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Digs

May 2024
1min read

As an armchair archaeologist of many years’ standing, I thoroughly enjoyed the lambasting Dean R. Snow provided Barry Fell, Cyrus Gordon, Immanuel Velikovsky, Erich von Daniken, et al. in his article. However, one statement of Dr. Snow’s drove me to the bookshelf for William H. Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Mexico , the definitive work on this subject—for my generation, at least.

Dr. Snow’s statement was, “The Mexican god Quetzalcoatl, whom Spanish missionaries belatedly equipped with light skin and a beard in order to convert him to Jesus Christ. …” In his chapter on Mexican mythology, Prescott cites two extant codices and several firsthand accounts for the myth describing Quetzalcoatl as being tall in stature with a white skin, long, dark hair, and a flowing beard. According to Prescott, one of the reasons a handful of conquistadors was able to conquer a mighty nation was that the Aztecs strongly suspected Cortes of being Quetzalcoatl returned!

Incidentally, von Daniken is by no means the first to credit Quetzalcoatl as being more than a mere god in the Aztec pantheon. In a fascinating footnote, Prescott tells of a certain Dr. Siguenza (dates not given) who identified this god as the apostle Thomas, who, he supposed, came to America to preach the gospel!



Dean Snow replies: It is, of course, quite true that Quetzalcoatl was an important figure in preconquest Mexico. Moreover, the appearance of the Spanish at a critical point in the fifty-two-year calendrical cycle certainly contributed to the willingness of Montezuma to believe that Quetzalcoatl—in the person of Cortés—had come back to haunt him.

The notion that Quetzalcoatl was additionally supplied with some European characteristics after the conquest is not a new one. Unfortunately, it is also one that has not been sufficiently explored.

Prescott was an early leader in the field, one of the sources that got me into this business in the first place. Much of what he said still holds, but there have also been some refinements in our understanding over the last century.

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