The cult of Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl and the feathered pterosaur reptiles

Looking to the skies, the Mesoamerican peoples all revered the power of the great birds which flew above them, such as the eagle and condor. They also had respect and wonder for the many snakes which inhabited the land. It was the power of these creatures to kill so effectively and yet to inhabit their domains with such regal strength which made them bow to their mightiness. Their belief system incorporated the symbolism of both snake and bird in the famous Feathered Serpent icons which began appearing a few hundred years BC right up to the Incas, the last of the evolution of Mesoamerican tribes to be unhindered by the Spanish invasion.

See below map of area where the icons of the Feathered Serpent have been found. All these civilisations had this in common though the Aztec named the deity Quetzalcohuātl [ket͡saɬˈkowaːt͡ɬ] – (Nahuatl language) and the Mayans used the name Kukulkan among the Yucatec Maya, and Q’uq’umatz and Tohil among the K’iche’ Maya.  
The cult of Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl was the first Mesoamerican religion to transcend the old Classic Period linguistic and ethnic divisions. This cult facilitated communication and peaceful trade among peoples of many different social and ethnic backgrounds. Although the cult was originally centred on the Mayan ancient city of Chichen Itza in the modern Mexican state of Yucatán, it spread as far as the Guatemalan Highlands. This is an early example of a belief system uniting diverse tribes.

Image of Temple of Kukulkan

The Feathered Serpent is the marrying of the rattle snake with the feathers of the quetzal bird. This iconic form would intensify the power which their belief system desired.

Image of Quetzal

Image of Snake

Quetzals are fairly large (all over 32 cm or 13 inches long), slightly bigger than other of their species. 

The resplendent quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala. The name quetzal is from Nahuatl quetzalli [keˈt͡salːi], “large brilliant tail feather” . The Maya civilization developed in an area that encompasses southeastern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador. This region consists of the northern lowlands encompassing the Yucatán Peninsula, and the highlands of the Sierra Madre, running from the Mexican state of Chiapas, across southern Guatemala and onwards into El Salvador, and the southern lowlands of the Pacific littoral plain.

The feathers of iridescent Quetzal were used in Royal costume and ceremonial garb for kings and priests. The Quetzal symbolized the movement of Creation and the will of the Creator come to earth. As the Serpent moves side to side on the ground, the Quetzal flaps and glides through the jungle. That is,  it moves up and down between the skies and the earth. The Maya knew that Creation moves from Day to Night or Creation to Destruction in a wave like pattern.

Serpent skins, bones and rattles were used in most Maya’s clothing and personal effects as sacred decoration. Serpent venom was used as a prescription by Maya shaman for a number of  treatments or cures. 

Aztecs added Quetzalcoatl as symbolic of the west direction.

According to this myth, the four sons of Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl, one of them being Quetzalcoatl, represent the four cardinal directions.

The west is represented by Quetzalcoatl who is also the White Tezcatlipoca and the god of light, justice, mercy, and wind.

Teotihuacan: Temple of Feathered Serpent

Aztec feathered serpent sculpture

Mayan mural and snake sculpture

In the Guatemalan Highlands, Postclassic feathered serpent sculptures have been found with open mouths from which protrude the heads of human warriors. Hundreds of North and South American Indian and South Pacific legends tell of a white-skinned, bearded lord who traveled among the many tribes to bring peace about 2,000 years ago. This spiritual hero was best known as Quetzelcoatl, thus merging Christianity brought by the Spanish conquest, with ancient deities. Most conversions around the world involved Pagan deities being merged with Christian ideology.

And the first Mesoamerican Olmec civilisation appreciated the serpent in their sculptures:

And birds were also popular icons in ancient Peru. The 1500 year old mysterious Peruvian Nazca Lines lie in the high, arid plateau stretches more than 80 km (50 mi) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana, about 400 km (250 mi) south of Lima, contain amazing geoglyphs. These were cut into the desert by digging trenches to create spectacular drawings of humans, animals and birds, include the hummingbird and the condor. The hummingbird geoglyph is 93 m (310 ft) long, the condor is 134 m (440 ft).

Before humans there were pterosaurs which flew over Central America. The Feathered Serpent is not such a fantastical creature after all, indeed a giant feathered reptile actually enjoyed the freedom of the skies, and the fossils found have been named after the Feathered Serpent of Mesoamerica, the Quetzalcoatl. The amazing fossil was a flying reptile, though not a snake, more like a lizard. Yet it combined the attributes of a reptile and the flying abilities of a bird.

Image of fossil of Quetzalcoatlus

When it was first named as a new species in 1975, scientists estimated that the largest Quetzalcoatlus fossils came from an individual with a wingspan as large as 15.9 m (52 ft). More recent estimates based on greater knowledge of azhdarchid proportions place its wingspan at 10–11 m (33–36 ft). Remains found in Texas in 1971 indicate that this reptile had a minimum wingspan of about 11 m (36 ft). Generalized height in a bipedal stance, based on its wingspan, would have been at least 3 m (9.8 ft) high at the shoulder.

Quetzalcoatlus dominated the skies of North America at the end of the Dinosaur Age and flew high over such famous creatures as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. 

The pterosaurs were reptiles, and their close cousins were dinosaurs who evolved on a separate branch of the reptile family tree, just as humans evolved into mammals from reptiles.

The Pterosaurs were also the first animals after insects to evolve powered flight—not just leaping or gliding, but flapping their wings to generate lift and travel through the air. They evolved into dozens of species. Some were as large as an F-16 fighter jet, and others as small as a paper airplane.

Quetzalcoatlus comes from a family of pterosaurs limited to the Cretaceous period, the time between 144 and 66 million years ago (66 million years ago the meteorite that struck the Yucatan Peninsula marked the great extinction of most dinosaurs). In other words, the family spanned the entirety of the Cretaceous, a period of roughly 80 million years.

An animal the size of Quetzalcoatlus could consume victims as large as small dinosaurs, picking them up in its huge toothless jaws. 

Comparison graph

Like all flying reptiles, they launched off the ground in a four-footed leap. This launch style was supported by an immense amount of power. Quetzalcoatlus’ torso, though small in comparison to its body, was very dense and packed with huge muscles. A single leap could get one of these giants into the air, and it needed just a few flaps to keep it aloft. They could likely travel nonstop for 16,000 kilometers after launching, only rarely flapping to keep themselves in the air and to steer their path. Its short wings were not just thin membranes of skin, but densely packed muscle fibers called actinofibrils. Like all other pterosaurs, Quetzalcoatlus was warm-blooded and had an incredible metabolism to power its lifestyle.
Drawing of Quetzalcoatlus

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Migration from colder climates to tropical areas

Costa Rica is one of the countries in Central America, first inhabited around 10000 years ago by tribes who had travelled across the world to this spot, and they found it covered with rainforest. Central American rainforests are environmentally sensitive and play an important role in global climate balance, but large areas have been cleared for cattle ranching and for sugar cane plantations. This is detrimental for indigenous people, flora and fauna and endangered species.

