The Cuicuilco Pyramid and Fingerprints of the Gods

I have frequently posted a review that I did of the "Fingerprints
of the Gods" by Mr. Graham Hancock". In response to one time
that I posted this review, Mr. Charlie Moody
(chmood@photobooks.atdc.gatech.edu) replied to complain about
me being arrogant you-know-what for simply pointing out the
numerous factual errors and omissions on the part of Mr. Hancock
in his book. He complained about archaeologists also ignoring
any data that contradicted "conventional" theories about the origin
of the Sphinx in Egypt and the "Pyramid" of Cuicuilco, Mexico
City.

The below post appeared in the thread, "Re: A Review of a Review
of Fingerprints of the Gods," in message <31DC39E1.8A4@intersurf.com>
on July 4, 1995 in the alt.archaeology, sci.archaeology, and alt.review
newsgroups.

Re: A Review of a Review of Fingerprints of the Gods


On Tue, 2 Jul 1996 17:36:21 -0600, Charlie Moody
(chmood@photobooks.atdc.gatech.edu) wrote:
>On Wed, 26 June 1996 20:55:13 -0600, Heinrich wrote:
>:Fingerprints of the Gods...
>
>:mclr@inforamp.net (Comm. Office) wrote: 
>:>The following is from the July 96 McLuhan 
>:>Project post. FYI: alt.review 
>
>:Having read and written numerous posts on this book, 
>:I have to disagree entirely with this person on this book.

Also, I find some complaints about archaeologists, i.e. the 
case of the "Pyramid" of Cuicuilco, Mexico City, which 
given in detail below, to be based on false claims and data. 

...material about the Sphinx in Egypt omitted....

Mr. Charlie Moody complained: 

>The problem is, who gets to say what's valid?  Apparently, 
>the pantheon of Egyptology insists that authoritative 
>geological opinion regarding the condition & probable age 
>of the Sphinx isn't valid. 

As I have gone over in detail in previous post, the age of 
the Sphinx as claimed by West and Schoch is a matter of 
considerable debate between an archaeologist, a writer, and a 
paleontologist and other archaeologists and archaeological 
geologists.  The interpretation of your so-called *authoritative 
geological evidence* is at best ambiguous and at worst incorrect. 
Your claim ignores numerous papers that present contrary 
interpretations of the data.  Like Dr. West, Mr. Hancock, 
and Mr. Bavual, you ignore any scientific research that 
contradicts in your arguments instead of noting that the 
research exists and explaining what the flaws in their 
arguments are.  (References are given in an appendix at 
the end of this post). 

>Apparently, specialists in MesoAmerican archaeology are 
>untroubled by the paradox of proclaiming an earthwork to 
>be 2000 years old...an earthwork partially covered by a lava 
>flow which geologists have determined to be 8000 years 
>old.

This claim misrepresents the facts and consists of 
material incorrectly cited from primary sources.  Anybody 
who took the time to go back to the original references 
concerning this archaeological site, the "Pyramid" of 
Cuicuilco, which lies on the southern edge of Mexico 
City, D.F., would find that archaeologists, not geologists, 
claimed that the sediments below the lava flow, not the 
lava flow, dated to 8000 BP (6050 BC).  Because these 
claims were made before the invention of radiocarbon dating, 
archaeologists, Cummings (1923, 1933), estimated, but
not dated, the age of sediments lying below the Xitli lava 
flows, but covering the base of the "pyramid," to be 8500 
of 30,000 BP (6550 to 28,050 BC).  Later, numerous
radiocarbon dates clearly demonstrated that these sediments
are only as old as 2200 BP (250 BC) at their base (Fergusson
and Libby 1963).  Furthermore, the Xitli lava flows had
never been dated to 8000 BP (6050 BC).  Formerly, the
lava flow had been considered to be younger than 2400 BP
(450 BC), but is now considered to date to about 1540
BP (410 AD)(Cordova et al. 1994, Libby 1955).  Finally,
radiocarbon dates and distinctive pottery from mounds
associated with the "Pyramid" of Cuicuilco, and found
buried beneath the Xitli lava flows by quarrying operations,

date the initial construction of the "pyramid" to be between
2750 to 2550 BP (800 to 600 BC), later remodeling until
about 2150 BP (200 BC), and total abandonment before
1800 BP (150 AD)(Cordova et al. 1994, Heizer and
Bennyhoff 1958, 1972).  Mr. Moody, Mr. Hancock, and
Dr. Hapgood somehow all manage to miss numerous
radiocarbon dates and pottery data that clearly show the
"Pyramid" of Cuicuilco is at most as old as 2750 to 2550 BP
(800 to 600 BC).  Neither it nor the Xitli lava flows that
partially cover it are anywhere near as old as 8000 BP
(6050 BC).

