
Only at the end of it, in a calculated stroke, do we learn that the two
brothers who are the winners of this ball-game, Hunter and Jaguar Deer
by name, are our present sun and moon (4693-4703). Their antagonists
are the lords of Hell, led by 1 Death and 7 Death, and their victory is
in revenge for the murder of their father and uncle, 1 Hunter and 7
Hunter, who had played with the lords in an earlier game and lost. The
lords of Hell had been disturbed by the great shaking of the earth which
1 Hunter and 7 Hunter had caused when they practiced (1757-1773), and so
challenged them to come to the underworld and play. These two descended
to Hell and were put through a series of tortures in various chambers
(the House of Darkness, House of Shivering, Jaguar House, Bat House,
Knife House); when finally they played ball they lost and were
decapitated. Hunter and Jaguar Deer go through the same series of
torture-houses but they are wiser and outwit the lords of Hell in each.
When the fateful game comes round Hunter's head is snatched by a Death
Bat and the lords use it for their ball, but a friendly pig makes a new
head out of a pumpkin, Jaguar Deer knocks it out of court, the lords of
Hell run after it, and in the meantime Hunter gets his own head back.
The two brothers then run off and return disguised as beggar-magicians
who can perform the trick of sacrificing each other in an oven and
bringing each other back to life. The lords of Hell are so fascinated
that they beg the beggars to do their trick on them. The brothers
oblige, sacrifice 1 Death and 7 Death, and then, as you might guess,
refuse to bring them back to life. They solemnly announce to the
terrorized underlords that all this has been in vengeance for their
fathers, and that "Never again great will your sun,/ Great will your
birth become" (4565-4566). Victoriously they walk back to the sweet
light of the world above and, without a pause, continue on into the sky
where they become the sun and moon. At this point, after the generation
of darkness, it becomes light on earth. And "they are still in the sky"
The Nahuatl parallels to this section of the Popol Vuh are
peculiarly forceful precisely because they maintain the cosmic
aetiology while dividing the narrative motifs in many ways. In the
"Legend of the Suns" the story of the ball-game is given to Huemac, one
of Quetzalcoatl's several alter egos, and his antagonists are the
Tlalocs (Lehmann, 1938: 375-382, # 1601-1643); the prize of the game is
rain for Huemac's people, the Toltecs, and as long as the Tlalocs win,
drought and famine hold sway. The hero of a separate narrative
describing the descent to hell and triumphal return is Quetzalcoatl
himself, and his feat there is nothing less than to bring back bones out
of which the new race of man is to be constructed and maize by which he
is nourished; Quetzalcoatl adds the final ingredient by sprinkling the
bones with his own blood (Lehmann, 1938: 330340, #1417-1452).
Immediately thereupon the fifth sun, "4 Earthquake," rises, "and this
is our sun, in which we live now" (#1453). The direct affiliation of
this story of Quetzalcoatl with the Popol Vuh's account of
Hunter and Jaguar Deer is proven by a remarkable series of pages which
constitute the centerpiece and masterpiece of the Codex Borgia (Seler,
1963: 1, 29-47). There Quetzalcoatl is shown going through houses of
torture parallel to those the brothers endured, including a House of
Knives and House of Animals that Cut and Tear. In these pages, as
elsewhere in the Quetzalcoatl cycle, the triumph of the hero comes when
his body is burned and his heart ascends to heaven as the Morning Star.
Finally, the brothers' trick of casting themselves into an oven and
coming out alive, thereupon to mount to the sky as Sun and Moon, is
duplicated in a different setting by Nanauatzin and Tecuciztecatl, who
during the long darkness at Teotihuacan willingly sacrifice themselves
in order to become the new sun and moon (F. C. VII, 2; Anderson and
Dibble, 1953: VIII, 3-7). Thus in every instance the Nahautl legends
also insist that what was at stake in the contest was the appearance of
the luminaries of the present world age.
