Trails of the Mesoamericans in Lakkin Itza (Florida)

A 834Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

Editor’s Note: Lakkin Itza is the author’s play on words, comparing Florida to the more famous Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula. Florida being east of Yucatan, the author located this Mayan glyph representing east in the John Montgomery Dictionary of Maya Hieroglyphs: LAK-K’IN-ni (lak’in) (T183:544.116) n. "east"; cardinal direction.

Part 1
In 1986, while I was employed with Lindahl, Browning, Ferrari & Hellstrom, the company was hired by a local contractor to stake roads for a new subdivision in the Pennock Point area of Jupiter, Florida. One day we ran into no less than Audrey Pennock, the daughter of overall owner of the original tract of land. Armed with a metal detector she was in search of musket balls and other artifacts from the1838 fort and stockade nearby. The contractor had given her permission to keep all items found, if any, and she found quite a bit.

By 1989, I had left the firm and started a small survey company in Hobe Sound, Florida.

One March afternoon we were contacted by Mike Daniel & Pat McGrogan of the Loxahatchee Historical Society with an interesting project. They wanted me to research an old road right of way to see if it was still in the public domain. The road was the old alignment of Indian Town road, and if I knew where the 2nd Seminole War battlefield had taken place, we’d be able to pinpoint it.

Not having the Internet until 3-4 years later, we decided to start at the local courthouse in West Palm Beach to see if we could uncover anything. After a few days looking through the road plat books and township plats as well the deeds, we found the road had not been abandoned by the D.O.T. and was still in public domain. During the search we also noticed many trails that had located during the 1845 township surveys and later when the townships were subdivided by William Reyes, the deputy state surveyor. We also found a pertinent railroad map and aerials from the 1940s.

Later we made a call to the DEP division of records in Tallahassee to obtain any notes, diaries from the surveyors, and a copy of the township plat. After a few weeks a large envelope arrived with the information we hoped to find and sure enough it wasn’t long before we discovered a call so many chains north to the trail to the 2nd Seminole War battlefield and to Fort Van Swearingen. The river was described in great detail as well as how far the banks were either side of the line.

At this point we pulled out the new county coordinate information maps we had on file, made a few calculations and knew we had the trail nailed down to at least a foot or two. We headed over to the area east of the Loxahatchee River, south of Indiantown road, and recovered the east quarter corner of section 6, Township 41 south, Range 42 east. We then pulled a chain north the distance William Reyes had described and set a stake. Then by compass turned the approximate bearing and marked a tree on the east bank to line up on. Using the old Seat of War map we scaled off the map and started a thorough search for artifacts. We were looking for the site of General Jesup’s battle and it wasn’t long before Mike got the first hit on his metal detector, recovering a piece of grape shot, just north of the trail as the map showed. We were on Jesup’s Battle of 1838!

Over the course of the next 4 months we found spikes, musket balls, chain, part of the forge, and lead slag areas. On a hunch we decide to look on the east side of the river, and after an hour’s search, Mike found a cannonball. I found a few large spikes and more musket balls, and because the area was being cleared for road widening and a new park with ball fields, we decided to call DEP, and tell them what we had found. State archaeologists were sent and a halt was instituted on all work within the park. What was uncovered over the following 2 years was incredible, some 45+ archaeological sites as well as more of the battlefield.

Moving ahead 18 years
In February 2012, we were attending a local event within the park and ran into one of the preservationist groups, The Loxahatchee Battlefield Preservationists, who were displaying various things about the park, battlefield maps, etc. It occurred to me a lot more could be accomplished within the park and surrounding areas. The trail we had recovered was not only Jesup’s and Eustis’ mapped trail during the 2nd Seminole War (later to be dubbed the "Trail of Tears" during the Seminole removal of Florida), they had inadvertently or unknowingly mapped trails of the earlier indigenous peoples between mysterious mounds that exist up and down the coast. Note: The Loxahatchee Battlefield Preservationists conduct Friday & Saturday tours of the battlefield. See for more info.

With all this in mind, we contacted long time friend, surveyor Gary Rager at Geopoint. I had gotten active again in the historic groups and came up with the idea to monument this trail and give a brief history of its origin. We decided my pasting together of differing-scale maps was no longer sufficient and he went to work creating an AutoCAD map with imagery, and based on state plane coordinates so there was a permanent record. We compiled all of the township sheets and everything we knew about the trails and contacted the historic societies, county surveyors in other counties, and the department of state heritage trails officials, and county archaeologist with our idea. The county officials are now acquiring funding to monument the trail.