Origin of the 8000 BP date

I could find absolutely no primary references that claim
that the Xitli lava flows that surround the "Pyramid" of
Cuicuilco are 8,000 years old.  Even Hapgood (1966, pp. 201-
204), the likely source of this claim concedes that these
lava flows are only about 2000 years old.  The source
of this claim is likely a garbled estimate, not date, made by
Cummings (1933) prior to the development of radiocarbon
dating.

As Hapgood (1966) states:
    "Cummings made an estimate of the time required
    to accumulate the eighteen feet of sediment between
    the underside of the Pedrigal and the temple
    pavement.  He estimated, first, the age of the Pedrigal
    lava flow at 2,000 years, and here came very close to
    the truth.  Then he measured the thickness of the
    sediments that have accumulated on the top of the
    Pedrigal since it was formed, and used this as a
    measuring stick to estimate the time required to
    accumulate the sediments below.  He came to an
    estimate of 6,500 years for the time required to
    accumulate these eighteen feet of sediments."

Note: Pedrigal lava flow is an old name for Xitli lava flows.

As later radiocarbon dates of Fergusson and Libby (1963)
and Cordova et al. (1994) prove the age estimate made by
Cummings for the estimated 8,500 BP age of the sediments
covering the base of the "Pyramid" of Cuicuilco is
completely wrong.  The problem is that rivers do not
deposit sediment in consistent annual increments.  Instead
long periods of nondeposition are interrupted by major
floods or changes in base level that can cause several feet
of sediment to accumulate at irregular intervals.  Radiocarbon
dates listed by Fergusson (1963) clearly show that the base of
these sediments at a depth of 21.5 feet date to about 2200 BP
(250 BC).  Even Hapgood (1966, pp. 204) comes to this 
same conclusion, however reluctantly.  There is a clear lack 
of any evidence for either the Xitli (Pedrigal) lava flows or 
the underlying pottery-bearing sediments being as old as 
8000 BP (6050 BC).  Thus, the claim that these lava 
flows are 8000 BP (6050 BC) consists of pure fiction
unsupported by any evidence or primary source.

Discussion

To repeat Mr. Moody's complaint:
>Apparently, specialists in MesoAmerican archaeology are
>untroubled by the paradox of proclaiming an earthwork to
>be 2000 years old...an earthwork partially covered by a lava
>flow which geologists have determined to be 8000 years
>old.

The reason that specialists in MesoAmerican archaeology are
untroubled by this paradox is because this paradox does not
exit.  It is a falsehood created by people who failed to make
the effort to do an adequate literature review concerning the 
age of the Xitli lava flows and the "Pyramid" of Cuicuilco.  
What is troubling and revealing about these claims is that 
a basic review of the published literature, even Hapgood 
(1966, pp. 201-204) the likely source of this claim, reveals 
the claim that the Xitli lava flows are 8,000 years is 
patently false and numerous published radiocarbon dates to 
disprove it.  Furthermore, the references that I have found, 
conclude that the "Pyramid" of Cuicuilco is not  2000 years 
old, but possibly as old as 2,750 to 2,550 years not 
including later additions.  Since this paradox has absolutely
no basis in fact, nothing exists to trouble archaeologists.  

-- Final Notes ---

The term pyramid is in quotes because the "Pyramid" of
Cuicuilco is not a true pyramid.  Rather. it is a conical
mound faced by a river boulder and basalt slab veneer.
It is about 370 feet (110 meters) and diameter at its base and
now is 60 feet (20 meters) high.  It was originally much
higher (Kelly 1982).

A good introduction to the archaeology of Mexico is the
book "Mexico From the Olmecs to the Aztecs" by Micheal
D. Coe and published by Thames and Hudson.

Sincerely,

Paul V. Heinrich           All comments are the
heinrich@intersurf.com     personal opinion of the writer and
Baton Rouge, LA            do not constitute policy and/or
                           opinion of government or corporate
                           entities.  This includes my employer.

References

Cordova, C., Martin del Pozzo, A. L., and Camacho, J. L., 
1994, Paleolandforms and volcanic impact on the 
environment of prehistoric Cuicuilco, Mexico City. Journal 
of Archaeological Science. vol. 21, pp. 585-596.