The Popol Vuh's account of the third and fourth institutions, the
ceremonial center and human sacrifice, occur in the same stretch of
narrative and must be taken together if their full implications are to
be measured. We have now left the play of the gods and are slowly and
calmly acquainted with the suffering of a newly-born humanity. The
narrator uses the device of retard to make us understand that while man
was being created the struggle of sun and moon with the lords of the
underworld was still unresolved; thus the present race made its first
movements in the darkness before the dawn of the new world age. The
night in which these wanderings occur is clearly described as occupying
a full human generation, and thus supports Velikovsky's contention that
after the first passage of the tail of the protoplanet Venus the earth
was shrouded in clouds which did not dissolve for the period suggested
by the Israelites' "40 years in the desert":
Many peoples they became in the darkness
As they grew,
The sun was not yet born,
Nor the light, as they were multiplying.
They all remained together then,
And very numerous they became.
And they walked along there
At the sunrise.
There was no one to nourish them
And support them,
But they bowed their faces to heaven . . .
Many were the people's looks;
Many were the people's languages.
Scattered on the flanks were the generations under heaven....(P. V. 5117-5135).
The turning-point in this desperation is the rumor of a great city:
"Tula,/ Zuyua,/ Seven Caves,/ Seven Canyons was the name of the city"
(5257-5260). Here the innumerable wandering tribes assemble, and they
bring idols of their gods with them. The four First Fathers of the
Quiche, who had earlier been humiliated for their excessive wisdom,
bring each his god: Storm, Lord Jaguar, Fire Peak, and Center of the
Valley are the gods' names. During the long walk to Tula no one
possesses fire, and the peoples are shivering with cold when they
arrive. Only the god Storm of the Quiche has fire, and he tauntingly
offers it to his own people only to take it back by 'sending a great
rainstorm mingled with hail. The price he then exacts for its return is
the ritual of 'suckling,' which he interprets to them as the offering of
hearts to him:
And this was the suckling
Storm had named:
For all the tribes were sacrificed before him,
And their hearts were cut
On the side,
Under the arm...
. . . there was flattened then
And insulted then
And small tribe,
As they sacrificed
Giving the blood,
And armpit of the whole
people to him.
Immediately in Tula came their glory;
Great wisdom was with
And in darkness
And in night time they
And they went right on
And continued ripping
things out there.
They stayed on
At the sunrise
Wherever its location, Tula is the Mesoamerican prototype of the great
city, and it is the first city mentioned in the epic. No structures are
mentioned in this early time; the site is only made sacred by the fact
that many peoples found a meeting point there in their migrations and
gathered to perform the ritual which they deemed necessary to their
survival. Three millennia later the Spaniards came upon the last
embodiment of this concept, the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. It was
embellished with great pyramids facing the sunset, but the rituals
carried out on them were only the continuation of the original
imperative. In order to sustain the sun which had been so perilously
born in earlier time, human hearts had to be continually ripped out.
The Nahuatl parallel to this section of the Popol Vuh had already
been alluded to, in the story of the long darkness at Teotihuacan which
could only be ended by the self-sacrifice of Nanauatzin and
Tecuciztecatl. There too the motif of fire is central, for the gods are
gathered around a fire in the darkness and it is into this fire that the
sacrificial victims must cast themselves. The Aztec version is more
absolute than the Quiche, in that it insists that not even the death of
the two destined to be reborn as sun and moon was sufficient, for when
they first appeared reborn they remained motionless and the gods
decided that only if they all sacrificed themselves would the new age
see the motion of its luminaries. (This is in part a sacred play on the
name of the new age, "4 Ollin": the word 'Ollin' means both
'Earthquake,' the agent by which it will be terminated, and 'Motion,'
the essential precondition for its beginning.) At this crisis it
becomes the task of Ecatl to slay the gods and make the sun move. Ecatl
is the god of wind, but it is agreed that he is to be identified with
Quetzalcoatl; hence the Morning Star in disguise is again made crucial
to the appearance of the sun (F. C. VII, 2; Anderson and Dibble, 1953:
The final element of Mesoamerican civilization, worship of Venus,
appears in the Popol Vuh simply as the logical and joyous end of
the story, for in order for the sun to rise it had to be preceded by
that planet in its form as the Morning Star:
They changed off watch for the Great Star,
The Sun Passer by name.
It was the first before the sun;
Then the sun was born
Green was the Sun Passer (P. V. 5579-5583).
