KINGDOMS OF STONE: The Second Book in the Maya Trilogy: Preview and Now Available
We at People of the Stone are pleased and proud to announce the upcoming publication of the second novel in the MAYA TRILOGY, KINGDOMS OF STONE, scheduled for publication in late September this Fall. This novel is set near the end of the Classic Period of Maya civilization and is focused on events in the year AD 750 and in the important sites of COPAN and PALENQUE. For the first time, the author has added a new element to the story. Every third chapter will reveal a historically mirrored chapter based on the events of the year AD 1840 as described in the amazing journals of John Lloyd Stephens, who along with the artist Frederick Catherwood traveled to Central America in that year and witnessed, as well as participated in, the birth of the modern nations of that region. These two men's incredible accounts of those events, along with the verbal and visual descriptions in Stephens' books and Catherwood's spectacular drawings, are credited with revealing the wonders of the Maya Civilization for the first time to an unsuspecting world.
To read more about this important new story, scroll down from the SPECIAL OFFER that follows and see the BOOK JACKET ABSTRACT for the novel. Also, included in this posting is the complete PREFACE as it will appear in the novel to explain both the concept, rationale, and execution of this exciting new novel.
KINGDOMS OF STONE BOOK JACKET ABSTRACT
For a thousand years the great stone mountains and the cities that surrounded them were built and flourished throughout the world that came to be called the Mayan. The long lineages and powerful lords who ruled in the lowlands, mountains, and tropical forests of Central America conceived a civilization unique in the history of mankind. Their architecture, art, belief system, calendar, writing system, and many other trappings of any great culture thrived over millennia, despite their leaders’ inevitable proclivities for wars, shifting alliances, environmental degradation, and many other less desirable attributes we associate with the rise and decline of any such power. Now, those powerful cities and their alliances are crumbling. Their leaders’ excesses and failures to successfully continue to intercede with the ancient ancestors and needy gods who inhabit a vast and complex spirit world will no longer insure the confidence of those who look to them atop the high stone mountains they have constructed to be close to those ancient powers. Their world is changing and collapsing about them. Will they be able to save themselves, and their people, before it is too late? A thousand years later two intrepid travelers from afar come to this same land and begin to uncover these lost kingdoms and reveal their past grandeur once more to an unsuspecting world. One is a part-time diplomat and adventure writer, the other is a skilled architectural artist. Between them they will face disease, revolution, and even death to set in motion what will quickly grow into the pursuit of solving one of the great mysteries of our human past. Who were these amazing people we call The Maya, and why did their unique Kingdoms of Stone disappear in the very midst of the descendants of the people they once served?
KINGDOMS OF STONE PREFACE
“One standing with its altar before it in a grove of trees which grew around it, seemingly to shade and surround it as a sacred thing; in the solemn stillness of the woods, it seemed a divinity mourning over a fallen people.” J.L. Stephens on first seeing the ruins of Copan in 1839
For over two thousand years the civilization we have come to call “The Maya” arose, thrived, and declined in one of the most unique environments on our planet ever to witness such a long period of cultural continuity. While we usually mark the end of this unique civilization with the rapid decline that resulted from the coming of the first Europeans—just as it happened with their equally advanced neighbors in different environments to the north and south—our visibility of the ancient Maya was retarded for generations by the sheer physical isolation of many of their most important visible remains. This was particularly true of their earliest periods, which first flourished in the Yucatan tropical lowlands and later in more isolated highland areas. Nor did the Maya possess the mineral riches that attracted and romanticized the earliest of the Conquistadores, which highlighted and then kept Aztec and Inca cultural achievements in the public eye continuously over the last five hundred years. However, in the last one hundred years especially, we have gained a new appreciation for the intricacies of the knowledge and architectural abilities of these amazing tropical Maya peoples, one which now goes far beyond the spectacular achievements in stone they left behind.
As in the other great civilizations of Central and South America we have come to know far better, it is often easy for us to lose track of the simple fact that whereas these highly organized and relatively advanced civilizations may have receded into the mists of history, the people themselves who once created and maintained them over very long periods have not disappeared. They have simply taken on new roles within the same landscapes and cultural perspectives and continue to exist and even thrive in many ways to this day. The Maya are, of course, no exception to this too often neglected fact. It is for this reason, as much as anything else, that this writer has chosen to tell the stories of the rise, the flourishing, and the subsequent decline of Mayan civilization from the perspective of both the deeper past in which they existed as well as the nearer historical times in which their achievements have been more recently revealed to us.
