The Quest for the Lost Tomb of Chan Bahlum
Where: The Explorers Club
46 E. 70th St.
212-628-8383 Price: $25
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The ancient Maya culture of Central America has fascinated scholars and the general public alike for more than 175 years since the pioneering explorations of Catherwood and Stephens in the 1840s. With soaring temple pyramids and exquisite sculpture and hieroglyphic inscriptions, the mysteries of the Maya stimulate the imagination in ways unparalleled by most other pre-Columbian civilizations of the western hemisphere. Since his very first visit to Palenque in southern Mexico in 1995, archeologist Jim Turner has sought to plumb the depths of this enigmatic culture in an attempt to elucidate the sublime sophistication of their constructions and the stunning accuracy of their astronomical knowledge.
During a seemingly unrelated adventure in 1996 on Robinson Crusoe Island off the coast of Chile, Jim stumbled upon a megalithic monument larger than the Egyptian Sphinx which depicted the Mayan Sun God and a crouching jaguar, the two central images depicted in Palenque’s Temple of the Sun. Assuming it to be the work of the ancient Palenque king Chan Bahlum, Jim has spent the last 20 years patiently unravelling the secrets of this monumental masterpiece. As perhaps the most famous of all Maya kings, Pakal the Great was buried upon his death in his famous tomb deep within the Temple of Inscriptions by his son Chan Bahlum who inherited the throne and presided over a Golden Age of art and architecture that has caused Palenque to be considered the crown jewel of Maya cities. But Chan Bahlum’s burial chamber, often referred to as the “Holy Grail of Mayan Archeology”, has never been identified despite decades of excavations within each of his temple pyramids. This lecture will detail the evidence that suggests Chan Bahlum is entombed behind his funerary monument on the quasi-mythical Island of the Jaguar Sun.
With the knowledge of the distant island monument guiding his research, Jim was able to reverse-engineer an interpretation of the Palenque hieroglyphic inscriptions and reveal an unknown dimension of geographical knowledge and scientific accuracy hitherto unrecognized for an ancient civilization. Beyond the technical and navigational abilities required just to travel the 3,000 miles to the treasure island, the Maya demonstrated their mastery of astronomy by positioning the monument at a location that witnessed the final total solar eclipse of 2012 a mere one degree above the ocean horizon at sunset at the end of a 5,000-year calendar cycle. The astounding precision of their prediction of this eclipse is essentially beyond even our most advanced science of the present day. And it is the eclipse geometry incorporated into the island monument as well as in the temple complex of Chan Bahlum in Palenque that elicits the elegant solution to the mystery of the location of his hidden burial chamber. Building on new data from his eighth expedition to the island in December 2016 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the monument’s discovery, Jim will publicly reveal for the first time the likely location of the entrance to the tomb of Chan Bahlum.
Jim Turner has a Masters degree in Mesoamerican archeoastronomy and is the founder and Principal Investigator of STRATA Cultural Resource Management, an archeological consulting firm based in New York. He has conducted more than 100 archeological investigations across New York State and has identified dozens of sites ranging from 4,000-year-old Archaic ceremonial caches to more recent Revolutionary War-era sites. He flies a Phantom drone and utilizes a Makerbot 3D printer to help image and model the aspects of some of his discoveries. He is also an avid eclipse chaser with visits to 9 different countries to witness these rare astronomical events with his most recent trip in August 2017 to Cerulean, Kentucky where he positioned himself along the centerline at the Point of Greatest Eclipse. He is currently planning his ninth expedition to Robinson Crusoe Island where he hopes to fly a drone-mounted infrared camera and use a remote inspection camera to reveal for the first time in over 1,300 years the interior of the tomb of Chan Bahlum.Buy tickets/get more info now