Evidence of Pre-Columbian Contact Between the Maya and Igbo Cultures

Mayan Cross, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

When the first Spanish explorers and missionaries arrived to the Yucatán Peninsula in the early 16th century, they were astounded to find wooden crosses exactly proportionate to the Catholic cross scattered throughout the Mayan countryside. 

Mayans would plant their sacred crosses, usually painted blue or green along roadsides, in the yards, courtyards, and on their monuments. They were constructed of the sacred Ceiba tree that the Mayans associated with the Tree of Life. According to Mayan cosmology, it was the tree that grew at the center of the universe. 

Among Igbo people, the largest known example of an Igbo pyramid was a mound of earth piled up to the lower branches of a large rainforest tree, so that the tree appears to be growing out of the mound. As for the Igbo people, so for the Maya, the sacred tree represented the connection between the cosmos and the human being, and was therefore often planted on pyramid platforms or even atop pyramids.

Since the time of Columbus, religious studies scholars and historians as well Christian believers have had great difficulty in accepting or explaining the Mayan cross. While orthodox scholarship struggles with the meaning and dramatic implications of the Mayan cross and refer to it as a "World Tree," most followers of Western Christianity do not understand why it appears in the Mayan culture and thus ignore it. The great difficulty for scholars, and all others who have examined the evidence, is why the Maya possessed a symbol that is so naturally associated with the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

Where and how does the connection lie with the Christian experience?

Archaeological and historical evidence indicates that the concept of a crucified solar deity is not only found in Christian tradition. In fact, the Maya venerated Kukulcan (known as Quetzalcoatl among the Aztec), a solar deity often depicted crucified on an equal armed cross (see photo). The intricately carved wooden cross of the Maya, also known as the "Cross of the Four Flowers," or "Foliated Cross," has merged indigenous motifs and forms of the Mixtec and Aztec traditions as well into the Spanish-Christian tradition. A crucified solar deity is also known from Greek mythology. Ixion, the son of Antion and Perima and king of Thessaly, was often depicted chained on a encircled cross (also called "fiery wheel").

However, what is most important to our research, is that the whole series of symbols found on the Mayan cross represents a direct link between Mayan and Igbo cultures. First and foremost, the sacred mathematical concept of the number four and its multiples, originated in West Central Africa more than 30,000 years ago, and used in African divination systems such as Afa and Ifa etc.

Moreover, the Sacred Quaternary, or encircled cross, is the most powerful and widespread sacred symbol throughout West Central Africa. The cross in a circle, used regularly in representations of Jesus Christ, is the traditional Igbo symbol of the Ozo initiates of Igboland. The Nze na Ozo society is the most important magico-religious and social grouping in Igbo society. The members of this society are the Christs among Igbo people. They do not commit sin, or tell a lie, or do any wrong to another human. They are the judges and Durus (“Lords of the society”).

Photos: Ozo man's titled door - Credit H. M. Cole, 1973 (left); Mayan Foliated Cross (right)

It should therefore come as no surprise that the Mayan Foliated Cross is a symbol commonly found on the Ozo titled man's door and panels.

Last but not least, on the Mayan cross we also find one of the most significant symbols of all Igboland, the symbol of the Mother Goddess, “Mgba Nnechukwu,” which is also the Sumerian pictograph for the "Garden of Eden," represented by the Cross (X) with sides joined into a square or rectangle.

An X inside a square is also the pictograph for the Sumerian word "Ma-Gan" Ma (X) and Gan (square) both designate the Rising and the Setting points of the Sun, whose hieroglyph is the crescent moon enveloping the sun disc as eternally represented in the Lejja Table of the Sun in Enugu State. The ancient Sumerian pictograph/hieroglyph for the word "MA" designates the square Lake where the Sun sets, which is the Oma-mbala Lake in Anambra State, Nigeria. By this eternal symbol, the Sumerians provided the proof that the Garden of Eden is in Nigeria.