Even here, though, the grief of the people emerging from a generation of
darkness and cold, wandering and hunger, is given expression. The
Quiche tribes did not stay at Tula till the dawn; their implacable gods
ordered them to move on until they arrived at their present homes in the
Guatemalan highlands. There the gods were deposited on separate
mountain tops, one of which, named Fire Peak after the god instated
there, was the place where the tribes found themselves when the dawn at
last came (5895-5904). Incense was offered to the gods,
And that was what they burned
When they performed their
At the sunrise
They wept with pleasure
As they performed their
And there they began their song
Called 'It is Hidden'
In their song:
'Alas! We were lost in Tula!
We have broken ourselves
We have left behind our older brothers,
Our younger brothers.
Where did they see the sun then?
Where might they have
been when it dawned? (P. V. 5935-5940, 6057-6070).
To overcome the ancient grief that the peoples had been forced to
separate from Tula before the sun appeared, the narrator, for a unique
moment in the epic, draws aside the veil of his people's affirmation of
the supremacy of their own god and identifies Storm with the god whom
the Mexicans worshipped till his own time:
'But really Storm was the name
of the god of the Mexican people.
Quetzal Serpent was his name.
We split up there at his Tula,
They were our fellow travellers from there,
And our faces were complete when we came,'
They said to each other
When they straightaway remembered again
Their older brothers,
Their younger brothers,
The Mexican people
Who dawned there
As it is called today (P. V. 6073-6088).
The god Storm whom they followed in their migrations is called
Quetzalcoatl, and Tula is called 'his.' It was from Tula that
Quetzalcoatl, in all the Nahuatl versions of his passion and rebirth,
set out in his own wandering. When he arrived at the edge of the sea he
burned his own body:
"And after he had completely turned into ashes, then the heart of the
Quetzal Bird rose up. And as they know, it went to Heaven, it entered
Heaven. The old men say that it changed itself into the star that
shines in the dawn. And they tell that when Quetzalcoatl died, there
appeared the one who is called 'Lord of the Dawn.' " (Lehmann, 1938:
91-92, # 150-152).
I hope that this retelling of the Popol Vuh, preceded as
it was by the quandaries of stratigraphy and radiocarbon dating, has
served both the purposes I spoke for at the beginning. We may dismember
great epics in order to reconstruct history by stacking up their bones,
but the epics have their own way of being reborn. Among the many
results of Velikovsky's rigorous pursuit of his historical method is
that the narratives which cultures have always insisted to be central
to them are at last shown to begin in history as well as to end in it.
Thus a measure of their dignity is restored to those particular cultures
who have happened to be on the other side of the anthropologist's
interrogations. It may be that more than one tale well told is
destined for retelling, and that a whole consort of scientific
disciplines is going to sharpen our ears to the art and purpose of
narrators speaking for their peoples.
Anderson, Arthur J. O., and Charles E. Dibble (1950): Florentine
Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain (Fray Bernardino
de Sahagun). Trans. from the Nahuatl. School of American Research and
University of Utah, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Bk. 3, "The Origin of the
Anderson, Arthur J. O., and Charles E. Dibble (1953): ibid., Bk. 7, "The
Sun, Moon, and Stars, and the Binding of the Years."
Berger, Rainer, John A. Graham, and Robert F. Heizer (1967): "A
Reconsideration of the Age of the La Venta Site." Contributions of the
University of California Archaeological Research Facility 3: 1-24.
Berkeley. Bernal, Ignacio (1969): The Olmec World. Trans. from
Spanish (El Mundo Olmeca, 1968) by Doris Heyden and Fernando
Horcasitas. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.
Caso, Alfonso (1942): Definición y extension del complejo
"Olmeca." Sociedad Mexicana de Antropologia. Reuniones de Mesa
Redonda: Mayas y Olmecas, pp. 43-46.
Coe, Michael D. (1966): "Exploraciones arqueológicas en San Lorenzo
Tenochtitlan, Veracruz." Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia,
Mexico. Dirección de Monumentos Prehispánicos. Boletín no. 24: 21-25.
Coe, Michael D. (1967A): "La segunda temporada en San Lorenzo
Tenochtitlan, Veracruz." Boletín 1. N. A. H. no. 28, June: 1-10.
