v. Maya Cosmogenesis
Was the same interest in Cygnus to be found in other parts of the American continent? Archaeologist Marion Popenoe Hatch excavated the Olmec site of La Venta, in the Tabasco province, at the beginning of the 1970s and determined that the site's fluted pyramid, built c. 1000 BC, was aligned towards the stars of both Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) and Sadr (gamma Cygni) the central star in Cygnus, these were used in conjunction with each other to determine the time of the summer solstice, a tradition she traces back to 2000 BC. The symbol in Mayan texts used to represent Cygnus she has identified as the cross bands glyph, which appears also on much earlier Olmec statues of the were-jaguar. This, she suspects, signifies the starry sky.
Cygnus can be seen as a key constellation in Olmec and Mayan astronomy, a point previously unrecognised by everyone but Popenoe Hatch. It features also as the beautiful bird Seven Macaw, who sits atop the World Tree in Maya tradition. This can easily be interpreted as the Milky Way, as is shown by American academics David Freidel, Linda Schele and Joy Parker in their fabulous work Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman's Path, published in 1993.
Moreover, Cygnus's location adjacent to the stars of Sagittarius and Scorpio, where the ecliptic (the path of the sun), crosses the Milky Way, makes it an important feature in the eschatological phenomenon associated with the birth of the new sun at the climax of the Maya Long Count calendar on 21 December 2012. The sun will emerge at this time at a point that aligns with the visual position of galactic centre, something which some modern researchers feel the Maya were aware of somehow. In ancient Mexican cosmology, the sun was seen as an egg that comes from a crack which opens in a cosmic mountain, and this can be equated with the Milky Way's Great Rift, the dark region caused by interstellar dust clouds where new stars are born. This begins at Cygnus and continues on down to Sagittarius and Scorpio, where it opens out to form the point of emergence of the new sun.