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Von Daniken of the Puranas
August 31, 2012 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Master Builder Uncovers Striking Similarities In Indian and Incan / Mayan Sacred Structures:- It is Sthapati's theory that Mayan, the creator of Indian architecture, originated from the Mayan people of Central America. In Indian history, Mayan appears several times, most significantly as the author of Mayamatam, "Concept of Mayan" which is a Vastu Shastra, a text on art, architecture and town planning. The traditional date for this work is 8,000bce. Mayan appears in the Ramayana (2000bce) and again in the Mahabharata (1400bce) - in the latter he designs a magnificent palace for the Pandava brothers. Mayan is also mentioned in Silappathikaram, an ancient Tamil scripture, and is author of Surya Siddhanta, one of the most ancient Hindu treatises on astronomy. (Original ca. 1995)

The fundamental principle of Mayan's architecture and town planning is the "module." Buildings and towns are to be laid out according to certain multiples of a standard unit. Floor plans, door locations and sizes, wall heights and roofs, all are determined by the modular plan. More specifically, Mayan advocated the use of an eight-by-eight square, for a total of 64 units, which is known as the Vastu Purusha Mandala. The on-site inspection by Sthapati was to determine if the Incan and Mayan structures did follow a modular plan and reflect the Vastu Purusha Mandala. He also intended to examine the stone working technology - his particular field of expertise.

Bonus: Results create flurry of conjecture among Daniken's followers on whether Mayan himself was from a different planet.
posted by infini (32 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

When confronted with the fact that South America could not have been even remotely south of India since the dinosaurs, he claims that perhaps the scientist-proposed dates of continental drift were off so really Mayan could have just walked north (ATTA this arrangement of continents would have been 160 million years ago). Yeah. That seems more likely.
posted by mangasm at 8:44 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I took it to mean south of the equator rather than immediately south of the landmass. Do you know where you got the bit about his claims from?
posted by infini at 8:49 AM on August 31, 2012

From the "what's the connection?" segment of the first link. The author does propose more likely scenarios (boats, IIRC), but it strikes me as silly to suggest or imply that the continental drift mentioned may have happened 30,000 years ago rather than 160 million years ago.
posted by mangasm at 8:55 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wouldn't the most obvious solution be that the Mayans borrowed from the Indians, not the other way around? Mayan civilization is thought to have begun around 1800 BCE and saw its peak from AD 200-900. The entire period was stone-age though; the Central and South American cultures don't really seem to have gotten around to metalworking.

Indian civilization, on the other hand, had its bronze age starting around 3300BCE and pretty much hasn't let up since then.

I just can't fathom why he would assume that it was the earlier culture learning from the later one rather than the other way around.
posted by valkyryn at 9:00 AM on August 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

So it's aliens, right?
posted by nathancaswell at 9:04 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here we go again...

or do we?
posted by Glomar response at 9:07 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Paging James Churchward. Mr. Churchward, please spiritually contact the nearest medium for a call from a Mr. Sthapati.
posted by foldedfish at 9:07 AM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

According to scientists 160 million years ago India did lie physically close to Africa, South and Central America, but has since moved away as a result of continental drift. At that date, it would have been dinosaurs and not Mayans who wandered from the Americas to India, but perhaps the time frame for the continental drift is not correct.
And perhaps an ignorant crackpot who built his hypothesis on superficial similarities between names knows more about continental drift than actual scientists.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:13 AM on August 31, 2012 [10 favorites]

valkyryn: Here is an article that makes that claim re: the Peruvians got it from the Indians "Peru's Ancient Vedic culture"

mangasm: darn, and here I thought he was a reasonably rational crackpot.
posted by infini at 9:16 AM on August 31, 2012

According to scientists 160 million years ago India did lie physically close to Africa, South and Central America, but has since moved away as a result of continental drift.

