Frequently Asked Questions

1. My cousin bought a bizarre object for me at a flea market in Florida, and it has these mystical symbols all over it. I've attached a picture. I was hoping you can tell me - is this ancient Aztec? Maya?

It probably isn't. However, I have no problem with modern artisans expressing their culture through stylistic reproductions, if it reinforces their sense of ethnic pride and financially contributes to the community.

2. I have this ancient Mesoamerican artifact, and I am looking to sell it. Before I put it up for auction, I'd like to ask if you could tell me if this is Aztec, and how much its asking price could be.

I DO NOT provide cultural or monetary assessments of archaeological relics. It is unprofessional for scholars to give financial appraisals that, in turn, promote the illegal looting of archaeological sites and damage the available record. For more information, I strongly recommend this page by professor Michael E. Smith.

3. Can you take a look at this ancient South American artifact I found in my grandmother's attic?

I can take a look at it, but I do not specialize in South America, so I would not be of much help. (I must emphasize that, despite some strong evidence of occasional contact, Mesoamerican and South American civilizations were quite distinct contemporaries.)

4. I love your photos! I am working on a publication, and I would like to ask: Can I use some of your images for my work?

The Mexican INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History) is sensitive about the use of their museum images for commercial publications, especially because the presentation of these Mesoamerican pieces depends on their own hard work. It would therefore be unfair to capitalize off the work of other archaeologists. INAH might require up to $75 for the copyright permission fee per image, so I cannot grant this kind of request for museum pieces. Please communicate with me on the use of images from archaeological sites.

5. Can I use your photos on my website?

If your website is freely accessible to the public, and if you have written permission from me, then I would be happy to allow the reproduction of a few images.

6. My family went on a Caribbean cruise, and then we stayed at a five-star hotel in Cancun for a week. We went to all these ancient Maya ruins, and I uploaded lots of pictures for my Facebook album. Link to my page!

Wow. Um, only if you have something interesting to say.

7. I am a professional graphics designer. Are you interested in a collaboration?

I designed the Mesoamerica and Maya sites purely as a hobby that I update when time permits. I have neither the time nor the money to finance larger projects.

8.What is the name of that beautiful image at the bottom of the front Mesoamerican page?

That is a Huichol yarn painting entitled "El Caminante Silencioso," which I have nicknamed the 'Tranquil Wayfarer.' It is on display at the Museo Zacatecano in Zacatecas City. Because of my Cora ancestry, I have a deeply personal interest in Mesoamerican religion, and I chose that image as a tribute to that part of my Mexican heritage.

9. Can you read Maya glyphs or other Mesoamerican writing systems?

Yes, but not fluently, sorry!

10. What did you think of Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto"?

Riddled with too many cultural errors to be taken seriously, it was trying to be Gladiator in a faux-Maya setting.

11. Your writing style tells me you must be one great mystical master! What kind of spiritual wisdom could you impart to me?

Although I have had an extensive number of religious experiences that make the most sense through a Mesoamerican perspective, I would not pretend to be a spiritual master. A Native American adage says: "Those who know, don't talk; and those who talk, don't know." I respect this stance, and I do not flaunt my communication with the sacred. If you are a serious seeker and wish to talk about your own experiences, I can listen, but I will not claim to be a guru. I have written about my spiritual experiences from living among Aztec and Otomí villages in my memoir The Shaman's Cross.

12. Are you an occultist adept? Could you give me a magical power?

See Question 11 above. (And even if I were, you would have to earn it.)

13. I am working on a report about a Mesoamerican subject. How can I find information?

I can offer some references, to start your project with, whenever I can. I would also suggest several pointers:

  • Check around! The more web pages you visit, and the more people you write to, the more answers you can expect to receive.
  • Look for authors, professors, graduate students, and other scholars who specifically work on your topic. Try to write to them!
  • If you have a big paper, please tell me how soon it is due. That will give me an idea of how soon you need a response.
  • Try the web search engines, especially Google and Yahoo.
  • Work with the periodical databases like the kinds you would find in college or public libraries - there's a lot of information out there.