Coe, Michael D. (1967B): "Solving a Monumental Mystery." Discovery
Coe, Michael D., Richard A. Diehl, and Minze Stuiver (1967): "Olmec
Civilization, Veracruz, New Mexico: Dating of the San Lorenzo phase."
Science 155: 1399-1401.
Dàvalos Hurtado, E., and J. M. Ortiz de Zarate (1953): "La plàstica
indígena y la patología. Sociedad Mexicano de Antropológia. Revista
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Drucker, Philip (1943): "Ceramic Stratigraphy at Cerro de las Mesas,
Veracruz." Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington. Bulletin, 141.
Drucker, Philip, and Robert F. Heizer (1957): "Radiocarbon Dates from La
Venta, Tabasco." Science 126: 72-73.
Drucker, Philip, Robert Heizer, and Robert S. Squier (1959):
"Excavations at La Venta, Tabasco, 1955." Bureau of American Ethnology,
Washington. Bulletin, 170.
Edmonson, Munro S. (1971): The Book of Counsel: The Popol Vuh
of the Quiche Maya of Guatemala. Middle American Research
Institute, Tulane University, Publication 35. New Orleans.
Heizer, Robert F. (1960): "Agriculture and the Theocratic State in
Lowland Southeastern Mexico." American Antiquity 26: 215-22.
Heyden, Doris (1973): "A Chicomoztoc in Teotihuacan? An Interpretation
of the Cave Underneath the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan." Paper
presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the S. A. A., San Francisco, May
Lehmann, Walter (1938): Die Geschichte der Königreiche von
Cothuacan und Mexico (Annals of Cuahitian, Codex Chimalpopoca)
Quelienwerke zur Allen Geschichte Amerikas, Ibero-Amerikanischen
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Antiquity 26: 1-10.
Piña Chán, Roman (1972): Historia, arqueologia y arte prehispánico.
Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico.
Piña Chán, R., and L. Covarrubias (1964): El Pueblo del Jaguar.
Consejo para la planeación e instalación del Museo Nacional de
Radin, Paul (1 920): "The Sources and Authenticity of the History of
the Ancient Mexicans." University of California Publications in
American Archaeology and Ethnology, Vol. 17, no. 1. Berkeley.
Recinos, Adrign (1950): Popol Vuh: the Sacred Book of the
Ancient Quiché Maya. English version by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus G.
Morley. University of Oklahoma Press.
Séjourné, Laurette (1957): Burning Water: Thought and Religion
in Ancient Mexico. Evergreen Edition, Grove Press, New York; and
Thames and Hudson, London.
Séjourné, Laurette (1969): Teotihuacan: Métropole de l'Amérique.
Francois Maspero, Paris.
Seler, Eduard (1963): Comentarios al Códice Borgia. Fonde de
Cultura Economica, México. 3 vols.
Stirling, M. W. (1955): "Stone Monuments of the Rio Chiquito, Veracruz,
Mexico." Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington. Bulletin, 157: 1-23.
Thompson, J. Eric S. (1951): "Aquatic Symbols Common to Various Centers of
the Classic Period in Meso-America." Twenty-ninth Congress of Americanists,
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PENSEE Journal IX
 Many of the passages I will cite have already been used by Velikovsky in
Worlds in Collision, whether from the same editions or as
cited in secondary sources. See pp. 32, 33, 34, 45, 46, 48, 53, 54,
68, 93, 113, 118, 122, 127, 128, 154, 157, 177, 179. I omit here
discussions of both the Highland Mexico and the Mayan codices, as
also of the wealth of sculptured and painted testimony from the many
sites of these two areas. I do so not because they are not of equal
or greater significance than the written sources, but only because
my intention is to give further exemplification of Velikovsky's
method of handling verbal testimony. In any case Mesoamericanists
will admit that very little of the glyphic or pictural testimony
speaks for itself; in interpreting it they have always been forced
to rely on the later written material. Thus the Mayan codices have
been deciphered principally by working back from the Books of Chilam
Balam written after the Conquest in Yucatec, as well as from the
ethnographic data collected from the surviving Mayan peoples.