Well, at least it was a no-fault separation.
posted by dhartung at 9:17 AM on August 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

Seriously? How can anyone even consider the possibility? Similarities be damned there is finite number of ways to do a task it is more likely that some aesthetics are being shared but all that means is they saw things in a similar light. Stuff is reinvented all the time.
posted by pdxpogo at 9:24 AM on August 31, 2012

There are similarities on a physical culture level, even some religious similarities, but the real closer on the deal would be any unusual DNA similarities.
I don't know of any.
I don't need to convince too many that Von Daniken is totally a crack-pot. I mean, seriously, I met the guy and my Snake Oil/B.S. Detector went 'kuku! kuku! kuku!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:36 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Of course, we all know that it was the Predators who built all the ancient temples on Earth. Or maybe it was the Prometheans.
posted by asfuller at 9:43 AM on August 31, 2012

I think all you need to know about whether von Daniken is a fraud is that interview (I think it's from Playboy? I don't have the patience to wade through that cesspool to find it again) where he admits that all of his books are made up.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:47 AM on August 31, 2012

This reminds of how ClipArt ETC has a drawing of Coatlicue labeled as an imitation of Ganesha. This perturbs me for obvious reasons.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:50 AM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Coatlicue, you have good reason to be perturbed. During my flight of fancy into the depths of search while putting together this FPP, I came across too much in the wikipedia entries to perturb me enough to wonder if all that's the result of outsourcing way too much to Bangalore and Chennai.
posted by infini at 10:05 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

If India were next to South America 30,000 years ago, wouldn't continental drift be measured in feet per day? I'm no geologist, but that sounds really fast.
posted by justkevin at 10:09 AM on August 31, 2012

Where's Joseph Campbell when you need him!
posted by busillis at 10:11 AM on August 31, 2012

How can anyone even consider the possibility?

Often, it's unfortunately for crypto-racist or ethnocentric reasons. Regardless, the Pre-Columbian Contact article on Wikipedia is just sheer wacky crackpot fun.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:15 AM on August 31, 2012

Often, it's unfortunately for crypto-racist or ethnocentric reasons. Regardless, the Pre-Columbian Contact article on Wikipedia is just sheer wacky crackpot fun.

Thoughts on Gloria Farley's work, such as documenting the Anubis Caves in Oklahoma? Pretty new to this stuff but just curious since you have an opinion on the Wikipedia page. Farley seems pretty authentic to me, especially her accounts of bringing actual Ph.D.s to her research sites.
posted by circular at 10:45 AM on August 31, 2012

My favorite is the story about aliens had a colony known to us as the legendary Atlantis and they gave the Egyptians the tech needed to build the pyramids and whatnot. In the early days of the Web there was a World's Leading Authority for Real in a closely related field who was trying to raise funds to do a high resolution seismic survey in the Persian Gulf where the alien base was during the last sea level minimum (~ 20 000 years ago). He claimed he had some translations of hieroglyphics documenting the human-alien interaction while the alien base was still a going concern, and that after helping out the early civilians in Nile land and Tigris-Euphrates land when the sea level rose and flooded their base they just booked back to wherever. But the remains are still there!

I am sure his bosses just loved that shit. Anyway there are limits to the privileges of tenure so he took the web pages down years ago but I sometimes dream about running into him at a conference in a bar someday and asking him about his hieroglyphics translations.
posted by bukvich at 11:18 AM on August 31, 2012

My opinion on most of the Pre-Columbian stuff is pretty much this: there may or may not have been occasional weird flukes of history that occurred now and then, but I feel that generally more or less these claims are examples of people seeing patterns where they don't exist. A lot of these cases seem to hinge on fairly obscure evidence (I'm not an anthropologist or historian, much less archeologist, so I don't know how relatively well-known the Anubis Caves are). I suppose given how fragmentary information about the Pre-Columbian Americas is, if solid evidence were to be found of non-Norse contact, it would be from something similarly obscure. But unless the archeological community made a big fuss about it, I generally think of these on the same level as any other crackpottery or simply reaching for answers. This specific Anubis Cave story seems compelling and fascinating, but it really reminds me of Mormon Egyptology.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:26 AM on August 31, 2012

posted by deo rei at 2:09 PM on August 31, 2012

Speaking of intriguing ancient Native American architecture:

The Puzzle Of The 13 Solar Towers of Chankillo: Chankillo, a Peruvian "Stonehenge", has 13 towers in a straight line. Nobody knows why but one physicists thinks that software for simulating the position of the Sun for solar panels can help

posted by homunculus at 2:22 PM on August 31, 2012

I've always found it odd that the Lapita and ancient Polynesians colonized the entire Pacific, finding every small island that had enough land to live on, while the Atlantic remained an impassible barrier for almost the entirety of human history. It's kind of amazing that nobody accidentally washed up in New World (or vice versa) in all that time, until the Norse a thousand years ago.