Map of global rainforests

Like other major rainforests, the jungles and mangrove swamps of Central America contain many plants and animals found nowhere else.  Central America is famous for its large number of tropical birds, including many kinds of parrots. But there are many political forces stressing the populations of these countries and the ecologically important environment.

Professor Nina Jablonski, head of the Penn State Department of Anthropology has said (in 2009) that we only need to trace our ancestry back 2500 years and we would find our ancestor lived in another place in the world. We didn’t have a country then, the world was our country. We roamed in tribes, and these tribes may have grouped into larger tribes to form early civilisations, but the territories changed as civilisations grew and declined.

Maybe the ancestors of those who finally arrived in Central America had race memory of the rainforests in Asia which stretch from India and Burma in the west to Malaysia and the islands of Java and Borneo in the east.  Bangladesh has the largest area of mangrove forests in the world.

In Southeast Asia the climate is hot and humid all year round. In the mainland Asia it has a subtropical climate with torrential monsoon rains followed by a drier period. This may have seemed familiar to the ancient tribes who had sought a suitable habitat to end their thousands of years journeying over generations.

The tribes who made it from Africa, to Asia, to the Americas were evolving as the generations moved across continents. Our ancestors followed the animals they hunted or herded to seasonal pastures where food and fresh water could be found. They gathered food and utilised everything they could find to make into tools, clothing, cooking vessels and the like. Their belief system was likely spiritual and showed respect for the animal kingdom and the environment. Our ancestors handed wisdom and knowledge down to us to enable us to survive as best we could in a range of environments and climates they had experienced.

Before Columbus arrived in the Caribbean, the pre-Hispanic populations were a mix of tribes, and the isthmus which joins Mexico to South America was both tropical and lush, and highly seismic.

Christopher Columbus arrived in Costa Rica in 1502 on his last trip to the Americas. Costa Rica received its name from Gil Gonzalez Davila when he arrived and thought he had found the most gold he had ever seen; therefore naming it the “Rich Coast”. 

By 2018, Costa Rica had a population of 5,000,000 people. The population growth rate between 2005 and 2010 was estimated to be 1.5% annually, with a birth rate of 17.8 live births per 1,000 inhabitants and a mortality rate of 4.1 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants. By 2016, the population had increased to about 4.9 million. This is a predominantly Catholic country since the times of the Spanish Conquistadors.

Costa Ricans, also called Ticos, are a group of people from a multiethnic Spanish speaking nation in Central America called Costa Rica. Costa Ricans are predominantly whites, castizos (halfway between white and mestizo), harnizos and mestizo, but their country is considered a multiethnic society, which means that it is home to people of many different ethnic backgrounds. As a result, modern-day Costa Ricans do not consider their nationality as an ethnicity but as a citizenship with various ethnicities. Costa Rica has four small minority groups: Mulattoes, Blacks, Asians, and Amerindians. In addition to the “Indigenas”, whites, mestizos (usually Spanish speaking, mixed race of Spanish/European ancestry) blacks and mulattoes, Costa Rica is also home to thousands of Asians. Most of the Chinese and Indians now living in the country are descendants of those who arrived during the 19th century as migrant workers.

The problems of migration from colder climates to tropical areas: 

People at high latitudes in Europe and East Asia seem to have independently evolved lighter skin to produce vitamin D more efficiently with less sunlight, says Nina Jablonski, a biological anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.( watch But, “People have been scratching their heads” about which variants do this in East Asians. Now, researchers know MFSD12 is one. The ancestors of Native Americans presumably carried that variant over the Bering Strait into the Americas. “There was variation [in skin tone] present in Latin America long before Europeans got there,” Jablonski says.

“The larger lesson,” says geneticist Andrés Ruiz-Linares of Fudan University in Shanghai, China, chair of CANDELA, “is the pitfalls of a Eurocentric view.”………… “Our study shows that going beyond Europeans one can find additional genes, even for well-studied traits. Clearly the bias towards Europeans has led to a restricted view of human diversity.”

But lighter skin means less protection from the sun. It was reported in 2013 that 6 people in Costa Rica die every week from skin cancer ( “Costa Rica receives more UV radiation in the mountains than at sea level. There is 20-40 percent more UV radiation at an altitude of 1,500 meters than at the beach,” a Caja statement said……”Five sunburns before the age of 18 increase by 100 percent the possibility of skin cancer after 40 years.”

Costa Rica is one of the countries with the highest incidence and mortality rates for gastric cancer. Helicobacter pylori infection rates are high in the whole country. Some postulate the volcanic soil is a contributing factor as people ingest foods grown there. Japan also has a high incidence of gastric cancer.

Indigenous people of Costa Rica:

Due to the global spread of tribes, the indigenous peoples never had a thriving culture such as the empires of the Mayan, Aztec or Inka people. The native people were culturally influenced by Mesoamerican tribes from Central America and cultures from northern South America (mostly today’s Colombia). Most indigenous groups lived on simple subsistence economy and were ruled by a chief called “cacique”. When the Spaniards arrived, many tribes moved back into the mountains in order to avoid slavery and taxation by the Spaniards.

The indigenous peoples of Costa Rica have been pushed off their lands into reserves; their land was sold step by step to the mestizo population of mainly European descendance. As with most reservation land, it is relatively unfertile and a varied agriculture did not develop; corn is one of the only products grown by Hueta, one of the indigenous tribes found in Province of San José, Canton de Puriscal, Zapatón, Region of Cerrito Quepos. Other tribes are the Bribri and Cabécares, some consider them as part of the same ethnicity. They share the same religious belief in Sibo as supreme God and creator of the universe. While parts of the Bribri tribe live the lowland areas of the Cordillera de Talamanca, the Cabecarés are isolated in the mountains of the Cordillera. They maintain a complex clan system. 

The Bribri retained their spoken language and use the Latin alphabet and a number of additional characters for phonetic transcription in writing.

They grow cocoa, bananas, corn, beans, pig breeding, bird hunting. They do basket weaving and manufacture of musical instruments with natural materials, fabrics and fiber with natural pigments. To cross the river Sixaola on the border of Panama, they use dugout boats and rafts.