Similarly, the motifs found in such abundance at Teotihuacan would
have little meaning if the deities and rituals attested by later
Nahuatl cultures could not be traced back to them.
 It is unfortunate that Séjourné's spiritualizing interpretations have
made her work suffer in the eyes of the archaeoloists, because she
is the most notable current spokesman for the theory that
Teotihuacan was the site of the ancient Tula and that its
inhabitants were the original Toltecs so venerated by later
cultures; she herself is one of the principal archaeologists to have
excavated there. This theory was widely accepted until a congress
of Mesoamericanists voted it out of favor in 1941 and instated Tula,
Hidalgo as the original ancient Tula. They did so on a combination
of archaeological evidence and annalistic interpretation which is
by no means overwhelming and should not have been elevated into fact
by the fiat of a congressional vote. On the side of
annalistic interpretation the possible error of this more recent
identification springs from precisely the kind of chronological
short-sightedness I am referring to. Annals from the Valley of
Mexico begin with the great period of the Toltecs and then briskly
proceed to their own series of kings; these series never go back
much beyond the 9th century A.D., whereas the Classical Period of
Teotihuacan is extended to the 7th century A.D. at the latest;
hence, according to the favored theory, the Teotihuacanos cannot
possibly have been the Toltecs. The canonization of this tentative
re-interpretation as unquestionable fact bears analogies to the 19th
century fabrication of Egyptian chronology which Ages in Chaos
calls into question.
 Henceforth I will refer solely to the line numbers in Edmonson's
 A subsidiary issue at stake in juxtaposing the Quiche and Nahuatl
accounts is whether their names for the original site of gathering
and sacrifice can be held to the literal meaning. The Nahuatls
insist that this site was the present Teotihuacan, the Quiche that
it was Tula, and the debate over their identification has already
been referred to. Scholars belittle Aztec claims to have any
genuine knowledge of the earlier history of Teotihuacan and assume
that the insistence in this passage on its centrality in the cosmic
struggle is merely another case of projecting their own myths onto
the nearby ruins whose proportions so impressed them. Similarly,
the presence of the word 'Tula' in the Quiche account carries little
weight with interpreters of the book, since the Quiche and Toltec
cultures alike are assigned to no earlier than the 9th century A.D.
In both cases the association of the site with a momentous time of
origins is not considered because not until Velikovsky's
re-interpretation of Mesoamerican mythology in Worlds in
Collision has anyone suggested that this time of origin can be
A recent archaeological discovery at
Teotihuacan may move Mesoamericanists to reconsider their scheme, if
not to consider the Velikovskian dating. In October 1971 Jorge
Acosta excavated in the Pyramid of the Sun and found an elaborate
system of caves in the bedrock underneath it; they had been made
accessible by a tunnel which had later been filled in. Four of the
caves are arranged in cloverleaf form, two more lead out from the
stem, and the stem itself, if considered a chamber, brings the total
to seven, precisely the number specified in both the Aztec account
of their origins in Chicomoztoc (which means literally "Seven
Caves") and in the Quiche paraphrase for Tula: "Tula,/ Zuyua,/ Seven
Caves,/ Seven Canyons" (5257-5260). Consensus in assessment of this
find is still forthcoming, but a set of preliminary possibilities
has been assembled in a paper presented by Doris Heyden at the 38th
Annual Meeting of the S.A.A., San Francisco, May 1973: "A
Chicomoztoc in Teotihuacan?: An Interpretation of the Cave
underneath the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan." Heyden argues
reasonably that the cave was a sacred site long before the city
itself was built, and it is for exactly this reason that the largest
structure there was built over it. As with the case of the Olmec
culture, the dating of the foundational period at Teotihuacan
continues to be moved back. At present the time of construction of
the great Pyramids of the Sun and Moon is loosely held to be in the
last century B.C. (Millon, 1960: 9), but the Tzacualli phase whose
pottery is associated with these structures is granted beginnings
ca. 600 B.C., and these too are deemed provisional. In any case it
must be repeated that what is in question is not the time of the
first major construction at Teotihuacan but the time at which the
site itself was first deemed sacred, and for what reasons.