This story was sent by so many of you that it bears some commentary. My problem in commenting about it, however, was which version of this story to select. But these two, from the UK's The Guadian and the USA's Newsweek will do as well as any:
There are a number of curious - and predictable - feastures of this story, which for our purposes we shall focus on The Guardian's presentation. The first, and most obvious, is the standard temptation to explain the unusual presence of mercury at the Pyramid of the Serpent in terms of the usual line that this was all about royal funery arrangements and "religion":
"Gómez speculated to Reuters that the mercury could be a sign that his team is close to uncovering the first royal tomb ever found in Teotihuacan after decades of excavation – and centuries of mystery surrounding the leadership of the cryptic but well-preserved city.
"The mercury may have symbolized an underworld river or lake, Gómez postulated, an idea that resonated with Annabeth Headreck, a professor at the University of Denver and the author of works on Teotihuacan and Mesoamerican art.
"The shimmering, reflective qualities of liquid mercury may have resembled “an underworld river, not that different from the river Styx,” Headrick said, “if only in the concept that it’s the entrance to the supernatural world and the entrance to the underworld.”
“'Mirrors were considered a way to look into the supernatural world, they were a way to divine what might happen in the future,' she said. 'It could be a sort of river, albeit a pretty spectacular one.'
"Joyce said that archaeologists know that scintillation fascinated the ancient people generally, and that the liquid mercury may have been regarded as 'somewhat magical … there for ritual purposes or symbolic purposes.'
"Headrick said that mercury was not the only object of fascination: 'a lot of ritual objects were made reflective with mica,' a sparkling mineral likely imported to the region."
Except, there's something of a fly in the ointment, or rather, perhaps a whole lot of flies, and that is simply that no recovery of a "royal tomb" has yet been discovered "after decades of excavation." In other words, in site of all the archaeological theory about rituals and mirrors and divination, the key piece of evidence that would confirm these ideas is utterly missing. It's rather like that inconvenient fact that no "king" or "queen" was ever found in the "King's Chamber" and "Queen's chamber" in the Great Pyramid. Indeed, the names of those interior structures inside the Great Pyramid were chosen in deference to the reigning archaeological theory. It was a convenient way of stamping the theory onto the structure in the absence of evidence to support it.
Now, I'm not saying for a moment that no tomb can or ever will be found under any of the pyramids of Teotihuacan. What I am saying is that one cannot rush to the decision that if such a discovery was made, that it would be contemporaneous to the civiliation that actually constructed the monuments (if monuments they were). Only careful dating of such a discovery, coupled with close argumentation, could establish this.
What disturbs me here, as it probably disturbed the many people who sent me various versions of this story, is the rush to impose the "standard" view of archaeology that the discovery of mercury, like mica, at Teotihuacan must have something to do with the primitive and mildly entertaining superstitutions of the "backward" people that built the site. What is nowhere entertained is the idea that the presence of such elements might indicate something far different about the structures, namely, that they may have been constructed as some sort of machine. Mercury is well known, of course, as a principal element in alchemical experiments. But it is also useful for experiments in plasmas, and a variety of other uses. Mica of course is useful as an electrical insulator and a dialectric.
It was the late Peter Tompkins, who was rumored to have intelligence connections, who put the problems posed by such things very plainly in his remarkable book, Mysteries of the Mexican Pyramids(Harper and Row, 1976):
"An unpublished find on the fifth level (of the Pyramid of the Sun) has never been adequately explained. While the Sun Pyramid was first being probed by Batres in 1906, an archeologist working with him reported a thick sheet of mica covering the top of the fifth body. This material was apparently carried away during the course of the restoration.
"Coincidentally, a 'Temple of Mica' was also found to the south of the Sun Pyramid about 350 meters down the Way of the Dead, where the local guard will still let one peek through a glass panel at the floor covered with mica slabs. Mica has two outstanding characteristics: high electrical resistance and opaqueness to fast neutrons. Hence it acts as as insulator or nuclear reaction moderator, which raises the question as to why two separate areas of Teotihuacan were covered with mica."(p. 202, emphasis added)
Tompkins is clearly implying, though stopping just short of explicitly stating it, that maybe the unusual presence of mica had less to do with presumed ritual, religious, or superstitous beliefs, and more to do with some unknown machine-like or scientific purpose. Given the huge redundant encoding of the mathematics of tetrahedral structures discovered at Teotihuacan by the American Harleston (documented at some length in Tompkins' book), one can only surmise that whoever built Teotihuacan had a thorough and sophisticated knowledge not only of astronomy but of mathematical structures, and this raises, to my mind at least, the possibility that a machine-like hypothesis for the Teotihuacan structures should at least be considered. At the very lest, the presence of mercury and mica, with their potential uses in nuclear technologies, should give even an archaeologist pause.
But then again, I'm not going to hold my breath either.
See you on the flip side...