There are around 10,000 Cabecares, who still preserve their language, natural medicine and patrimonial culture (caciques are allowed to marry several women). They have a rich corpus of stories and legends, some of which are written down in Spanish and the Cabécar language.

They live along the Southern Atlantic Coast, Limón province, Chirripó (Pacuare valley), valley of the Rio Estrella and the Talamanca reserve. Ujarrás de Buenos Aires and China Kichá. This is probably the indigenous group with the most distinct cultural identity. The original Cabécar language is still spoken next to Spanish. The Cabécares have retained many of their customs and traditions and clan ties are still very tight. They grow coffee, cocoa and bananas, they carry out bird hunting and fishing.

It’s possible to visit areas where Cabecar Indians still live in their traditional way. See

Finally, there are the Térrabas in Costa Rica. They live in Canton of Buenos Aires in the Reserve of Boruca-Térraba. This ethnic group has preserved its cultural identity, but the original language Terraba is no longer spoken today. They grow corn, beans, rice, bananas, citrus fruit. Today their territory is populated by many non-indigenous peasants.

Map showing location of Costa Rica in Central America

The only significant artefact left by the ancient peoples are Las Bolas. The spheres are commonly attributed to the extinct Diquis culture and are sometimes referred to as the Diquís Spheres. They are the best-known stone sculptures of the Isthmo-Colombian area. They are thought to have been placed in lines along the approach to the houses of chiefs, but their exact significance remains uncertain.

Image of Las Bolas

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Cowed by climate change 

Image of map of Peru
In March 2017, Reuters reported ‘Abnormal El Nino in Peru unleashes deadly downpours; more flooding seen’

In the article it also says,”While precipitation in Peru has not exceeded the powerful El Nino of 1998, more rain is falling in shorter periods of time – rapidly filling streets and rivers,”said Jorge Chavez, a general tasked with coordinating the government’s response. Reuters also reported, ‘Some scientists have said climate change will make El Ninos more frequent and intense.’

People often live on flood plains which have been dry for a decade or more. The poor people usually have no choice, as they are rarely offered safer lands. They are the first to be swept away when catastrophic rains fall, and it is almost a form of genocide as they find themselves in danger’s way when no proper planning to protect such populations has taken place.

Human settlements along Peru’s north coast are susceptible to climactic disruptions caused by El Niño weather cycles. Scientists have found the chemical signatures of warmer sea surface temperatures and increased rainfall caused by El Niño in coral specimens that are around 13,000 years old.

Researchers, led by University of Colorado-Boulder professor of aerospace engineering sciences Steve Nerem, used satellite data dating to 1993 to observe the levels of the world’s oceans.

Nerem and his team took into account natural changes in sea level thanks to cycles such as El Niño/La Niña and even events such as the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, ( which altered sea levels worldwide for several years.

The result is a “climate-change-driven” acceleration: the amount the sea levels are rising because of the warming caused by manmade global warming. For more on the reasons for rapid melting of glaciers globally seè

In recent decades, accelerating glacial melt is adding to the issue of unleashed water. In the Andes this surplus water ‘has enabled a gold rush downstream, contributing to the irrigation and cultivation of more than 100,000 acres of land since the 1980s’. (

In some areas the rapid ice melt has created a bonanza for farmers, but this will not last much longer. The parched Peruvian coast is already suffering from shortages of fresh water since the rhythm of natural glacial ice melt providing water to irrigate the land in a more predictable fashion has become a thing of the past.  Glaciers have turned into blackened rocks as the ice recedes. The poverty in Peru makes people desperate to access fresh water, plus the population of these Catholic people is still increasing. Many places in the world are increasingly seeing their fresh water supply drying up – some corporates like Nestle see this as a business opportunity and are much reviled for that belief (see

Mining in Peru is a major activity with international companies working with the Peruvian government and achieving higher output than Mexico for lead, zinc, phosphate, gold, silver,copper – but no responsible plan seems forthcoming to provide a reliable fresh water supply for the local populations – see

Back in 1945, the impact of ice melt was illustrated vividly in a tragic happening. The story is told by Hugh Thomson who tells us of his travels searching for Ancient Peru, in his vividly expressed book, A Sacred Landscape, 2006.

A tragedy hit a tiny place, difficult to reach by road at that time, a place sited at the confluence of two rivers, high up at 10,000 ft. The place is called Chavín. It lies between the coast and the Amazon, and the Andes in both up and down directions. The ‘white mountains’ of Cordillera Blanca displayed huge amounts of snow and glaciation back in 1945, and for millennia before that.

Pilgrims and travellers have learned that Chavín de Huantar is the wellspring of Andean culture, which lay unnoticed until Julio C. Tello arrived here in 1919. It is now known that the place not only pre-dates the Incas, but also the Machu Picchu, built between 1200 and 200 BC. But in 1919 this was not known; Tello put it on the map. He excavated and located massive jaguar heads on the side of the main temple, the so-called Castillo. With the help of a lively five year old local boy, Marino Gonzalez, he was able to explore the interior of the temple, a maze of tunnels and passageways, full of imposing sculptures. The little boy went happily down ventilation shafts and entrances to ascertain how to clear them. Tello worked repairing the site over 25 years with the help of his assistant, Marino, who learned from the great man. When he grew up he took over the dedicated work Tello had begun, and continued until he died aged 83 years.

Peru was now of greater interest to other archaeologists and Tello hoped tourists would visit Chavín and that would inspire new roads to be built leading there and improve the economy for those peasants living in the town. 

By 1945, Tello was 65 and living now in Lima. He suggested the prefect of the area, who lived in Huarez, visit with a view to opening Chavin to tourism and he accepted. He took a party of people, including his 18 year old daughter, who was keen to become an archaeologist one day. Marino was supposed to meet the party, but he slept in and missed the bus taking them.

They arrived on 17 January, 1945. The party descended into the darkened labrynthine galleries that honeycomb the temple. Once inside, they heard a distant roar. After making their way through the narrow passageways, they surfaced back to the temple top.

Unknown to them, as they experienced the wonders of the temple, a block of ice had fallen from a glacier into a lake high above them, blocking it temporarily. Gradually as the water rose it flowed over the block of ice and that was when the roar of unleashed water was heard. The floodwaters triggered a landslide, and mud and rocks were carried with the floodwaters and submerged the visiting party and much of the south west of the town was destroyed. It was a horrible death for those caught up in it, some dying slowly in the mud where no one could reach them.

