New Orleans' Premier Hispanic Newspaper
Digging up Mysteries
SCIENCE CREATED ART:
A NEW WAY
TO INTERPRET ANCIENT WORK
By Katherine Hart
It began with the Aztecs. Charles
William Johnson was a sociology professor at the National University
of Mexico when he noticed similarities between the Aztec calendar
"What blew my mind in looking
at the pyramids and looking at the Aztec Calendar is that the proportion
are the same," recalls Johnson. The round calendar and the
Aztecís huge pyramidal buildings, he found, share the same geometric
patterns. That was 10 years ago. Johnson knows the exact date, for
it was the beginning of an intellectual odyssey.
Leaving his 22 years academic
career and his home in Mexico behind, he returned to his hometown
of New Orleans. Continuing the work he starred in Mexico, he has
produced volumes of analysis relating to the artwork created several
millennia ago. His work has crossed not only time but continents
and has delved into every field of study from linguistics to chemistry
Johnson, who has degrees in
Latin American Studies and Oriental studies from Mexican universities,
has been exploring the possible reckoning systems developed by the
Mesoamericans and the ancient Egyptians. Proving the mathematical
foundations of early artwork will help uncover the geometric relationships
within de artwork, he says.
"What Iím doing is digging
up the design behind the design," says Johnson, sitting on
a couch in his book-cluttered Harahan apartment. "My thesis
is that the designs came about because of math and geometry."
He maintains two websites that
receive about 1,500 hits a day. With a new site launch in February,
he plans to begin publishing his analysis of the geometry behind
the ancient artwork.
Johnson has waited 10 years
to make public his original theories on the geometry of the ancients,
time he has spent exploring how the past cultures reckoned time
and space. Throughout his work, he has tried to search as deeply
as possible into how they made sense of the world around them. "I
didnít want to put words in their mouths," he says.
The mysterious culture of the
Mesoamericans has fascinated scholars and casual observers alike.
When archaeologists and others study the buildings, hieroglyphics
and artifacts that these people left behind, they also search for
explanations of what Mesoamericans believed and how they lived.
Johnson says he tries to avoid
imposing his own interpretation on the Aztec, Maya and other cultures.
The danger, he says, is in interpreting early cultures in terms
of contemporary knowledge and values.
"We need to look at them
in a different light and see what they want to tell us, not what
we want to see," he says. "We need to stop looking at
the past as something devoted form us. We came from them. We came
from people who were very knowledgeable."
Some admirers of the Mesoamericans
speculate that they were on a higher spiritual plane, Johnson says,
while others see them as primitive. He himself views the ancients
simply as smart people who knew their math and enjoyed creating
Johnson is a self-taught mathematician.
Half-Mexican on his motherís side, he began college in Mexico when
he was a teenager. While visiting relatives there, he received a
scholarship. He stayed and spent the next three decades in Mexican
Until 1993, he worked as a researcher
at the National University of Mexicoís Institute of Social Research
and taught sociology in the same universityís School of Social and
In New Orleans, he works as
a bilingual interpreter and translator and does clerical work that,
he says, leaves his mind free to think. Mostly, he pursues his study
of the logic of numbers and ancient reckoning systems.
The mathematical formulas he
has uncovered relate to the forces of nature. The movement of the
sun, for example, is reflected in the choice and pattern of numbers,
according to his writings.
He has also found links between
the Mesoamericans and ancient Egyptians, not just in the pyramidal
structures but in the underlying math and in the languages they
spoke. In some cases, the languages had similar words to express
the same thoughts. The Maya called a storm kakh, while the Egyptians
called it kkakha-t, for example. And both used the 360-day calendar.
"In my mind, there is no
way the interconnectedness of all these numbers is by chance. The
Egyptian numbers fit perfectly into the Maya system," he says.
He does not offer an explanation for the similarities, except that
there must have been communication between the two cultures.
Ancient artwork had multiple
meanings, he surmises. The center of the Aztec Calendar may represent
a religious symbol, a geometric form, a mathematical equation and
artistic expression. "It is as though the ancient artwork was
designed as computer microchips, storing infinite amounts of data,"
Johnson details his theories
on his two Websites. One (www.earthmatrix.com)
contains his essays on the mathematical basis of the geometric designs
in ancient artwork. The other (www.the-periodic-table.com)
covers another aspect of his studies: a new periodic table of the
chemical elements that derives from his work on the Maya culture.
His table, based on the ancient
system of reckoning, is getting some attention from the scientific
community. Following his studies of past numbering systems, Johnson
took the periodic table, which has been in use for some 130 years
and which arranges the chemical elements according to their atomic
number, and reconceptualized it into what he calls schemata.
"The [traditional] periodic
table always bothered me," he says. "I would look at it
and wonder, why not have a sequential numbering system?"
He applied the Maya counting
method to the traditional periodic table and found it was relevant
to the progression of elements. Then he color coded the images to
reveal the patterns among the elements.
"Many new patterns and
subpatterns of symmetry are being revealed for the first time,"
writes the editor of the scientific journal BELS Letter,
Ann Morcos, about table. "For example, the placement of elements
71 and 103 are clarified with the schemata. This is a significant
advancement in knowledge; however, it is small when compared with
the numerous other relationships the schemata reveal."
For the past two years, Johnson
has presented his findings at the national meeting of analytical
chemists, called Pittcon, and he has been invited back to speak
this spring in Orlando.
The Internet, however, is the
primary vehicle for his work. He has not published in academic journals.
His work, he notes, crosses the traditional barriers between academic
Johnsonís research has led him
to believe such limits are artificial. "What we can learn from
this," he says, "is that we are all one, that everything