After a brief query email, I received the following response and an email exchange commenced:


-----Original Message-----

From: Laughton, Timothy B []

Sent: Thursday, February 08, 2001 3:50 AM

To: John Jenkins

Subject: RE: Izapa trip



Dear Mr. Jenkins,

I am pleased to hear that you are still working on Izapa. I would be interested to see your new research and by all means send me the file.The thing is though that I am incredibly busy at the moment so I will not be able to give you a quick response.I note that the jpg is of the Group F ballcourt.The thing that worries me about this is that the monuments were reset there from the main group after it was abandoned and I am not sure how well the original meaning of the sculptures was understood by those who did it.When you are at Izapa don't forget that some of the monuments are in the museum in Tapachula (as well as Mexico City).Have a good trip.


Dr. Tim Laughton.

Department of Art History,

University of Essex,


Essex, CO4 3SQ, UK.

Phone 01206 873009


Before leaving for Izapa in late February, I wrote an essay on Izapa and designed a web page for it, hoping that during my absence Laughton would check it out and have something to say:


Hello Dr. Tim Laughton,


Inspired by your interest in my Izapa research, I created a web page that briefly summarizes, with some nice diagrams, the material I've already published on Izapan astronomy. Nothing here is new, except that it is more to the point, less labyrinthine, and therefore more accessible. I guess it's significant that my main thesis has survived five years of double-checking. In the interest of simplicity, I focus solely on the Group F monuments and have omitted large amounts of supportive material. It's only six pages, with many diagrams, so it shouldn't take long to read. I'm really hoping to receive some feedback or response. This is a closed web page created only for your use; there is a brief letter at the end. It is at: (It takes a moment for the images to load, but this was better than emailing you a 950K file!)



Regarding the resetting of the Group F monuments; yes, but how much later? And regardless of when, do not the monument's arrangements still reflect the intentions of those who put them there? Okay, enjoy the page. It's been 11 years since I walked Izapa last. I'll be returning March 11th. Thank you again for your interest,††††


John Major Jenkins



By early April I hadnít heard back; in the meantime I had acquired an interesting essay written by Laughton on the astronomy of Izapa; I commented to engage dialogue on this topic but did not respond to this email and by the 25th I had been laid off from netLibrary:


Hello Dr. Laughton,


I ordered and read with interest your essay in the Indiana Journal of Hispanic Literatures called "Izapa: A Preclassic Codex in Stone." It is an intriguing reading of the astronomical content of Izapa sculpture and possible ceremonial procession. If the summer solstice was significant, then perhaps the winter solstice horizon, though not marked by a volcano, would also have been of interest? After all, because of the site's 23 degree azimuth orientation to Tacana, then the perpendicular sight-line, towards which many of the monuments face, would be the December solstice sunrise horizon. According to my reading, a dialectic exists in Izapa sculpture that sets astronomical events occurring in "the north" (the rise and set of Ursa Major over Tacana) in opposition to events in "the south" (the convergence of the December solstice sun with the Milky Way, tracked over the December solstice horizon). I even extend the metaphor to the level of precessional movement; in fact, it seems to be all about precessional movement.


Before visiting Izapa last month I was honored to be able to meet with Marion Popenoe Hatch at her famous house in Antigua. We talked of her new discoveries at Abaj Takalik (which implicate precession), but, most importantly, she confirmed the likelihood of the following idea I had proposed in my book: The "fall" of Seven Macaw / Big Dipper is really about the increasing distance between the Big Dipper and the north celestial pole as caused by precession, which accelerated dramatically between 1500 BC and 100 AD. This northern precessional movement would then seem to "dialogue with" the rebirth of the solstice sun through the dark-rift in the Milky Way to the south. We might feel like these categories of north and south do not belong together (because it is not a true opposition astronomically).


However, we can't be sure that early Maya concepts didn't perceive this conflation of categories and directions as precisely elegant for their mythologizing needs. In fact, this astronomical dialectic appears to be told nicely in the Popol Vuh's story of the fall of Seven Macaw and the resurrection of One Hunahpu (who I have argue was the December solstice sun).


I understood this precession-caused "fall of the Big Dipper" by studying astronomy software several years ago; Hatch confirms its likelihood independently. In addition, have you seen the book Homer's Secret Iliad by Florence and Kenneth Wood? They also invoke this concept and read the Fall of Troy as its pseudo-historical mnemonic. Izapa was a thrill, though hot of course. I did not observe anything that changes my ideas as presented in Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. Have you read the brief summary I posted for your perusal, at I realize now that the MM 4 vertical pillar figure should face north. Apart from that, what do you think? Best wishes,


John Major Jenkins