But Marino worked with others to restore the temple and new areas were also unearthed to add to the fascination of the place. To see a gallery of the Chavín sculptures and discoveries over recent years, see

Image of ruins of the Castle or Castillo

Image of reconstruction of the Temple and its environs

The Castillo presented as an impregnable castle with seemingly no entrance. Hugh Thomson used the now known entrance at the ‘blind side’ along a narrow strip between the ancient ruins and the river to describe the ruin he visited in the early 2000s.

Image of a granite sculpture of a fearsome entity within the bowels of the temple.

Andean existence has been dogged by extremes of weather, and water is both welcome for irrigating the parched deserts areas but also terrifying when flooding waters caused by torrential rain or, as described above, disasters occur due to melting glaciers, bringing landslides and death to all in their path. 

The Ancient Andeans allowed those amongst them with confidence to tackle the frightening spirits who wielded such forces causing death and devastation.

These were their priests, who practised shamanism. The spiritual forces were part animal, metamorphing into human and other creatures, forming their fearful bodies. 

Fresh water plays such a vital role in our struggle to survive that we must work to keep it safe and available for all of us. We can understand how the people of Chavín expected their priests to negotiate just enough, but not catastrophic amounts, of fresh water.

In Peru, the ingenious irrigation by terracing the slopes was developed when early settlers worked out sympathetic natural systems which promoted a variety of crop production to satisfy the food supply of increasingly settled populations. Working with nature through observation of river courses and respecting flood plains was something not of academic interest but central to successful farming. 

The experience of El Niño could teach how something can happen on an annual basis and be controlled for, but that the behaviour of this event can become erratic, violent and overwhelming. Thus, through the times when it seemed the forces which caused this event were more predictable, it is understandable to believe this power has negotiated a relatively manageable annual event. The early Andean culture of high priests carrying out the negotiation is found in many cultures across the world. But too severe an event, the powers must be displeased and priests might lose credibility and then perhaps to save their skin, they might suggest human sacrifice. Healthy children and llamas were shockingly sacrificed and their remains have recently been located in Peru. This happened only 550 years go (see This may have been done in a desperate bid to appease the mighty El Niño forces. Or, like Canute thinking he can command the elements,  it may be that present day opinion leaders choose to turn a blind eye and deny climate change is even happening.

The theatre of shamanism is powerful and is still practised today. It appears to involve the art of confronting the focus of fear rather than cowering before it. 

The Chavín priests would put themselves in trances by using coca leaves, mescaline from San Pedro cacti, certain mushrooms and a snuff made from powdered anadenanthera seeds. These latter named seeds contain DMT (dimethyltryptamine) which requires a preparation of mescaline prior to the hard hitting DMT. The resulting contortions, growls and grimaces exhibited by the user are typically understood by Amazon cultures as feline transformation. This is usually a solitary experience making the subject hunch in a ball, eyes closed, absorbed in an interior world.

Image of snuff receptacle

Image of cacti drink vessel

The temple’s labrynthine styling was tailored for this solitary experience where priests could be alone and battle the spirits one on one. But they could also use incense to create smoke atop the temple, and appear to those far below them whilst musical sounds from singers and shell trumpets accompanied their awesome appearance. This theatre was essential to persuade the villagers that they truly had battled on their behalf. The strong jaguar sculpted heads on the side of the temple invoke the power of frightening spirits which must be fought and subdued with negotiation.

Shamanism, to me, is one of the most logical and powerful original belief systems since it places evolving human existence in a relationship with Nature. Ghengis Khan was a practising shaman when he first led his armies. Ashkenazic Jews likely originated from the Ashina elite and other Khazar clans, who converted from Shamanism to Judaism.

To act without sensitivity, respect and humility to the greater forces which retain the balance of this Planet is to sign our own death warrant. We’ve been busy doing that for too long.

The Chavín priest warriors used hallucinogenic drugs to enter the world of Natural forces, taking these powers on as warriors doing battle, using cunning and mastery; it must have seemed the pinnacle of human relations with the daunting greatness holding the fate of tiny humans. In this way, once these solitary battles had been fought, the priests could believe they could take on fellow humans when they chose, using their inner powers gained from the battles of the interior world. This gave Ghengis Khan massive self belief to impress his people to the extent he remains a legend today due to his conquering successes creating the largest empire ever to exist in this world.

The priests took it upon themselves to battle the gods who could bring on tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, powerful storms and seemingly endless rains or continually drying winds. (Peru is in a highly seismic zone – see

Before these Andean cultures arose, the tribes had previously lived for millennia along the coast of the Pacific, and at some point moved toward the mountains and harsh landscapes.

Matthew Des Lauriers, an archaeologist at California State University in Northridge, has found simple stone tools, flakes like razors, used, no doubt, to cut open mollusc shells, on Cedros Island off Baja California. The coastal human tribes are thought to have been in existence at least 13,000 years ago. They had travelled the Pacific coast and were adept at surviving using simple methods.

Another coastal site has been discovered by Tom Dillehay, an archaeologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He led a study digging down into a mound at Hueca Prieta. This is one of the oldest sites in the Americas, at around 15,000 years old. There he found artefacts of human community life, with similar flake stone tools as were found on Cedros Island.

Creatures encountered at these coastal sites feature in the beautifully carved sculptures, paintings and pot designs found more inland up in the mountainous areas of the Andes, such as Chavín. These populations in their thousands grew out of the coastal tribes. They carried with them the strong awareness of spirits in the form of animals of the sea and land continuing down through millennia in their art and oral tradition.

If you look at we can see the importance of the shell trumpets, brought from the coast to the mountains, to play ceremoniously to add to the imposing theatre the priests engaged in on behalf of their people. This was not fake news. It was confronting their fears in the only way they knew how, just as we all try to will something to happen, such as to make a war stop, to save a child buried in rubble, to rescue young children trapped in a cave. Who can say that our joint will cannot achieve success?  

But we must also ‘be careful what we wish for’; if we take what we don’t need at the expense of the planet or fellow humans we are more likely to displease the forces out there and suffer the consequences.

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Salts: global trade and mining

Salts are mined to meet the need of humans, and these needs are many. Phosphates, for example, are needed by present day intensive farming for fertiliser for quality crops and animal feeds which contain minerals ‘essential’ for the development of healthy animals. 

Limestones and mudstones are common phosphate-bearing rocks. Phosphate rich sedimentary rocks can occur in dark brown to black beds, ranging from centimeter-sized laminae to beds that are several meters thick.

We have mined minerals over hundreds of years, but the resources are running low, and that presents a problem for future industrial scale farming.

Industrial models search for new trading partners, new customers, diversification of products and a relentless year on year growth expectation. This model has been shaped since trade began expanding for the various empires which have existed, beginning with the largest which was initiated by the Mongolian Khan, Ghengis.

Image of Ghengis Khan

 (See my early blog

Human interaction with the planet to exploit its generous abundance began in a humble way and grew to the present day ‘profit first, planet second’ attitude as we take out more than can be replenished. 

We are running short of, what we humans have identified, as ‘essential’ minerals to aid our future existence. We are now considering plundering other planets within our universe, or trying to harness passing meteorites to explore their mineral content.

The food industry is said to be so huge in response to world populations. There are fewer farmers but billions of machines now doing the work, all part of a massive industrial complex. A human can work sympathetically with Nature, but machines are not employed to be used in such a way.

An example of the present day reasoning by investors to continue to guarantee their choice of mining for such minerals as phosphates is outlined here, an enlightening read:

The land degradation caused by mining, and in this case, for phosphates, on this planet is symbolically demonstrated on Nauru, in the Pacific, located in Oceania, near Australia. This island was formerly known as Pleasant Island.

I have written about the Pacific Islands in various previous blogs and I have highlighted the threatening sea level rises which they face in the near future. But before this was a known problem, the beauty of Pleasant Island, now Republic of Nauru, was to be destroyed by phosphate mining.

Nauru was one of three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean. The others were Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia. 

Phosphate mining in the central plateau has left a barren terrain of jagged limestone pinnacles up to 15 m (49 ft) high. Mining has stripped and devastated about 80% of Nauru’s land area, and has also affected the surrounding Exclusive Economic Zone; 40% of marine life is estimated to have been killed by silt and phosphate runoff.

The mining began in 1906 and never stopped. Even today, though it was thought all phosphate was mined out, a second layer beneath the first has been found and even that is being dug out. The island is an ugly mass of mining trenches. This relentless attack on this small island,  scarring and robbing it of its previous beauty and sustainability, is symbolic of what we humans are doing to the entire planet.

There is a gallery of pictures of Nauru with its indigenous inhabitants living there before the mining became extensive at

Here one of the pictures depicts the children and missionary teachers who arrived earlier to convert the population to Christianty and teaching English.

Below, the images as a result of mining on the tiny island:

Paradise lost image:

Trucks and mining activity image:

And the sadness and travesties continue on this speck in the Pacific Ocean. I’ve put a link to a 2016 Guardian article below to illustrate how humans continue to increase harm upon one another, and on Nauru, a helpless resident population wanting only to remain on their island. Industry justifies continuing their plunder to supply all of us with ‘essentials’. Then read how cynically governments/corporates utilise so called ‘reparation funds’, meant to make life more bearable on this island, yet use the funds to build ‘correction facilities’ for stranded refugees who had been bound from their lands of misery in the futile hope of a new life in Australia.

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Salt and economic/human management: China compared to Mexico

The evolution of humans who had a nomadic life prior to the settling of China, as we know it today, can be noted in landmark prehistoric fossil discoveries:

‘Yuanmou Man’ who lived 1.7 million years ago in today’s Yunnan Province, south-west China, ‘Lantian Man’ who lived in the early Paleolithic Age, fossils of which were discovered in North China’s Shaanxi Province, and ‘Peking Man’ who lived about 500,000 years ago.

Perhaps these ancestors were early nomads spreading from east Africa. The oldest hominid discovered to date in Ethiopia is the 4.2 million year old Ardipithicus ramidus (Ardi) found by Tim D. White in 1994. The most well known hominid discovery is Lucy, found in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia’s Afar region in 1974 by Donald Johanson, and is one of the most complete and best preserved, adult Australopithecine fossils ever uncovered. Lucy’s taxonomic name, Australopithecus afarensis, means ‘southern ape of Afar’, and refers to the Ethiopian region where the discovery was made. Lucy is estimated to have lived 3.2 million years ago.

The thousands of years it took humans tribes to arrive and inhabit the Americas brings us to the first Mesoamerican civilisation in Mexico, who lived in the city of Teotihuacan from around 100 AD. 

Whilst the Teotihuacanoes of Mexico (link are likely to have gathered salt, we only know from oral record of the Native American Indians that salt has been historically important in their history. 

In many places of North America, certain plants or coastal shells could be reduced to ash and that would be salty. People made salt by evaporating briny water from salt springs. They used rock salt deposits. They found natural seashore areas with salt. They found salt lick areas to gather salt. They would gather it from salt lakes and salt pans. Salt was valuable and such areas were guarded. It was widely traded. 

But for thousands of years the tribes in the area we now know as China, had been procuring salt since their Paleolithic existence.

Image Yangpou Ancient Salt Field

But the geography of China is of major interest in trying to explain the human endeavour which has driven the sense of what it means to be Chinese.

One of the two specific cultural regions that developed Chinese civilization was the Yellow River civilization (Huang He).

This huge river is about 5,464 km, and is second to the longest river in China, the Yantze. It is the sixth-longest in the world. It is called the Yellow river because of the color of silts that are carried in its flow.

The Huang He (yellow) river stretches across China for more than 2,900 miles. It carries its rich yellow silt all the way from Mongolia to the Pacific Ocean. The Yangtze (Chang Jiang) is about 3,400 miles and runs across central China. The two major rivers both merge together to create a vast food-producing area. Although China has two major rivers running through it only 10% of its land is fertile and has rich enough soil to grow crops unlike the 19% by the United States. 

Image of a section of the Yellow River (Huang He)

Between 608 BC and 1938 AD, the Yellow River changed course 26 times, and flooded over 1,500 times, causing the deaths of millions of people. 

Successive Chinese governments have tried to tame nature by investing in building major dams along the Yellow River, the latest and largest being the Three Gorges Dam. 

Image of the Three Gorges Dam

This is one of the most controversial dams as it has caused permanent resettlement of those whose homes were flooded within the reservoir basin. The area designated for the Three Gorges reservoir lake – covering 1,000 square kilometres and stretching more than 600km (375 miles) upstream – was home to some 1.5 million people, living in 19 counties and municipalities, 140 towns, 326 townships and 1,351 villages. 

All had to be relocated. 

The Yellow River civilisation and the Yangtze civilisation were discovered when evidence for Chinese millet agriculture was found and dated to around 7000 BC, with the earliest evidence of cultivated rice found at Chengtoushan near the Yangtze River, dated to 6500 BC. 

These are the Chinese historical areas for human development we label as examples of Cradles of Civilisation, when various nomadic tribes and ethnic groups settled, farmed and traded.

Geology plays a major part in the continually changing landscape of China. The previous blog explains the link between seismic activity and the origins of life. 

