Posted by: marjbicknelljohnson | April 25, 2016

Lost Jade of the Maya

For 500 years, no one knew where all those jade artifacts in museums came from. Where were the jade mines? It turns out there are no jade mines–because jade isn’t found that way. But jade has been discovered in Guatemala in one place within the past 20 years. But one source isn’t enough–those museum pieces come from at least 7 different sources.

So why not send Chanla Pesh, Maya shaman and lecturer on Mayan Studies, to find more sources? In Lost Jade of the Maya, Pesh searches for the lost Mayan jade with her shaman’s talisman. Gods of the underworld Xibalba torment her, and murderous Guatemalan crime lords stalk her. Then her 7 year old daughter Yash is kidnapped. Read about Pesh’s adventures when Lost Jade of the Maya appears on Amazon in mid-May. Cover design by Linda Myro Judd.

Lost Jade Cover LMJ - lighter

Posted by: marjbicknelljohnson | August 21, 2015

The Maya are the Corn People

The Maya are the corn people, created in the fourth creation from corn and the blood of the gods, according to the Popol Vuh.

Corn, the staple food crop for the ancient Maya and much of the modern world, was developed in the Americas. Corn is ixim  (ish-eem) in the Mayan language K’iche in Guatemala. Corn is maiz in Yucatan, pronounced mah-ees or my-z or mah-eeth, depending upon place spoken. If you say maiz to rhyme with size, notice the similarity to the word Mayan, pronounced my-ahn. The Maya gave us both corn and the word maiz.

The Maya all gave us chocolate, chocolatl in the Aztec language, Nahautl.

If the ancient Maya and Aztec civilizations fascinate you, I suggest viewing “Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed” by Professor Edwin Barnhart from The Great Courses.


Posted by: marjbicknelljohnson | July 29, 2015

The Maya and the Golden Ratio

If you are a math person, this will blow your mind.

How the Maya Constructed the Golden Rectangle

Marjorie Bicknell-Johnson

Maya priests and Greek Pythagoreans had much in common. The Maya believed that the

measuring of the square with a cord was the first action of the gods when they created the Cosmos and saw

the harmony of the Cosmos in their geometry. The Pythagoreans saw numbers as the ultimate reality and

found harmony in the mathematical movements of planets and stars.

Thousands of miles from Greece, the Maya used simple cords to lay the groundwork for buildings.

They used a cord to form a figure with four equal sides and then squared the angles by insuring that the

diagonals were equal. Each pyramid had a square base, the fundamental shape of Maya geometry and the

module from which all Creation was generated.

Like Pythagoras, the Maya saw harmony in the golden mean and developed a simple procedure for

creating that proportion by first forming a square. The builders halved the cord to find the center of a side

and stretched the cord from that center to a corner of the square as in the figure below. Then they swung the

cord down to measure out the baseline for a rectangle, the famous golden rectangle.

The golden mean, held in high regard by the Pythagoreans, appears in Greek art and architecture.

The golden mean, the ratio of length to width of the golden rectangle, has value (1 + 5)/2. If the width of

the rectangle above is 2, then the square has side 2 and half-side 1, and the sides of the central triangle are l,

2, and 5. The distance from the arrow to the right corner is 5 and the length of the rectangle is (1 + 5).

In the Popol Vuh, the Mayan book of the dawn of life and the glories of gods and kings, the Maya

described the god’s construction of a square as: “its four sections; its four cornerings; its measurings; its

four stakings.” They constructed a golden rectangle by: “its doubling-over cord measurement; its stretching

cord measurement; its womb sky; its womb earth; its four sides; its four corners as it is said.” The Maya

saw the proportions of the golden rectangle in nature and believed that houses built using the golden mean

are like flowers.

Mystics love the coming of the Mayan thirteenth Bak’tun on December 21, 2012 almost as much

as finding the golden ratio and the Fibonacci numbers in nature.

Posted by: marjbicknelljohnson | July 27, 2015

Jaguar Princess

My novel, Jaguar Princess: The Last Maya Shaman, was crafted with authentic details of history, geography, and culture of the Maya living in Yucatan and Guatemala. You can read more about it on Amazon.

When I figure out how to make more posts, I will do so.

Posted by: marjbicknelljohnson | January 12, 2013

Uxmal December 21, 2012

Uxmal December 21, 2012

Mayan young people dressed up for the beginning of the new era. They invited me to take a picture with them.

Posted by: marjbicknelljohnson | March 3, 2012

The Lost Jade Mines of the Maya

For a hundred years, archeologists searched for jade mines in Central America and Mexico, sources of the jade artifacts favored by Maya kings. Jade comes in green, of course, but white, yellow, orange, blue and gray as well; the Olmecs, a people preceding the Maya, liked blue. Jade, the stone of kings, belonged to Maya royalty and was valued more highly than gold, but since the time of the conquistadores, there have been no Maya kings. When anthropologists interviewed Maya elders in remote areas and asked about the location of jade mines, no one was talking.

