Maya 2012 and the iBook

So what connects an iBook to the Maya? Glad you asked. My friend, Dr. Mark Van Stone, has created an interactive version of his book, 2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya, that is about what the Maya really said about 2012 and I think the same book has a lot to say about technology and education.

Today many people are talking about education and using terms like Disruption. Well, disruption is something that is always going on. When I visit Georgia Tech, my alma mater, I am astonished at the changes that have occurred since I attended in the late 1950's. More buildings, more students and changes in how they are taught. I am sure some of those changes are good and some are not. All we had were traditional paper textbooks, a very two-dimensional object. Today a variety of new technologies offer new ways for students to study. One of these devices is Apple's iPad. I feel there are still many questions to be asked and answered about these new teaching tools. Some of the questions are about physical limitations such as storage capacity, the availability of materials because of required infrastructure (things like high-speed wireless internet) and compatibility of applications. Others will be about how they are used and how students are tested on their retention of the material.

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Boat load of jade tools

My friend Philippe Klinefelter,, sent my the following interesting pictures and comments:




Mayan stone tools, primarily axe heads found in the coral, on the reef between Cozumel island and the mainland of the Yucatan.  Displayed as the were found and removed from their watery resting place.  Perhaps the boat was sunk in a storm.  It appears to have been loaded with tool heads and arms.



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Calendar Discovery at Xultun


By James A. O’Kon, PE

The announcement of a sensational discovery of murals and calendar calculations, at the ancient Maya site of Xultún in Guatemala, is a boon for Maya archaeology and a real “reversal of the field” for doomsayers, who predict the end of the world on December 21, 2012. The newfound calendar calculations indicate a Maya calendar with a longer length of time equal to 17 baktuns rather than the 13 baktuns cycle that ends on December 21, 2012. A baktun is 144,000 days. The 17 baktuns equal a time period of time of 2,500,000 days or 6850 years, a longer time span than the 5126 years in the 13 baktun cycles. The current 13 baktun cycle ends on December 21, 2012. The new found 17 baktun cycle extends the Maya time line for an additional 1124 years to the year 3136 CE. The Xultún calculations do not identify a specific date but indicate that the Maya had all intentions of  extending time into infinity, and December 21, 2012, is only a place mark in time.

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George Stuart

George Stuart is a legend in the Maya community. For nearly 40 years he worked at the National Geographic Society, during that time he worked to get articles related to the Maya and Mesoamerica into the magazine. He also amassed an enormous library of 12,000 volumes at the Boundary End Archaeology Research Center.

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Mark van Stone

Mark van Stone ( teaches Art History at Southwestern University and is an expert in calligraphy. Another one of his areas of expertise is Maya inscriptions. Michael Coe selected Mark to  illustrate Reading the Maya Glyphs, a book that is considered THE guide to understanding Maya writing. I asked Mark to read my book and let me know what he thinks. Here are some of his thoughts:  

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On the Road

On the Road with The Old Explorer.

James O'Kon is The Old Explorer but his interest in archaeology began as a child while playing in the Civil War trenches covering the hills near his boyhood home in Atlanta rusted military armament and wasted shot was easily found on the battlefield sites. His early reading interest included classic books dealing with the Conquest and rediscovering of the Maya civilization. His interest in lost civilizations was accelerated by his high school history teacher, Grady Randolph. Mr. Randolph was a brilliant teacher who did not teach typical history courses but delighted his students with accounts of lost civilizations, extinct languages and occult religions.

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Maya Kiln Scale Model for History Channel

Fire 2 for History Channel Film 069


This is the photo that I most regret was not in color in the book. It is the flame that shot up 6 feet into the sky when we ignited the cement kiln. This spectacular reaction occurred when we prepared the scale model of a Maya cement kiln for a History Channel episode. We followed the descriptions for a cement kiln detailed in the Carnegie Institution publication by Earl H. Morris during the consolidation of The Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza. We built it as close as possible to his descriptions of how the workers produced cement in 1931. Morris contends that "at the present time (this) is an ancestral heritage that has come down through the centuries with practically no change, except the substitution of steel for stone tools. Hence, a detailed description will not be amiss, for it will recast with close fidelity the procedure followed in this particular ramification for the building trade in the days before the Conquest.”

A few moments after Michael Guillen, host of the show, lit our scale model it literally exploded into the sky, just like a good blast furnace should.

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