The Maya, in their ages-old oral history, the Popol Vuh, said that they were born out of the blood of the sea serpent and the blood of the tapir. The sea serpent represents the Mayan ancestors who were sea-farers. The tapir represents the Xibalbans (Xibahkhans) who were land dwellers and ruled the Xibalba cave that is described in the Popol Vuh. The Popol Vuh mentions an early Maya leader, One Hunapuh, marrying a tapir woman Xib’aqiyalo. This would be the mixing of the blood of the sea serpent and the tapir, as mentioned in the Popol Vuh.
Earlier I had described that the tapir people captured the sea serpent people and held them captive in the Xibalba cave, the Gruta del Espíritu Santo in northeastern El Salvador. The sea serpent people escaped along the Torola River and eventually lived for several hundred years on Isla Tigre and other islands in the Golfo de Fonseca. The capture and escape of the sea serpent people occurred in about 8,850 BCE, based on the dating code used in the Popol Vuh, “1 Tapir 7 Tapir” (translated as 1 Death 7 Death in Tedlock). 7 Tapir is the date reference in the phrase and the corresponding date is found in the Mars retrograde long-count calendar. It is likely that the sea serpent people arrived to El Salvador at about this same time and were soon captured by the tapir people who were patrolling the region.
I am now ready to describe where the tapir people came from and where the sea serpent people came from. This story will describe much of the peopling of the American hemisphere. It will be easier to start with the sea serpent people. I will start by going to one of the earliest sites anywhere in the Americas, Monte Verde, Chile.
Monte Verde is an ancient site of living space with remains of various tools, equipment, living structures, and edible plants. The oldest layer of remains has been dated to about 12,500 BCE. The site appears to have been lived at for much of 2,000 years. One very interesting things about the site is that there are remains of over 50 different edible plants which were gathered from up to 150 miles away. The social organization and the testing and categorizing of plants shows a level of scientific and social sophistication and is a precursor to the people who would initiate agriculture several thousand years later.
The discovery and dating of Monte Verde ended once and for all the theory that the first people to enter the western hemisphere were the Clovis people between 10,000 and 9,000 BCE. Several Northamerican sites provide evidence of being even older than Monte Verde. Now the predominant theory goes that one group of these early northamericans quickly migrated to the southern tip of South America. This theory has two major problems: no intermediate sites have been identified and the quick pace of that migration over such a large and difficult distance in the short time of several hundred years or even a couple thousand years would be unprecedented.
Contrary to that theory, this blog will show conclusively that:
- the Monte Verdians arrived by sea from Asia rather than by land
- the Monte Verdians spoke a language very similar to one still alive today and
- that language is the root language of most Native American languages
- that language has been deliberately preserved relatively unchanged for more than 14,000 years
- the place names around Monte Verde and other early South American sites have been preserved for more than 12,000 years.
Working with Ch’orti’ Maya over the last two years I have had a sense it was a very old language from the way that words are built with older one-syllable cognates. In addition it is common for other cognates to be built from the root cognates by slightly varying the sound, while the meaning is complimentary but distinct. But when I heard the report of the discovery of the oldest mine in the Americas – at least 12,000 years old and located at the coastal city of Taltal, Chile, I began to realize just how old. Taltal means ‘arrival’ in Ch’orti’ Maya. (Actually arrival is ‘tar’ in Ch’orti’ but it is likely that at an earlier time the ‘l’ and ‘r’ sounds where equivalent, similar to some east Asian languages like Japanese. Looking at the place names surrounding Monte Verde confirmed that in fact proto-Ch’orti’ was the language spoken by these First People.
Monte Verde is just a few miles north of the Reloncaví Sound in southern Chile. It is on a creek called Chinchihuapi which flows out of the Llanquihue Lake to the Maullin River. Two prominent volcanoes, Osorno and Calbuco, are located across the lake from Monte Verde.
Let’s take a look at the various place names in the area and see what they mean in the ancient language, that is, proto-Ch’orti’ Maya:
Chinchihuapi – the creek where Monte Verde is located. A creek with continuous flow and many rapids.
Chin: throb, vibrate, rustle
Ch’i : smallness
Wahpi: continue, keep on
Or “small rustles continue”, i.e. a small river with continuous rapids.
Chinquio – a small village on the tidal Reloncavi Sound close to Monte Verde.
Chin: throb, vibrate, rustle
Or “surf arrival”. Chin makes sense as surf, a continuous vibration. Curiously this would make Chinchihuapi “continuous little surf”. I recognize that K’ot is a little far from quio, but it is plausible. It may have been Chinko before being changed to Chinquio in the Spanish era. And the 't' could have been dropped from the end previously. Another possible meaning for the last half of the name is similar: ki’ (heart) + och (entrance), but is more abstract than most names used. I understand that 14,500 years ago the ocean level would have been about 100 feet lower and Chinquio would not have been on the shore. At the same time much of the Pacific Coast of the Americas has been rising relative to the ocean. In any case, I believe that Chinquio represents the place on the shore at that time where the “surf arrival” occurred.
Llanquihue – This the beautiful lake to the east of Monte Verde with the two volcanoes on the far shore.
Yam: round, circular
Kihb: anything raised
Weh: fleshy, pulpy
“Raised round flesh”. Specifically a breast, which would describe Osorno, the volcano behind Lake Llanquihue. Instead of kihb, it could be ki’ (heart) or “round heart flesh” which has nearly the same meaning. And instead of yam it could be yan (unequal) or “unequal raised flesh” which would accurately describe the two volcanoes together, since they have quite different shapes.
Osorno – This is the large volcano cone on the far shore of Lake Llanquihue.
Os: fit; fitting into
Or: head, important
Noh: great, enlargement
Or “enlargement fits (over) head" or "enlargement fitted over main base". The Osorno volcano is a more recent volcano which formed on top of an older volcano with a mostly buried 6 kilometer wide caldera. This meaning of Osorno demonstrates a keen eye and a scientific sophistication among the First People.
Calbuco – Refers to the large irregularly shaped volcano south of the Osorno volcano. But it also refers to an island and town south of Monte Verde off of Reloncaví.
Kar: edible leaves and shoots (the ‘r’ and ‘l’ were interchangeable)
Buk’: reed, cane
Or “edible shoots/cane”. This is probably the most interesting place name around Monte Verde because there are two occurrences of it separated by over 20 kilometers. They were clearly trying to mark the locations of a certain kind of edible plant so that they would be remembered.
Colegual – This is a village on the shore of Reloncaví Sound, east of Puerto Montt
K’or: carrying, transport
Wahr: fanning, fan (the ‘w’ sound became a ‘gu’ in some derivative languages)
Or “fan transport”. This one is not so clear but I believe that ‘fan’ here may refer to sail and this may be a place where the sail rafts were maintained and where they debarked from when traveling out on the ocean.
Lenca – This is a village on the east shore of Reloncaví Sound, many kilometers from Monte Verde.
This is not a Ch’orti’ word but, obviously, a Lenca word. Since the Lenca language did not start evolving until about 8,500 BCE in El Salvador, this place name could only have come from a visit or a migration by a group of Lenca sometime much later. This seems to indicate a continued awareness by the Ch’orti’ and Lenca when they were in El Salvador of their place of origin in the hemisphere. No doubt that place was revered.
Monte and verde are obviously Spanish words, but let’s take a look at monte. It is curious for showing up so often in Mesoamerican sites, including Montecristo (El Salvador), Monte Alto (Guatemala), and Monte Alban (Mexico). I believe that the Spaniards may have been replacing a similar Ch’orti’ word. In Ch’orti’ no’n is “we” and perhaps in an earlier time “our” as well. Te’eh means “trees” or “forest”, so one can see that no’nte’eh could mean “our forest” which sounds very much like “monte” or woods in Spanish. It also may explain why monte is more likely to mean mountain in Spain Spanish and woods in Latin American Spanish.
The first inhabitants of South America, arriving by surf to Monte Verde, lived alongside a stream that constantly rippled, like a little surf. They saw a beautiful volcano formed over an older volcano that reminded them of a woman’s breast. They found edible plants, over 50 varieties, a practice that they were already accustomed to in Asia where they came from.
And they traveled overland to Argentina and by sail raft to northern and far south Chile, to Peru, and to Venezuela. In the next few weeks we will explore these places that they traveled to, which will make it even more clear that these first inhabitants spoke a language similar to modern day Ch’orti’, and that ancient language was what they spoke in Asia before they set sail for the Americas.