Jade, harder than steel and tougher than any other mineral, is difficult to work, but a tool made of jade is virtually indestructible. Drop it or hammer it, without even a chip. Used as an axe, it holds its edge no matter what you hit with it. Jade’s tough, non-crystalline nature makes mining for jade by tunneling into a mountain impossible.

By contrast, gold often occurs as veins in quartz rock. While quartz is harder than jade, its crystalline structure makes it easy to break apart with a pick. Miners can use a pick and a shovel combined with explosives to extend the tunnel; the broken ore-bearing quartz can be crushed, and the gold can be melted out. The second way to find gold is as placer deposits in riverbeds. Heavy winter storms wash the gold from outcroppings and the gold drops to the bottom of the river, to be collected by miners by panning.

The only known sources for jade are rocks and boulders found in rivers. In fact, in Burma, workers find the jade in the murky water by feeling it with bare feet. In recent years, jade has been found in Guatemala.

Posted by: marjbicknelljohnson | February 10, 2012

Before 1492, th…

Before 1492, the Maya merchant class grew rich as they traveled along the coasts of Central America and the Caribbean Sea. In his ship’s log, Christopher Columbus described an encounter with a Maya trading ship that carried both passengers and cargo, a vessel as long as his galleon and powered by twenty-five pairs of rowers. The Maya valued chocolate and used cacao beans like money, and their rope, made from the fibers of a native cactus, was the best in the world until the invention of synthetic fibers. In fact, their cord was strong enough to carve jade, the toughest mineral in the world.

In the sixteenth century, the Spaniards with their guns and horses made an easy conquest of the Yucatán, even though the Maya resisted them with misinformation, ambushes, and traps. The Maya had a written language and valued books, an advanced culture not appreciated by the conquistadores, who wanted gold. 

Posted by: marjbicknelljohnson | February 2, 2012

Jaguar Princess

If you enjoy reading about the ancient Maya, you will enjoy my novel Jaguar Princess: The Last Maya Shaman by Marjorie Bicknell Johnson available at online retailers. The book, crafted from the unique geography, history, and culture of the Yucatan, takes you on an archaeological adventure. Chanla Pex, descendant of a Maya king, learns to read the Mayan glyphs and unearths an ancient bark book, a rare find, since they all were burned in 1562.  She uses her talents as a shaman to trace stolen Maya artifacts to the black market and becomes the Indiana Jones of the Yucatan.

Posted by: marjbicknelljohnson | January 31, 2012

December 21, 2012: The 13th Bak’tun

What will happen on December 21, 2012? There are many theories about what will happen at the end of our year 2012, when the Maya Long Count calendar reaches the 13th Bak’tun. Some scholars say that the Maya calendar will reset, others say it continues. Doomsday soothsayers predict disaster, while spiritualists expect an age of enlightenment. However, while the ancient Maya hieroglyphic texts say nothing at all about 2012, ancient kings celebrated the end of a Katun and erected monuments; bak’tun endings, much less frequent, were viewed as major times of change.


At the start of the 9th bak’tun, AD 435, the age of kings began and many new cities were established. In AD 830, the 10th bak’tun, the age of kings ended and many cities were abandoned. The 11th bak’tun, AD 1224, brought the abandonment of Chichen Itza and the rise of Mayapan with a new council form of regional government. The mighty Itza, last kingdom of the Maya, announced to the Spaniards in AD 1618 (12th bak’tun) that a great cycle had ended and that they were prepared for change.


Now, at the dawn of the 12th bak’tun, we can only guess how the Maya would have prepared. However, the ancient Maya believed that the turn of a bak’tun was not something to be feared but rather an opportunity for change in their lives.

Posted by: marjbicknelljohnson | January 25, 2012

The Mayan Calen…

The Mayan Calendar

January 1, 2012 was day in the Mayan numbering system, 324 days until the 13th Bak’tun, As you can see from writing the dates in Mayan, changing from the 12th to the 13th Bak’tun is much like changing the year from 1999 to 2000. However, the Maya would write the date December 22, 2012 as, the same as the day, August 12, 3114 BC, where one takes August 11, 3114 BC as the beginning date of the 12th Bak’tun.

The Mayan calendar system has four interlocking cycles: the Tzolk’in, the Haab, the long count, and the Lunar Series. The days given here are from the long count. The 260-day Tzolk’in, or sacred calendar, is the oldest calendar known in Mesoamerica, dating back to at least 600 BC. The Tzolk’in is still observed today among traditional Maya groups.

To learn more about the meanings of the sacred calendar’s days and calculate your own birthday, go to

Older Posts »