The Monumental Pyramid at Koh Kher, Cambodia
The other night I caught a few minutes of a Chinese film which featured two men preparing a body for a funeral. "Don't forget to put jade in his mouth" one character said to the other. This Asian custom has an identical parallel in Central America, where the Maya used to place a jade bead in the mouths of deceased kings, such as Pakal. But the similarities do not end there. Both cultures built pyramids at around the same time. For many years historians, anthropologists and archaeologists have been piecing together the origins of Native Americans. Piece by piece, the jigsaw puzzle became clearer, and it is certain they mostly came from Asia. I say mostly because there is ample evidence that the Americas were not home to a single migration event, but New World shores were washed by several waves of humans from other continents, beginning at least 13,000 years ago, perhaps even earlier. Questions left unanswered on a global scale, regarding who the people were, where on the map they came from, are increasingly being resolved at the microscopic scale, which has shown DNA links between Asian people and Native Americans. Ongoing DNA studies has shown human links between Peru, Japan, and other Asian regions (more here and here). DNA from domesticated animals, parasites, plants and crops can sometimes suggest surprising links.
Many pseudo-historians point to the seeming parallel between the pyramids of Egypt and the pyramids of Central America as 'proof' of contact. They conveniently overlook the construction dates: Mayan and other Meso-American pyramids were built in the first millennium AD; i.e., more than two thousand years after the Egyptians. Many New World pyramids were rebuilt in layers, the new pyramid using an older pyramid as a foundation. However, there are pyramids built in Asia in the 10th century AD, such as the one at Koh Kher, pictured below, which are contemporaneous with adobe pyramids built by the Sican culture of Peru, which flourished for 600 years from about 750AD; some Meso-American pyramids date from a slightly earlier time. There is another Angkorian pyramid, steeper but smaller, very near the main Angkor Wat complex, that bears a similarity to the Mayan pyramid at Tikal. However, extreme caution must be exercised before extrapolating the theory one culture influenced the other; it has been suggested the pyramid is a stable and basic form of construction that probably evolved independently on various continents. But, along with the growing body of DNA evidence (especially that recently published by Japanese scientist Dr Ken-ishi Shinoda - more here), and other linguistic and archaeological clues, it is becoming clear such links existed.
I am not a scientist, and its safer to leave it them to prove or disprove everything, but the striking similarity between Meso-American pyamids and Koh Kher is quite uncanny. Food for thought...
'Monumental' is the only word I can think of to describe the Koh Kher pyramid. Built by a father/son dynasty, and for a short time an Angkorian capital, it is surrounded by other stone ruins worthy of a visit in their own right. But Koh Kher (alternatively spelt Koh Ker) receives few vistors today. Although it is close to the tourist Mecca of Angkor Wat, visiting it has become easier only recently with the inauguration of a new road through jungle and land-mine zones. Below you can see a gigapan, a "zoomable" image, revealing an amazing level of detail, made up of scores of smaller photographs stitched together by computer (the same technology used by NASA to stitch together mosaics of photos from Mars landing probes). Another gigapanic view of the pyramid from in front, click here. On the day I visited the stairs were closed due to their bad state of repair. Even with the better road access, few tourists bother to make the day trip out to Koh Kher (a separate ticket needs to be purchased) which is a pity, because the pyramid and nearby stone ruins are simply breathtaking.
Image and article copyright © 2011 Glen David Short