Anyway, this is a fun post. The central conjecture about Mayan and the Mayans sounds pretty doubtful, but the links are a fun rabbit hole of ancient Indian history. I really like the 11th link from the rhinoresourcecenter with its description of the ancient city of Mohenjo-Daro.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:27 PM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Homunculous' link provides yet another previously, this one on archeoastronomy.
posted by infini at 3:06 PM on August 31, 2012

I thought it was accepted that some Romans made at least a one-way trip to Brazil.
posted by imperium at 3:26 PM on August 31, 2012

bukvich: In the early days of the Web there was a World's Leading Authority for Real in a closely related field who was trying to raise funds to do a high resolution seismic survey in the Persian Gulf where the alien base was during the last sea level minimum (~ 20 000 years ago).

I remember that guy. His work was mirrored for a few years by one of his ex-students, and then it disappeared again. I believe it was because the ex-student made 1 correction, and That. Was. Unexceptable. He had a small but vocal fanbase I used to hear from frequently, and The World's Worst Thing Ever (said correction) was a frequent topic of mail.

On another note, I am always fascinated by the willingness of people to reject human innovation and creativity in favor of knowledge bestowed by some sort of superior being/group. I would think the similarities between innovations in places/times isolated from each other would be a marker of human creativity instead of a prod to find some - however tenous - explanation to expain how one group can't possibly have produced the marvel by themselves.
posted by julen at 3:30 PM on August 31, 2012

I kinda look at things like this and think it might be an artefact of modern humans becoming much more specialized and/or ignorant.

To many modern Americans (not the clever ones, but the rest) an architect is a specialist with an incomprehensibly vast array of occult knowledge (apply this a thousand times across electricians, car mechanics, systems administrators, doctors of internal medicine, etc. etc.)

For people like this, who I assume comprise the majority of modernized cultures, it would be incomprehensible to think that multiple people could invent cursory architectural techniques (them having never made any discovery in their own lives) or that a typical Mayan in 1000 BCE or anyone in 3300 BCE would have a better cursory understanding of some basic facts of life (like the hydrodynamics of irrigation, architecture, medicine) than most of their peers do today.

Not that there weren't specialists in the histories before the common era, but that "common knowledge" would've been a much different set of stuff and that our historical antecedent's knowledge is rather "alien" to moderns.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 4:04 PM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

"I thought it was accepted that some Romans made at least a one-way trip to Brazil."

That's a really interesting story. I googled it and found this blog post, which seems to summarize things fairly well. Apparently Robert Marx did find some amphorae off the coast of Rio, but no scientists have studied the site. There was a political controversy and the Brazilian government covered the site with sediment, precluding further research.

But the discovery of amphorae doesn't necessarily mean that ancient Romans were involved. The blogger says that renaissance era Spanish ships often carried amphorae filled with olive oil, and these have been found in wrecks dated to that time. So Occam's Razor would seem to suggest that Marx found artifacts from a much later Spanish ship, rather than classical Romans.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:05 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

As ever, infini, a fascinating post, thanks. I really was very interested to learn about the Vastu Purusha Mandala. Will go through the links slowly.

It would seem from the articles and images linked below there is a distinct possibility of Indian theory/knowledge arriving in South America around 300AD.

This author, Borhegyi, thinks the Soma of the Rig Veda is the mushroom in Pre-Columbian South American mushroom cults. Soma in the Americas | Another article: Hindu Mythology In Pre-Columbian Art

Ancient connections between two civilizations separated by 12,000 of miles: Comparison of Harappa (Indus Valley) and Rongorongo (Easter Island) scripts.

Two Systems of Symbolic Writing - The Indus Script and the Rongorongo Script of Easter Island by Egbert Richter-Ushanas

You may be aware that the script on tablets found at Easter island is very similar to the script on seals found at Mohenjo Daro in Sind, India.

A simpler, clear comparison visual.

Geographic overview.

Chronology overview.
posted by nickyskye at 9:32 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans.
posted by Stoatfarm at 7:40 AM on September 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

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