Now consider China and India.

Collision of India with the Asian mainland during the earliest Eocene (~50 Ma) has resulted in the growth of the world’s largest orogenic belt, ( Free Dictionary: The process of mountain formation, especially by a folding and faulting of the earth’s crust) the Himalayas, and the associated Tibetan plateau. The seimotectonic tectonic evolution of China is characterized by the merger of several microcontinents throughout the entire Phanerozoic (Zhang et al., 1984; Hendrix and Davis, 2001). The collision and associated convergence and extension has created 64 major tectonic zones in China, which can be subdivided into a smaller number of tectonic “regions” (Zhang et al.,1984; Yin and Nie,1996).

Thus, China is located in one of the most active seismic regions of the world that has been plagued by numerous destructive earthquakes during its long history.

An example of the changing geology which confronted the tribes of this region we now call Asia, is Jingpo Lake or Lake Jingpo. (See image below) 

This is a lake located in the upper reaches of the Mudan River among the Wanda Mountains in Ningan County, Heilongjiang, in the People’s Republic of China. Earlier names for the lake include Meituohu Lake (湄沱湖), Huhanhai Lake (忽汗海), and Bilten Lake (Manchurian: ᠪᡳᠯᡨᡝᠨ ;Chinese: 畢爾騰湖). It was created around 10,000. This was a time when volcanic eruptions in the region blocked the flow of the Mudanjiang River. 

As we know, across the Northern Hemsiphere, 10,000 years ago, the Neolithic period began and in China, as the ice retreated across the Northern Hemisphere, human activity became more settled in southern China.

See more of the beauty of the above lake at

More than a dozen sites on the southwest coast of the Bohai Bay show that the Dawenkou culture was already producing salt from underground brine more than 6,000 years ago during the Neolithic. In the same region, the late Shang dynasty (ca. 1600–1046) produced salt on a large scale and moved it inland in “helmet shaped-vessels” (kuixingqi 盔形器). These pottery jars may have served as “standard units of measurement in the trade and distribution of salt”.(see

Ecological concerns are global, and the WWF highlights the NE area of China where ‘the temperate coastal saline meadow encompasses the mouth of Luan He River and the Huang He Delta. The ecoregion functions as a critical refueling stop for migratory birds along the Siberian-Australasian flyway. Siltation is causing the meadow to gradually advance into the Bohai Sea. In recent years, rapid development in the Bohai-rim areas has brought serious damage to the local ecology. There are no protection measures in place to mitigate threats to species and habitats.’ see

Ecocide  is difficult to counter, but all humans must try and rebalance their environments although the momentum of continuing harm is worldwide.

Despite the ever changing geology of this landmass, the Chinese have the most consistent record of methods of acquiring salt and managing it. They created a monopoly, just as the Teotihuacanoes had created a monopoly of obsidian due to the plentiful supply in the volcanic region where they chose to build their civilisation.

During the significant reign of the Han, parts of China saw an age of economic prosperity and a money economy was first established during the Zhou dynasty (c. 1050–256 BC). The coinage issued by the central government mint in 119 BC remained the standard coinage of China until the Tang dynasty (618–907 AD). The period saw a number of limited institutional innovations. To finance its military campaigns and the settlement of newly conquered frontier territories, the Han government nationalized the private salt and iron industries in 117 BC, but these government monopolies were repealed during the Eastern Han dynasty.

Han Dynasty 206 BCE–220 CE (source:

The various artefacts which define ancient cultures are often destroyed through natural disasters or vital farming practices. It is said farmers have destroyed priceless 2,000-year-old Han lyres and flutes because they had “inauspicious” tiger motifs on them and pig keepers have destroyed ancient tombs by using the bricks from mausoleums to make pig sties. Destruction of ancient artefacts by succeeding generations is common the world over as we humans tend to see uses to suit our needs of survival and may not have the luxury to leave the item as a cherished specimen.

About the turn of the Common Era, population censuses in China became statistically useful for the entire united mainland. By 2 CE, censuses were taken and recorded on occasion.

Western Han 2 CE: persons per household: 4.9

Eastern Han 57–156 CE, persons per household: 4.9–5.8

2 CE: 59,594,978 persons, 12,233,062 households

156 CE: 56,486,856 persons, 10,677,960 households

Contrast these numbers to those of Teotihuacan at its peak (though no written record exists) as possibly between 125,000 to 250,000 persons. This reflects the contrasting fewer humans, having trekked over thousands of years to reach the Americas, with those who had remained in the Asian landmass.

Science and technology during the Han period saw significant advances, for example the process of papermaking:

Early Xi’An hemp paper, dated to at least 87 BC

Hemp paper had been used in China for wrapping and padding since the eighth century BCE.

Paper with legible Chinese writings on it has also been dated to 8 BCE.

The traditional inventor attribution is of Cai Lun, an official attached to the Imperial court during the Han Dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE), said to have invented paper about 105 CE using mulberry and other bast fibres along with fishnets, old rags, and hemp waste. 

Paper used as a writing medium had become widespread by the 3rd century and, by the 6th century, toilet paper was starting to be used in China as well. 

 At some point, salt, in the form of alum (a type of chemical compound, usually a hydrated double sulphate salt of aluminium with the general formula XAl(SO)) was used to size paper in ancient time. Sizing acts as a protective filler or glaze. Alum can be sourced in volcanic crater bottoms where, in the ancient past, the stones were extracted with naturally heated water, alum crystals forming in the evaporating solution. Other sources are certain sedimentary aluminium bearing rocks or shales which were converted by various means to yield aluminium sulphate, which, in turn, was converted into alum, usually as the ammonium or potassium double salt

Humans have creatively exploited the geology and become alchemists, mathematicians, astronomers, architects and land managers, amongst other sciences, as they took on the mental challenges of their environment.

They have also become warriors.

The Xiongnu, a nomadic steppe confederation, defeated the Han in 200 BC and forced the Han to submit as a de facto inferior partner, but continued their raids on the Han borders. Emperor Wu launched several military campaigns against them. The ultimate Han victory in these wars eventually forced the Xiongnu to accept vassal status as Han tributaries. These campaigns expanded Han sovereignty into the Tarim Basin of Central Asia, divided the Xiongnu into two separate confederations, and helped establish the vast trade network known as the Silk Road, which reached as far as the Mediterranean world. The territories north of Han’s borders were quickly overrun by the nomadic Xianbei confederation.

Emperor Wu also launched successful military expeditions in the south, annexing Nanyue in 111 BC and Dian in 109 BC, and in the Korean Peninsula where the Xuantu and Lelang Commanderies were established in 108 BC. After 92 AD, the palace eunuchs increasingly involved themselves in court politics, engaging in violent power struggles between the various consort clans of the empresses and empresses dowager, causing the Han’s ultimate downfall. Imperial authority was also seriously challenged by large Daoist religious societies which instigated the Yellow Turban Rebellion and the Five Pecks of Rice Rebellion. Following the death of Emperor Ling (r. 168–189 AD), the palace eunuchs suffered wholesale massacre by military officers, allowing members of the aristocracy and military governors to become warlords and divide the empire. When Cao Pi, King of Wei, usurped the throne from Emperor Xian, the Han dynasty would eventually collapse and ceased to exist. 

But not their legacy of what it means to be Chinese.

Map of the geographical extension of the Eastern Han Empire with its extension of the Western Protectorates in 100 AD.

Map source: Thomas A. Lessman

The next blog will explore the salt trade.

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Salt, Sulphates and Survival: Living things

Salt (sodium chloride or halite), for details of the chemistry of Salt see, has been the focus of human interest for thousands of years. It has been much sought after and traded since humans first realised its value. But there is much more to salt than simply an added taste at the dinner table. Salt is a common substance, chemically consisting mainly of sodium chloride ( NaCl) used extensively as a condiment and preservative while sulphate is (organic chemistry) any ester of sulphuric acid. 

The earliest known treatise on pharmacology was published in China. This was the Peng-Tzao-Kan-Mu published in China about 4,700 years ago and it revealed within it descriptions of two methods of extracting salt and transferring it into usable form, processes that are very similar to ones used today. A major portion of this writing is devoted to a discussion of more than 40 kinds of salt, including descriptions of two methods of salt extraction that are similar to processes used today. 

Humans have been aware of the precious value of salt for thousands of years.

We now know that salts exist in many different colors, which arise either from the anions or cations. For example

* sodium chromate is yellow by virtue of the chromate ion

* potassium dichromate is orange by virtue of the dichromate ion

* cobalt nitrate is red owing to the chromophore of hydrated cobalt(II) ([Co(H2O)6]2+)

* copper sulfate is blue because of the copper(II) chromophore

* potassium permanganate has the violet color of permanganate anion.

* nickel chloride is typically green of [NiCl2(H2O)4]

* sodium chloride, magnesium sulfate heptahydrate are colorless or white because the constituent cations and anions do not absorb in the visible part of the spectrum

Sulphates have played a major role in the process which led to oxygen forming on Earth, that in turn promoted the growth of photosynthetic life.

In an earlier blog I have mentioned tectonic plates. We know that when tectonic plates move, they can alter the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. There is a relationship between the movements of tectonic plates and the consequential volcanic eruptions and the mineral and sulphate gases which spew out. The chemical reaction is part of the process of creating oxygen. For billions of years the Earth had no oxygen, then suddenly it came into being. Scientists have been trying to pinpoint when the Great Oxidation Event (GOE) occurred. Current thinking is that it was about 2.3-2.4 billion years ago.

Sulphates are described at

In a Nature Geoscience paper by scientists at Rice University they commented on what might happen when tectonic plates bump into each other, some sliding underneath another to depths where the temperature is high enough to melt it (subduction) and molten rock rises to form volcanoes at the surface. Those volcanoes can spew gasses into the atmosphere. The researchers suggest melting could have separated molecules of carbon and oxygen in the bodies of microbes long deceased (first life dates to at least 3.5 billion years ago) and settled to the ocean floor as sediments on the subducting plate. This separation could have sent the carbon even deeper into the Earth, for millions or billions of years, and expelled the oxygen out from volcanoes. 

Plate tectonics and biology are unique to Earth, as far as we know. Many speculate a symbioses between the two, geology and life working in tandem.

Geologists have discovered preserved salt lying 1.2 miles deep into the earth on the edge of Lake Onega, in western Russia near the border with Finland. This lake’s Geological history is of glacial-tectonic origin and is a small remnant of a larger body of water which existed in this area during an Ice Age. 
In geologic terms, the lake is rather young, formed – like almost all lakes in northern Europe – through the carving activity of the inland ice sheets in the latter part of the last Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago: In the Paleozoic Era (400–300 million years ago) the entire territory of the modern basin of the lake was covered with a shelf sea lying near the ancient, near-equatoric Baltic continent. Sediments at that time – sandstone, sand, clay and limestone – form a 200-metre-thick (660 ft) layer covering the Baltic Shield which consists of granite, gneiss and greenstone. The retreat of the Ice Age glaciers formed the Littorina Sea. Its level was first 7–9 m (23–30 ft) higher than at present, but it gradually lowered, thereby decreasing the sea area and forming several lakes in the Baltic region. (For more details see

The research teams established the buried salt was 2 billion years old, a first to find pristine salt of such a great age. Somehow this sample, which formed when an ancient sea evaporated, had remained unaltered by any geologic processes that occurred after burial.

By using computer models to recreate what the team of researchers found, they were able to identify details about the ancient ocean in which these samples formed, including just how oxidized it was.

The senior author based at Princeton University, Aivo Lepland, from the Geological Survey of Norway and Tallinn University of Technology, described their findings as “the strongest ever evidence” that the ancient seawater “had high sulphate concentrations reaching at least 30 percent of present-day oceanic sulphate as our estimations indicate.” 

Salt is indispensable to some living creatures, while also proving deadly for others. The last of the great mammoths died when they found themselves marooned on an island (Saint Paul Island, off the Alaskan coast) as sea levels rose and their fresh water sources became contaminated with salt water.

Salt has a myriad of important uses and was once even used as a form of currency in ancient Rome. The relationship between salt and water is perhaps one of the greatest balancing acts in all of nature, a partnership that has endured for millions of years.

Today, the Mineral Information Institute (MII) reports that about one-fifth of the world’s salt is produced in the United States, with other leading producers including China and Germany. But it is found globally in differing amounts.

According to the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR), the average ocean salinity is 35 ppt or parts per thousand, which means that for every 1,000 grams of water, there are 35 grams of salt. The ONR also reports that most of the salt in the ocean comes from rain, rivers and streams that wash sodium chloride into larger bodies of water. Other major sources of salt in the ocean include undersea volcanoes and hydrothermal vents. The term “brackish water” refers to bodies of water where freshwater and ocean water mix. In these areas, the average salinity ranges from 0.5 ppt to 17 ppt.