This project is envisioned as a three part effort and Kingdoms of Stone, the second book of this series, will concentrate on the high-water mark, or Classic Period, of the larger complex of sites and time periods we associate with the apogee of Maya Civilization. The initial novel in this series, Place of the Misty Sky, dealt with the rise of the pre-classic Maya and many of the issues for that rise for which archeologists, linguists, and other specialists have only just begun to comprehend the answers for in the last generation. That story was set in the tropical lowlands of the Mirador Basin near the modern border of Mexico and Guatemala. It dealt with the origins of some of the institutions of kingship, hereditary hierarchies, spiritual and technological innovations, and other aspects that led to the great urban centers such as Mirador, Tikal and others in that critical locale—all sites the author has personally visited. The relatively rapid rise of these closely related, large urban complexes over two thousand years ago quickly led to the development of what we call the Classic Maya throughout five countries in Central America. It is the massive stone remains of these spectacular urban centers and their high-rising pyramids that have so attracted both the casual and the professional explorer to this region for the last hundred and fifty years.
In that first novel I chose to reveal the story from the dual perspective of the past and present as told in alternating chapters. Centered on the same pair of artifacts and the same mysterious origin myth, the narrative attempted to merge these two perspectives, separated by over two thousand years of time, in a way that would show the cultural continuity of many of the modern aspects of Mayan life with that of their deep past. Place of the Misty Sky attempted to look at how the origins of their unique writing system has in recent years led us to a new and much firmer understanding of the depth of these amazing Maya people and what they accomplished. It was also a glimpse into how the modern world view of the way we look at these ancient peoples has often been colored and distorted by our less than exemplary dealing with the artifacts and ruins—as well as the descendants—the ancient Maya left behind for us to study in our own recent past. Much has no doubt been lost to us by these careless attitudes of the past. However, new generations of more dedicated and culturally sensitive scholars have begun to rearrange our picture of the Mayan past in a way we can only hope in the future will continue to reveal new “miracles” of their earliest achievements.
The present story, Kingdoms of Stone, will be set in a new location, the southern highlands and valleys of two of the great cities of the Classic Maya, Copan and Palenque. This book will also introduce two historical figures, both of whom were of seminal importance in first revealing the amazing cultural remains, which had lain hidden in the jungles and forests of Central American for nearly two thousand years. In 1839 two men, one an American diplomat named John Lloyd Stephens, the other an English architectural draftsman and gifted artist named Frederic Catherwood left comfortable existences and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime, even by the standards of those remarkable days of global exploration and their own past achievements. They came to present-day Guatemala and Honduras on both a diplomatic mission for the U.S. government to establish relations with the nascent and newly independent Republic of Central America and for their personal desire to explore more fully the vague reports of great ruins buried in the tropical forests there.
The two men had come to know of each other earlier when Stephens, one of the great travel writers from an age when that literary form was at its zenith, was exploring in Egypt and the Middle East and had seen some of Catherwood’s intricate drawings and maps. Later in New York, they met and became closer acquaintances and decided to forge a partnership that would soon produce two extended trips to Central America and result in revealing for the first time the existence of a hitherto little known civilization, one that had remained hidden from western eyes for centuries. The novel-like travel accounts of Stephen’s often read like an adventure tale and rapidly became bestsellers. However, equally, the near photo quality lithographs of Catherwood, which accompanied Stephen’s restrained but competent prose descriptions of the many sites they visited—and helped to partially extricate from the tropical forests overgrowing them—quickly produced a new and insatiable appetite in the public for all things Maya. It is an appetite that has only continued with few interruptions ever since. Both trips, the first in 1839-40 to modern day Guatemala and Mexico and the second in 1842 to the Mexican Yucatan have seldom been equaled in the annals of travel writing for the quality of the work they produced under incredibly difficult circumstances and the immediate and lasting effect on a wider public they engendered.
As an ambassador and a private citizen, Stephens even managed to purchase the entire ruined city of Copan from its local owner early in his first trip with the view of eventually restoring it to its lost glory. Political events and a life shortened all too soon from the hardships he had endured, no doubt, prevented much of what Stephens once hoped for from coming to fruition. Catherwood later suffered several personal setbacks and health issues which included the loss of much of his income when his and Stephens’ private exhibition of the artifacts they had shipped back to New York from their two earlier trips were destroyed in a fire. He also died in the fullness of his life, before ever receiving the credit that has subsequently fallen upon his name for the fabulous drawings he made, often under conditions that defy belief when we read Stephen’s amazing accounts about them. However, his legacy gave us the first views of many of the ruins which have since inspired generations of archeologists and other scholars to continue the work he and Stephens began with such amazing dedication and surprising competence, certainly given the times in which they lived.
Despite all this, it is fair to say that seldom have two “explorers” ever accomplished so much or left such an important record of their work as did these two men. Indeed, they are as responsible as anyone for revealing the amazing culture of the Maya and giving to the world the knowledge of a civilization that in many ways is unrivalled for what it accomplished at a time when the ancestors of those of us who have come to appreciate it the most were living in mud and thatch huts. Perhaps, it is for this reason that I have chosen to set this story mainly in the great cities of Copan and Palenque at the very height of their power—along with all the political intrigue and environmental issues which inevitably result when any great nation or city state achieves such a level where decline becomes almost inevitable—or so history continually teaches us.
