Stone of Kings: In Search of the Lost Jade of the Mayaby Gerard Helferich
A book perfectly timed for the re-setting of the Maya calendar in 2012.... Part history, popular science, armchair travel, and real-life treasure hunt, this is the story of pre-Columbian jadethe precious stone revered by ancient Aztecs, Incans, and Mayaand the scientists, collectors, explorers and entrepreneurs who have been searching for the mythical
A book perfectly timed for the re-setting of the Maya calendar in 2012.... Part history, popular science, armchair travel, and real-life treasure hunt, this is the story of pre-Columbian jadethe precious stone revered by ancient Aztecs, Incans, and Mayaand the scientists, collectors, explorers and entrepreneurs who have been searching for the mythical jade mines for more than a century. "A compelling tale.... This well-focused and well-told account brings America's most mythologized gemstone into sharp relief." Wall Street Journal "[T]he story of the search for the long-vanished mines of the Mayas . . . [with] engaging digressions into plate tectonics, the technology of jade carving and the brutal history of the regimes of a succession of Guatemalan generals. . . . [Prospectors] Ridinger and Johnson endured earthquakes, coups, kidnapping, even civil war. But eventually they stumbled upon huge blocks of the alluring, elusive stone." New York Times Book Review Selected as an Indie Next List "Great Read" "The search for the sources of this mysterious rock reads like detective fiction, and involves geologists, archaeologists, entrepreneurs, poachers, and a host of other characters, but it's all true. A wonderful read!" Michael D. Coe, author of Breaking the Maya Code
- Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Meet the Author
Gerard Helferich is the author of the widely praised Humboldt's Cosmos, which was a Discover magazine Science Bestseller; and High Cotton, which received the 2008 Authors Award for nonfiction from the Mississippi Library Association. He and his wife divide their time between Yazoo City, Mississippi, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
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This tendentious and often breathlessly overwritten book owes more to advertising than archaeology. Commissioned as a PR exercise, it owes more to Guatemalan tourist trap brochures than scientific accounts of how the lost jade mines of the Olmecs and Maya were rediscovered Smithsonian researchers first located jadeite in Guatemala's Motagua Valley in 1955, but the multi-million ton deposits of coarse and opaque stone discovered there little resembled the translucent gemstone the Olmecs and Maya revered. Though the Motagua valley material was the wrong stuff archaeologically speaking, jade is jade and the tourist trade soon seized on it as unique souvenir material. By 1974 an American entrepreneur had bought one deposit and begun buying that from may others from jade-gathering locals in the steamy and unvisited valley for a few cents a pound. Transported to the attractive highland city of Antigua, the rough jade was used to manufacture jewelry and tourist tschotkes for sale as far a field as Mexico. It was not a stone worth romancing, but credit is due for parlaying it into the basis of a unique tourist business. Unfortunately, Helferich has tried to conflate this commercial success story into one of high adventure, turning a tourist trap proprietor into a wannabe Indiana Jones. It just doesn't wash. While telling the unwary their jade comes from the 'quarry of the kings they ' discovered" in 1974, the great secret of the jade trade is that it has none- lowland jade gatherers hawk the same wares by the roadside for pennies a pound, and content to buy them , the Antigua dealers, including Heflerich¿s friends long remained clueless as to where the real lost mines lay- it took local people to find them by accident , and scientists to persuade them their archaeological significance often outweighed their commercial importance. Thanks to their amateur reading of bad geological maps, Helferich's friends failed to explore beyond the valley of the ¿quarry of the kings¿, and never fathom the true extent of a jade bearing region that extends not just south to Honduras , but east across the Caribbean into the Greater Antilles. The Olmec mother lode turned out to lie in mountains a province removed from the region customarily mined , and was only rediscovered after Hurricane Mitch tore away its cover in 1998. Helferich nonetheless uncritically repeats his hosts claim to have ¿rediscovered ¿ Olmec jade in 1987, albeit the ¿discovery¿ consisted not of a hard ¿rock deposit, but one river-worn ten inch cobblestone that was neither blue or translucent. Had they really made so important a discovery, it would have made archaeological headlines. It didn't happen. Since jade deposits run upwards of a thousand tons, their failure to market any ¿Olmec Blue ¿ suggests no actual outcrop was found-the lost Olmec Blue locale came to light instead in consequence of four decades of field work Despite his monocle and fedora JADES SA¿s vice-president is no hero of to the archaeologists and geophysicists who found-, confirmed, and published the lost mine¿s location in Antiquity in 2001. A long campaign of hype and commercial disinformation made his firm more a part of the Olmec jade problem than its solution.
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