If salt water floods agricultural land the soil becomes contaminated by the salt and produce which was growing there, or grass for cattle, will die. Freshwater plants cannot thrive in salt water. The U.S. Department of Agriculture claims that soil salinity is responsible for reducing crop yields by as much as 25 percent in the United States. However, recent developments by the Agricultural Research Service have created new strains of wheatgrass that can withstand higher concentrations of salt by using genetic markers borrowed from saline-resistant plants.

Here is an extract about fish and how their bodies utilise and balance the salinity levels around them

Osmoregulation in fish (see

Osmoregulators tightly regulate their body osmolarity, maintaining constant internal conditions. They are more common in the animal kingdom. Osmoregulators actively control salt concentrations despite the salt concentrations in the environment. An example is freshwater fish. The gills actively uptake salt from the environment by the use of mitochondria-rich cells. Water will diffuse into the fish, so it excretes a very hypotonic (dilute) urine to expel all the excess water. A marine fish has an internal osmotic concentration lower than that of the surrounding seawater, so it tends to lose water and gain salt. It actively excretes salt out from the gills. Most fish are stenohaline, which means they are restricted to either salt or fresh water and cannot survive in water with a different salt concentration than they are adapted to. However, some fish show a tremendous ability to effectively osmoregulate across a broad range of salinities; fish with this ability are known as euryhaline species, e.g., Flounder. Flounder have been observed to inhabit two utterly disparate environments—marine and fresh water—and it is inherent to adapt to both by bringing in behavioral and physiological modifications.

But when the salmon move from the sea to freshwater rivers they adapt with brilliant abilities (see

Here is an extract from the above link:

Three main things must occur for the young salmon, called a smolt, to prepare for life in the salty ocean. First, it must start drinking a lot of water. Second, the kidneys have to drop their urine production dramatically. Third, and very important, molecular pumps in the cells of the gills have to shift into reverse, pumping sodium out instead of in. All these physiological changes have to change back when then the mature fish re-enters the freshwater river on its way to spawn. The fish will spend a few days in the intertidal zone as these changes are made automatically.

The observers of the natural world explain to us how these miracles of body evolution have led to so many species balancing the vital part salt plays in their survival, but also how some creatures cope when when otherwise salt would threaten their existence.

The next blog will delve into the threats and opportunities to human existence posed by the ever present sodium chloride in our environment.


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Teotihuacan in Mexico compared to Roman Kingdom in Italy: Part Two

Little is certain about the Roman kingdom’s history, as no records and few inscriptions from the time of the kings survive and we find a similar lack of written history for Teotihuacan. 

As small groups of hunter gatherers, 12 to 24 perhaps, lived nomadic lives around the planet wherever they roamed, so they honed their skills with developing weapons and tools to dominate their environments and take on threats and opportunities. Pre Roman, pre Teotihuacanoes all followed the path of development, utilising the land they found themselves in, and eventually becoming farmers. Once they formed their territory, they had to protect it and worked on strategies which, in many cases involved warrior activities, and religious priests, some of which were militarily inclined too.

As expansive leadership dominates with military action, so it often destroys evidence of previously written histories, to replace it with its own. In this way, all that remains is the oral tradition.

We have to rely on the oral tradition for both early civilisations. According to these legends, the Roman Kingdom began with the city’s founding circa 753 BC, with settlements around the Palatine Hill along the river Tiber, and ended with the overthrow of the kings and the establishment of the Republic circa 509 BC.

Teotihuacan formed around 150BC and endured for around 800 years. There was therefore a period of time when both civilisations ran concurrently, totally unaware of one another, but with many similarities. It would seem human development was reaching landmark stages in these two centres.

The Aztecs, in their wonderment of finding the ancient city of Teotihuacan, first were responsible for using their language to name it and to create legends around it. They named the Temple of Quetzalcoatl after their god, but researchers doubt this was their god, rather a precursor. All gods were linked to the power of nature to provide for or destroy human existence.

Those studying the archeological remains have been able to piece together more accurate dates for buildings and artefacts, such that evidence of human sacrifice has been obtained to underscore the constant bloodletting to please their gods.

In a similar fashion, the gods of early Rome were likewise tied to survival from the unexpected wrath or benign gifts of nature. Romans would sacrifice animals, similarly through high priest ritual with sacred spots chosen for the sacrifice.  

Both Teotihuacan and Rome grew in size and strength, early on, through trade. The location of their respective cities provided merchants with an easily navigable waterway on which to traffic their goods. For Rome, the Tiber; for Teotihuacan a network of human designed waterways with small craft carrying goods, constantly busy interacting with communities as they plied their trade. The engineering skills required to manage scarce or flooding water was achieved by both cultures with magnificence and artistry.

Much of the food which supplied the city of Teotihuacan came from farmers and fishermen utilising the volcanic Lake Texcoco providing the fresh water and surrounding wetlands to grow a large variety of food in plenty to local tribes of the area. One of the most reliable, with strong trading networks of their own, was the people of Cuicuilco. Sadly for them, a volcanic eruption destroyed their city, ending their success. The Teotihuacanoes absorbed the survivors and their trading networks, beginning their expansion. Just as the Etruscans before the Roman Kingdom dominated the Italian Peninsula, so the Teotihuacanoes came to dominate their strip of land around the Gulf of Mexico, down to and including Guatemala.
Map of Mexico

The Mexican valley has been inhabited for at least 12,000 years, attracting humans with its mild climate (average temperatures between 12 and 15 °C, or 54 and 59 °F), abundant game and ability to support large-scale agriculture. 

Just as the Etruscans morphed into the Romans, so the Teotihuacanoes morphed into the Mayans, and later the Aztecs. As the Olmec culture influenced the culture of Teotihuacanoes, the cultures thereafter influenced one another. 

The industry and skill development of the first Mesoamerican civilisation of Teotihuacan existed from about 800 BC to 800 AD , but the people who left the city had already become part of other civilisations as far away as Guatemala. Using their armies to conquer and control other tribes, they could expand their trading links and power and order their vassals to act in their interests.

The Roman Kingdom relied on a myth to explain its origins – that of the twins of Romulus and Remus. But as the Kingdom grew, it was necessary to become firmly linked to the real world in order to trade in much needed goods. In the time it took to grow from small city-state to capital of an empire, Rome depended on importing necessary goods from its conquered provinces, which ultimately stretched from Asia to the British Isles.

The eventual power of the Roman Empire was to have a profound impact on the world, and the consequences of constant religious wars over centuries created the perfect storm in Europe which eventually collided with the unsuspecting indigenous folk of the New World. By the time Columbus set foot in the New World, Teotihuacan had faded in the mists of time, but had left its mark on the indigenous descendants.

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