Cummings, B., 1923, Ruins of Cuicuilco may revolutionize 
our history of ancient America. National Geographic 
Magazine. vol. 44, pp. 203-220.

Cummings, B., 1933, Cuicuilco and the Archaic Culture of 
Mexico. University of Arizona Bulletin, vol. 4, no. 8, 
pp. 289-304.

Fergusson, G. J., and Libby, W. F., 1963, UCLA radiocarbon
dates II. Radiocarbon, vol. 5, pp. 1-22.

Kelly. J., 1982, The Complete Visitor's Guide to Mesoamerican
Ruins. University of Oklahoma Press.

Libby, W. F., 1955, Radiocarbon Dating. 2nd edition, Chicago,
Illinois.

Hapgood, C. H., 1966, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, 1st
Edition, Chilton Books, Philadelphia.

Heizer, R., and Bennyhoff, J. A., 1958, Archaeological 
investigations of Cuicuilco, Valley of Mexico, 1956. Science. 
vol. 127, pp. 232-233.

Heizer, R., and Bennyhoff, J., 1972, Archaeological excavations
at Cuicuilco, Mexico, 1957. National Geographic Reports 
1955-1960. pp. 93-104.

....Appendix A, references concerning age of Sphinx omitted....

Appendix B, Other Cuicuilco References

Below are some are some additional references concerning the
"Pyramid" of Cuicuilco that I found after writing the above post.

Baldilla, Cruz Ramon R., 1977, Estudio petrol—gico de la
lava de la parte noreste de Pedregal de San Angel, D. F.
Boletin de la Sociedad de Geologia Mexicana. vol. 38,
pp. 40-57.

Haury, Emil, 1975, Cuicuilco in Retrospect. The Kiva.
vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 195-200.

Maldonado, Koerdell Manuel, 1954, Formacion y caracteres
del pedregal de San Angel. Tlatoani Escuela Nacional de
Antropolog’a e Historia, vol. 8-9, pp. 12-17.

Muller, Florencia, (ed.) 1990, La ceramica de Cuicuilco B : un
rescate arqueologico, Coleccion cientifica (Instituto Nacional
de Antropologia e Historia (Mexico), Instituto Nacional de
Antropologia e Historia, Mexico, D.F. 186 pp.

Schavelzon, Daniel, 1983, La piramide de Cuicuilco [album
Fotografico, 1922-1980] Fondo de Cultura Economica,
Mexico, D.F.

Wittich, Ernst, 1910, Meue AufshlŸsse im Lavafeld von
Coyoac‡n bei Mexiko. Neues Jahrbuch fur Mineralogie
bd. 2, pp. 131-137.

Additional Comments

Since 1997, when I prepared the above web page, additional
research concerning the volcanic eruptions that buried the
the pyramid has been carried out. Important publications
resulting from this research have been:

Siebe, C., 2000, Age and archaeological implications of Xitle Volcano,
southwestern Basin of Mexico-City. Journal of Volcanology and
Geothermal Research. vol. 104; no. 1-4, pp. 45-64.

In part its abstract reads"

"The Pedregal lavas are fresh, well-exposed basaltic flows erupted
from the Xitle scoria-and-cinder cone in the southwestern part of
the Basin of Mexico. These lavas cover an area of 70 km (super 2)
and were emplaced over pyramids and other buildings (e.g. Cuicuilco
and Copilco archaeological sites). ..."

"A new age of 1670+ or -35 years BP (AD 245-315) obtained on
charcoal samples collected just beneath the lavas is favored
for the Xitle eruption. These samples originated by ignition of
vegetation during the emplacement of hot scoriaceous tephra."

Similar results are reported in:

Gonzalez, S., Pastrana, A., Siebe, C., and Duller, G., 2000, Timing
of the prehistoric eruption of Xitle Volcano and the abandonment
of Cuicuilco Pyramid, southern basin of Mexico. In The archaeology
of geological catastrophes, edited by W. J. McGuire, D. R. Griffiths,
and P. L. Hancock, pp. 205-224. special publications no. 171, Geological
Society of London. London, United Kingdom..

They concluded:

1. "..That the pyramid and nearby settlements were abandoned as
a direct consequence of the volcanic activity of Xitle."

and

2. "The new dates, obtained from material which clearly is
contemporaneous with the volcanic activity, suggest that the
eruption took place around 1670 years BP, some 300 years
later than previously thought."


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