Besides the prehistoric characters I have created as their ancient Maya counterparts, I have also decided to see other aspects of these cities and their people through the eyes and words of these two important men, who first revealed it to us over a hundred and fifty years ago. For the most part, I have chosen to rely exclusively upon the published journals of Stephens to provide the subject and tone for the events and conversations as portrayed in the chapters that follow devoted to their adventures. I have also remained as faithful to the timelines and events as possible in the way they played out and Stephens recorded them. Obviously, some compression for the sake of brevity and the desire to not introduce too many unnecessary person or events into the narrative have had to be made. I strongly encourage the reader to find one of many excellent editions of Stephens’ travel journal still in print and judge the effect of these two giants of American archeology for his or her self.
There are no better eyes through which to imagine those times; for their words and drawings are as vivid today as they were when those two intrepid adventurers first peeled back the jungle and revealed to a stunned and unsuspecting world this amazing culture. It was a time when the land and the descendants of the once-great cities were once again undergoing a period of political turmoil and uncertainty, an uncertainty that has repeatedly gripped the descendants of the Maya all too frequently in the spectacular mountains, tropical forests, and river valleys within which they once developed a culture as unique and as complex in its institutional intricacies as any we could study.
Together, we will peel back the mists of history that once shrouded the mountains and valleys over a thousand years ago. We can attempt to see how any great civilization thrives but then inevitably declines as its power becomes the envy of its neighbors, or of those it has dominated physically or culturally for long periods while its own star rises like Venus on the pre-dawn horizon. Once again we will see how so much of our prehistory is dependent upon the ability of “special” or charismatic individuals to insure the continuation of what others have built for them and which they, alone, must be instrumental in passing on to future generations. It is a lesson human history teaches us that All great civilizations must face. Some survive this challenge when new leaders of ability arise at the moment of great crisis, while others must fail this ultimate test of human leadership and disappear.
It is also a lesson we face today, whether we wish to acknowledge certain immutable facts or not. No matter if that challenge is political, environmental, or internal cultural failure, these challenges face all societies in all times and places. The great Kingdoms of Stone that once came before us and left their enigmatic remains for us to ponder upon have also left us with the lessons we must again re-learn ourselves. We must learn them well if we are to avoid the day when some intrepid explorer—perhaps one from beyond our own solar system—stumbles upon the ruins of our great cities and reveals our strange culture and unknown disappearance to some new generation of beings eager to imagine just who we were and what went wrong for us in the end.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT MAYA WORDS
When writing about the Maya it is always a difficult choice to make concerning how many, which ones, or how to use specific Mayan terms, personal or place names, or other traditional spellings in the narrative. As we have learned more about translating those terms for which more generic or easily read ones have long been in use, it becomes even more difficult to confront the average reader with such seemingly difficult to read or to remember unfamiliar words. I have chosen to create fictional character names out of simple Maya root words, and offer correct translations when appropriate. For place names in the dialogue of these characters, I have also chosen to use ancient names where known and given their meanings, if possible. I have also decided to use the more familiar names for known kings in translation for the ease of both the casual and the more knowledgeable reader. Kingship names such as Smoke Shell, Kawak Sky, or Shield Jaguar are the exception in the following narrative to selecting Maya root words. When such names appear in translation they refer to actual, known figures. All other names presented in Maya root word form are fictional characters. Below is a simple pronunciation guide and a list of place names used in the ancient part of the story with their modern equivalents.
Vowels: a is sounded as ah (as in father or bar); e is sounded as ey (as in prey): i is sounded as double ee (as in bee or we): o is sounded as o (as in open or jello): u is sounded as double oo (as in zoo or tune). However, when U falls at the beginning of a word with another vowel it has the sound of a W, as in wah.
Consonants: Most consonants are the same. Sounds in Maya not in English have been adapted; for example: X if at the beginning of a word preceding a consonant is pronounced as ‘esh’; when preceding a vowel X is pronounced as “sh”. For example: “ Iximche”, the place name would be pronounced as “ee-shim-chey’”. In general, the final syllable receives the accent in Maya words. The consonant C is always pronounced with the hard sound of a K, except if paired with h, as in ch (as in church). Beyond this no more subtle usages have been employed in the text.
Place names used: Modern Name: Maya Name: (pronunciation)
Copan Xupic (shoopik’)
Palenque Lakam Ha (Lah Kahm’ Hah’)
Tikal Mutul (Moo tool’)
Lamanai Lamin-ayin (Lah men-aye’ en)
Uxmal Uxmal (oosh mahl’)
Yaxchilan Yaxchilan (Yahsh chee lahn’)
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