If an astronaut were ever to corroborate an aspect of my writings, I would have expected it to be in regard to planetary matters.  Surprisingly, such a corroboration concerns, of all things, the Olmecs of ancient Mexico.

The unexpected corroboration is tucked away in the recently published book A Leap of Faith by the Mercury-7 astronaut Gordon Cooper, in which his story as a test pilot and astronaut is peppered with (to quote from the dust jacket) "his strong views on the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence -- and even the distinct possibility that we have already had contact."

The Olmec Enigma

Readers of my books, and especially of The Lost Realms, as well as of a previous article on this website titled "The Case of the Missing Elephant," know by now that beginning with the discovery of a colossal stone head in 1869, an advanced civilization that preceded the Mayas and Aztecs of Mexico came to light.  Its leaders and bearers were unmistakably black Africans.   They were arbitrarily named by archaeologists "Olmecs"; and their embarrassing enigma -- of who they were, and how they had come across the ocean, and why, was compounded by the timing of their arrival in the New World.

Once it was conceded (very grudgingly!) that the 'Olmecs' did indeed represent the earliest or even Mother Civilization of Mesoamerica, the date of their arrival was at first set at about 250 B.C.; then at about 500 B.C.; then farther back and back, until 1500 B.C. was acknowledged.

But I have argued for a date twice as old!


A God and His Secret Number

My conclusion that the Olmec presence in the New World went back at least 5,000 years, to circa 3000 B.C., was reached by many paths.   The first one was an attempt to identify the great god of Mesoamerica, the Winged Serpent (Quetzalcoatl to the Aztecs, Kukulkan to the Mayas), and the significance of his promise to return to those lands on the first day of a 52-year cycle, (AD 1519, when the Aztec king Montezuma believed that the appearance of the Spanish conquistador Cortez was such a Return, coincided with the anticipated sacred date).

The peoples of Mesoamerica employed in addition to a practical calendar of 365 days, called the Haab, also a Sacred Calendar (called Tzolkin) of 260 days.   The two cyclical calendars were conceived as two wheels with meshing teeth that turned and returned to the same spot once in 52 years; and 52 was the Sacred Number of the Winged Serpent god?

Since 52 was also the Secret Number of the god known to the Egyptians as Thoth; since Thoth as Quetzalcoatl, was the god of science and the calendar; and since Thoth was exiled from Egypt circa 3100 B.C., I have suggested that it was he who took a group of his African followers to a new land, bringing the "Olmecs" to Mesoamerica.

Accordingly, I said, Olmec presence goes back to at least 3000 B.C. -- a date twice as old as that conceded by established archaeologists.

The Mysterious "Day One"

By the time I was writing The Lost Realms, the book devoted to the prehistory of the Americas, I was sure that the arrival of the Olmecs with Thoth/Quetzalcoatl could be established with astounding precision.   The key to unlocking the enigma was the Olmec Calendar.

In addition to the Haab and the Tzolkin, there was in Mesoamerica a third calendar, used to inscribe dates on monuments.  Given the name the Long Count, it was not cyclical as the other two, but linear -- a continuous one, counting the total number of days that had passed since the counting began on a mysterious Day One.

By means of glyphs denoting groups of days 
(1, 20, 360, 7,200 or even 144,000) and dots 
and bars giving the number for each group-glyph, monuments were dated by saying: A total of so many days from Day One have passed when this Monument was erected.

But what was that Day One, when did it occur, and what was its significance?

It has been established beyond doubt that this Long Count calendar was the original Olmec calendar; and it is now generally agreed that Day One was equivalent to August 13, 3113 B.C.

But what does that date signify?  As far as I know, the only plausible answer was provided by me: It was the date of Thoth/Quetzalcoatl's arrival, with his followers in Mesoamerica!

Figure 34 from The Lost Realms

The Unexpected Corroboration

All official publications continue, however, to remain at 1250 B.C. -- 1500 B.C. at most -- as the date of the start of the Olmec presence.

Imagine my pleasant surprise to come across an eye-witness report by the astronaut Gordon Cooper in chapter 11 of his book A Leap of Faith.  "During my final years with NASA," he writes, "I became involved in a different kind of adventure: undersea treasure hunting in Mexico." One day, accompanied by a National Geographic photographer, they landed in a small plane on an island in the Gulf of Mexico; local residents pointed out to them pyramid-shaped mounds, where they found ruins, artifacts and bones.  On examination back in Texas, the artifacts were determined to be 5,000 years old!

"When we learned of the age of the artifacts," Cooper writes, “we realized that what we'd found had nothing to do with seventeenth-century Spain... I contacted the Mexican government and was put in touch with the head of the national archaeology department, Pablo Bush Romero."

Together with Mexican archeologists the two went back to the site.  After some excavating, Cooper writes,

"The age of the ruins was confirmed: 3000 B.C. Compared with other advanced civilizations, relatively little was known about this one --called the Olmec."

Proceeding to describe some of the amazing discoveries about the Olmecs and their achievements, Gordon Cooper continues thus:

"Engineers, farmers, artisans, and traders, the Olmecs had a remarkable civilization.  But it is still not known where they originated... Among the findings that intrigued me most: celestial navigation symbols and formulas that, when translated, turned out to be mathematical formulas used to this day for navigation, and accurate drawings of constellations, some of which would not be officially 'discovered' until the age of modern telescopes."

It was this, rather than his experiences as an astronaut, that triggered Gordon Cooper's "Leap of faith": "This left me wondering: Why have celestial navigation signs if they weren't navigating celestially?”  And he asks: If ‘someone’ had helped the Olmecs with this knowledge, from whom did they get it?

My readers, of course, know the answers.

Has the Cover-up Ended?

The outstanding museum on the Olmec civilization in Jalapa, in the Veracruz province of Mexico, included when it was built a wall panel showing the extent and dates of Mexico's various cultures.  On my first visit there, I could hardly believe my eyes: The first (earliest) civilization, that of the Olmecs, was shown as begun circa 3000 B.C.!

I urged the members of my group to take pictures of me pointing to the date: Finally, the date claimed by me has been officially accepted!

On a second visit, however (to which the previous article, The Case of the Missing Elephant relates), not only the telltale elephant-toy disappeared; the Olmec column starting at 3000 B.C. was also gone... And the official Museum Catalogue, reviewing the Olmec civilization, reverted to 1500 B.C.

But now comes the astronaut Gordon Cooper, and innocently and inter-alia tells, as an eye-witness, what he was told by the chief Mexican archaeologist: 3000 B.C.

And thus, when all is said and done, I stand vindicated.

Zecharia Sitchin
November 2000

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