Part 2
Ancient Mesoamerican Surveyors of Lakkin Itza

We had been reading Mayan research books off and on for several years. While reviewing the Trail of Tears work it occurred to me what if the mounds in Florida are Mayan or some derivation thereof? I called Gary Rager of Geopoint, who had been mapping the Trail of Tears in AutoCAD, to try a few things that are well known in Yucatan and other Pyramids of the Maya, and northern USA mounds.

I asked him to strike lines between them and turn cardinal to each to see if there was any correlation. What we found was amazing. Not only were the mounds around the Lake Okeechobee laid out in a near perfect 35 mile square, the lines from Big Mound City, which are laid out in 22° +/- intervals from 0-90°, lined up with other mounds and ceremonial mound areas of Florida: Miami Circle, House of Refuge and Jupiter.

Coincidence? We’ll leave that up to you to decide, but considering the Maya’s predecessors and descendant’s knowledge of celestial objects and navigation, I believe it’s very possible. Could they have fled from the Maya civil wars to Florida? Or were they slaves to the ruling class to the Maya and just here to transport gold from Georgia, and food back to present day Mexico? We think so because the mounds were used for navigation at night by fires and could be seen for long distances away during the day.

It makes one wonder where did these mound builders come from, and how did they acquire this technology nearly 5,000 years ago? What devices did they use to define angles, distances? I hope this article encourages interest by others to not only research further on the Trail of Tears through Florida, but also the mounds around the Gulf of Mexico, and the rest of USA.

We continue to be in awe for what has transpired in the Gulf Region from western Mexico to the easterly shores of Florida and to Maine. Our celestially observant Mesoamerican mound builders were everywhere, a thriving community.

A mo
nth or so ago I was digging around in a used book store in West Palm Beach and found an old book written by Dr. Frank C. Hibben, Digging up America. He had compiled many of the known sites around the USA and brought up several very good points about archaeological sites.

The one that stuck with me the most was from the 1920s. An astronomer, Dr A.E. Douglass, had discovered while using a tree ring calendar for sunspot study that he could date sites very accurately, where carbon 14 dates sometimes are incorrect. Through dendrochronology, sites around the US have been accurately dated. With all this in mind we have a similar way of dating. It occurred to me that by using sun angle and the pole star ephemeris we could back track the celestial travels of each, and drill down to a date within weeks on a structure that was laid out in cardinal.

Example: Zoom in on Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula. In Google Earth draw a line from east to west from the easterly most corner to the westerly you have the present azimuth of the past Sun equinox. A line drawn from north to south results in the Polar azimuth at present. Note I said present. We know the equinoxes occur on March 20 and August 20 plus or minus a day, but it’s the hour angle we’re looking for.

We have a resource that’s available at the US Naval Observatory that predicts Sun transit: It goes back to 1800 using the disc available for purchase. Position_of_the_Sun mentions a tool where the Sun can be positioned at any time.

Can this be proven? It was an idea of mine to narrow down dates on the sites. Carbon 14 dating is good but very expensive. An archaeological crew with a tight budget can only afford a few of these tests.

Maybe some aspiring programmer/archaeologist will take up the challenge of writing a program that will run backwards in time for Sun transit.

Graham Huls began surveying in 1978 after trying many other occupations that didn’t quite fit. He started with Lindahl, Browning, Ferrari, Hellstrom, became licensed in 1989, went solo for 5 years, joined Nick Miller Inc. as a partner for 10 years, and then began Huls Land Surveying.

Gary Rager is a grandfather of three and a licensed surveyor in Florida. He is the Director of the West Palm Beach Survey Department for Geopoint Surveying, Inc., and has been surveying in South Florida for more than 34 years.

Some Facts to Ponder

• Mayan gold trade to Georgia
• Swift creek pottery found on the west coast of Florida is Mayan in origin
• Mayan corn found at the Fort Center complex
• 1530s Spanish explorers encountered "mayamuns" at Big Mound City, called "the reed people" by the Hitchiti from where they originated by lake Okeechobee
• Stelae along the west coast of Florida. The Olmecs used stelae to claim ownership
• The mounds reflect knowledge of celestial objects, the pole star, Venus, and equinoxes

A 834Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE