Lost Technology of Maya Civilization Discovered

Lost in the Rainforest, an Undiscovered Maya Structure Reveals New Evidence of Ancient Technology

Press Release

San Francisco, CA (April 22, 2012)— In 1995, James O’Kon shocked the archaeological world with the discovery of a massive, lost landmark of Maya engineering, the long span suspension bridge at the ancient city of  Yaxchilan in Mexico. Now considered to be the longest bridge of the ancient world, the structure was overlooked by scientists who had studied the site for more than a century. In his new book, The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology, O’Kon recounts the thrilling realization of his discovery and how he used modern methods to examine and prove the existence of the spectacular bridge.

The dugout canoe slid through the swirling waters of the Usumacinta River. Spider monkeys swung through the vines, and toucans and macaws flew amid the towering tropical rainforest. We were traveling downriver to the Maya city of Yaxchilan. Sitting in the bow, I did not realize that I would make a discovery that would change my life forever.

My first glimpses of the riverine city were tall palace structures high on green hills above the river. As we prepared to land on the south bank, I noticed a large ruined structure rising above the water. To the north, a similar, less defined structure was visible.

I said, “Hey, those two structures look like bridge piers. I think the Maya built a bridge across here.”

Impossible,” retorted the archaeologist behind me.

I turned to him and asked, “Why do you say that?

He replied “Because the Maya were a Stone Age culture, without the technological capabilities to build such complex structures.

Pointing to the hills, I said, “Who built those?

He said, “They are simply stone and mortar, typical of a stone age culture.

Author, lecturer, and award-winning structural engineer, James O’Kon PE has explored more than 50 remote Maya sites and researched Maya technological accomplishments for more than 40 years. Combing his talents as a forensic engineer with evidence gleaned from his archaeological investigations, he lifts the veil of mystery from the lost technology of the Maya.

Former chairman of the forensic council of the American Society of Civil Engineers, O’Kon used computers to integrate archaeological studies, aerial photos and maps to develop a 3-dimensional model and determine the exact positioning and dimensions of the bridge. What archaeologists had assumed was an insignificant rock pile turned out to be two piers 12 feet high and 35 feet in diameter, which supported a 600-foot-long, hemp rope span connecting Yaxchilan with its agricultural domain in the Peten, now Guatemala and where Tikal is situated––a breakthrough in Mayan history and culture.

The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology is an exciting documentation of O’Kon’s exploration, research, forensic engineering and virtual reconstruction of lost technological achievements that enabled the Maya to construct cities towering above the rainforest, water systems with underground reservoirs, miles of paved jungle tracks, and the longest bridge in the ancient world.

The Pile in the Usumacinta river thought to have possibly supported a suspension bridge at Yaxchilan (Source: Wikipedia)

Computer reconstructions derived from a 12-foot high and 35-foot diameter rock formation in the Usamacinta River near the site of Yaxchilan, which flourished between 500 and 700. A similar second structure was discovered in 1992. (Image Source)

He also explains how Maya engineers built multi-story buildings that were not exceeded in height until the first skyscraper erected in the U.S. in 1885, how they invented the blast furnace 2,000 years before it was patented in England, and developed the vulcanization of rubber more than 2,600 years before Goodyear.

About the Author: James A. O’Kon, P.E. is a professional engineer with decades of experience designing award-winning projects. His 40 years of investigating the engineering feats and technology of the Maya have been presented in numerous presentations to scientific symposia, and he was inducted into the Explorers Club as a National Fellow for his work on the Maya. His discoveries of the Maya have been recognized by National Geographic Magazine and on the History Channel, among other media.

Maya engineers invented cement 2100 years before the Europeans.
The grand cities of the Maya civilization were constructed of a strong durable building material that resisted the prying roots of the jungle, earthquakes, and hurricanes for over a millennium. This material was cast? in? place  concrete that was very similar to modern structural concrete, the most popular building material in contemporary construction. The cement produced by Maya Technicians was fabricated in a similar manner as today’s Portland cement. The Maya used limestone as the raw material and produced a thermodynamic reactor using a self?consuming timber assembly, similar to a blast furnace which elevated the temperatures of the timber fuel to 1600 degrees C. This temperature melted the limestone and produced the chemical reaction that converted the raw material into cement. This cement was the base material for producing the cast in place concrete that built the Maya civilization.

Feature Article:

Lost Technology of Maya Civilization Discovered

by James O’Kon

The century old question of how Maya engineers constructed their grand high-rise cities and other advanced technical feats have been a complete mystery to archaeology. Archaeologists studying the Maya Civilization have concentrated on the advanced sciences including astronomy as accurate as modem computing, elegant higher mathematics using only three symbols and one of the five original written languages on the planet. While the pure sciences have been glorified by archaeology, the Technology of the Maya has been totally neglected. Now the mysteries of Maya technology have been revealed by Archaeo-engineer James O’Kon in his book: The lost secrets of Maya Archaeology. His revelations of surprising Maya technical achievements were uncovered by exploration of ancient Maya cities deep in the rainforest.

The Maya were a science based civilization that dwelt in the rainforest of the Yucatan peninsula. The Maya developed a scientific civilization in the total isolation this tropical hot land, their civilization was inspired by a cosmic philosophy that venerated time and the glory of the universe. The Maya civilization was the longest lived in the history of the planet. The civilization extended from 1800 BC to 900 AD, it ended when the civilization mysteriously collapsed and the grand cities were abandoned to the rainforest.

The Maya civilization was unknown to the world until rediscovered in 1839 and celebrated in a series of books by John Lloyd Stephens. In the last 171 years the Maya civilization has become popular and extensive archaeological efforts have been expended on discovery, excavating and consolidating the ruined cities while assembling their history and breaking the code of their complex written script.

Archaeology has concentrated on the art, architecture and the sciences of the civilization and has totally neglected the advanced technology that constructed the grand cities, water systems, roads and bridges . All are amazed at the exotic architecture, tall structures, and infrastructure of their grand cities. Regardless of the obvious technological wonders that were constructed by Maya engineers. Archaeologists consider the Maya to be a Stone Age people; because they did not possess metal tools. Due to this “Stone Age” mindset archaeology has totally neglected the  study of Maya technology. Archaeologists are trained in anthropology and art history and are not schooled in science or technology. They do not recognize the brilliant technology that the Maya used that constructed their grand cities, infrastructures, paved roadways and long span bridges. The study of Maya  technology was an open field when James O’Kon began his quest for the truth.

The author is a professional civil and forensic engineer who has studied the ancient cities of the Maya for over forty years. His professional experience and scientific training has enabled him to recognize the advanced technology the Maya used to construct their cities, construct water management systems, build paved highways, and construct the longest bridge in the ancient world. His inquires to archaeologists were answered by folk tales about Maya capabilities with a comment that they were not capable of technical feats because they were only a “Stone Age” culture.

This attitude became a challenge and initiated his quest to search out and identify Maya technical capabilities. His quest has been fulfilled; he has identified numerous examples of Maya technology throughout the domain. His investigation included field investigation, remote sensing, and forensic engineering analysis using digital tools to virtually reconstruct lost technology with three?dimensional software.

His discoveries, analysis and detailed technical methodology are the topic of the book. His narrative recounts the thrill of discovery and the adventure of his quest. The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology have been identified and their capabilities proven using scientific tools including thermodynamics, physics, chemistry, structural mechanics, hydraulics, and geology.

The book details field discoveries and scientific proof of Maya technical skills including:

  1. Astronomical calculations of the end date: December 21, 2012 and what it really means
  2. Fabrication of jadeite tools that are harder than steel
  3. Fabrication of cement using blast furnace technology, 1850 years before it was patented in Europe
  4. Development of cast-in-place concrete building materials and structural mechanics that introduced high?rise long span structures to the grand Maya cities.
  5. Development of water management system to collect, store and distribute water for the grand cities
  6. Construction of wide, all-weather, concrete paved roads elevated a above the jungle floor
  7. Invention of the vulcanization of rubber 2600 years before Charles Goodyear was born
  8. Construction of long span bridges including the longest span in the ancient world
  9. Development of man powered transport that is more efficient than beasts of burden
  10. Design and construction of large sea going cargo vessels that enhanced their trade capabilities

O’Kon describes the history of the Maya, their rediscovery, their motivation for scientific and numerous technological breakthroughs, concluding with the collapse of the Maya civilization. The over populated cities depended on advanced technology for water supply and agriculture, so when a cataclysmic natural disaster enveloped the Yucatan Maya technology failed them, the civilization was decimated and doomed.

As we can see, the Maya were an extremely advanced society that archeologists have been looking at wrongly, classifying it as a more primitive “stone age” society when they were really much more than that. The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology uncovers this fascinating history and sheds light on how archeologists may even be looking at other civilizations the wrong way as well.

Book Description and Comments

The Maya have been an enigma since their discovery in the mid- 19th century. Maya science developed an elegant mathematic system, an incredibly accurate astronomy, and one of the world’s five original written languages. This technology was more advanced than similar European technology by more than a thousand years.

In this book, you’ll see how James O’Kon, a professional engineer, synergistically applied field exploration, research, forensic engineering, and 3-D virtual reconstruction of Maya projects to discover lost Maya technological achievements. These lost principles of technology enabled Maya engineers to construct grand cities that towered above the rainforest, water systems with underground reservoirs for water storage, miles of all-weather paved roads tracking through the jungle, and the longest bridge in the ancient world.

Maya engineers developed structural mechanics for multi-story buildings that were not exceeded in height until the first “skyscraper” built in Chicago in 1885, invented the blast furnace 2,000 years before it was patented in England, and developed the vulcanization of rubber more than 2,600 years before Charles Goodyear. Discover a host of unknown wonders in The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology.

  • The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology reveals what a scientifically advanced people the Maya really were. Relying on his background as a professional engineer, James O’Kon is able to analyze Maya architecture and write about it with the scientific terminology it truly merits. The book places Maya engineers shoulder to shoulder with the Romans or any other ancient culture one could compare them against. As an archaeologist with 20+ years of field experience, this book opened my eyes to Maya scientific achievements that I would previously not thought possible.”  –Edwin Barnhart, Ph.D., archaeologist and Director of Maya Exploration Center
  • “James O’Kon’s book addresses a neglected field, and his wide-ranging discussion sheds new light on many aspects of Maya studies. His training as an engineer keeps the book focused on reality. His writing is full of sudden insights…when he gets to the nitty-gritty of real science, this book shines. The final chapter addresses the engineering flaws that led to their fall…they pushed their environment too far.”  –Mark Van Stone, Ph.D., author of 2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya
  • “Great introduction to the unrecognized technological achievements of the Maya. This was my first introduction to Maya tool making. I found those chapters very interesting. Very informative well written and provided me with new material on Maya technology.”  –Thomas L. Sever, Ph.D., NASA Archaeologist

About the Author

James A. O’Kon, P.E. is a professional engineer with decades of experience designing award-winning projects. He has also spent 40 years investigating Maya engineering feats and lost Maya technology. His investigations have taken him to more than 50 remote Maya sites. He has delivered numerous scientific papers to scientific symposia dealing with Maya technology. He was inducted into the Explorers Club as a National Fellow for his work on Maya technology. A resident of Atlanta, he is currently an expert witness on construction failures and a problem-solving consultant to global corporations when he is not in the rainforest. Read more about him at www.theoldexplorer.com


James O’Kon, P.E. has pursued a lifelong passion for Maya archaeology and he has combined his unique professional engineering experience with the search for lost Maya technology. He has applied his engineering talents to explore and investigate Maya sites located deep in the dense rainforest. Traveling by dugout canoe, hacking his way through the tangled jungle while fighting off millions of insects and sleeping in tents, his search went on for lost secrets of Maya technology. With the collected field data he was able to utilize digital tools, along with his creative engineering skills, to verify feats of Maya engineering and virtually reconstruct the mysteries of Maya engineering technologies.

His interest in archaeology began while playing in the Civil War trenches covering the hills near his boyhood home in Atlanta where rusted military armament and wasted shot was easily found on the battlefield sites. His early reading interest included classic books dealing with the Spanish Conquest and the rediscovery of the Maya civilization which stimulated his interest in archaeology. His student days at Georgia Tech were filled with learning the technology of modern civil engineering. His college experience at Georgia Tech produced a problem-solving engineer with writing and illustration skills. His athletic training at Georgia Tech gave him the strength and stamina to endure arduous jungle expeditions.

After several years of experience as a structural engineer designing aerospace structures like rocket launch towers and vertical assembly buildings, he elected to take a yearlong sabbatical to live in Spain. Visiting ancient European cities was an exciting experience for a young man who grew up in Atlanta, the only American city that was ever completely destroyed by war. Just the sight of a building constructed before 1865 was a thrill. Returning to the USA he resumed his career as an engineer for several years until the Maya ruins called to him and he and his family headed south of the boarder, in a VW camper, through Mexico and into British Honduras where he explored and lived among ancient Maya cities for a year. This is when he first felt an affinity with the Maya engineers that had constructed these wondrous cities. He had questions about their construction that could not be answered by archaeologists. This began his quest for the truth surrounding the brilliant Maya engineering technologies.

Returning to the United States, he worked in New York City designing landmark structures, like the Roosevelt Island Tramway, aviation projects and aerospace structures. In 1973 he returned to Atlanta to operate a branch office of the firm he worked for in New York. He subsequently bought the firm in 1977 and expanded the practice to include architecture and design in addition to engineering. He led this firm to develop a national reputation for designing award-winning aviation facilities, and his ability to think outside the box enabled him to become a forensic engineer in the investigation of high profile building failures.

His investigation of Maya technologies continued parallel to his creative design projects. He often traveled to the Yucatan to explore remote Maya sites. His breakthrough revelation in Maya engineering projects was the discovery of the ruins of a Maya suspension bridge over the Usumacinta River at the ancient Maya city of Yaxchilan. This is the river that divides Mexico from Guatemala and the discovery and proof of the existence of this Maya bridge is the topic of this History Channel production. Additional investigation revealed other examples of Maya technology that are outstanding examples of engineering achievements that the Maya utilized a thousand years in advance of European technology.

His discoveries in Maya technology have been recognized in National Geographic Magazine and the monthly magazine the American Society of Civil Engineers, Civil Engineering, in addition to other scholarly publications. He has been invited to deliver numerous scientific papers dealing with his discoveries in Maya technology at international scientific and archaeological symposia.

His civil engineering education at Georgia Tech and an advanced degree from New York University gave him an excellent background for his professional career which has been devoted to bringing high-tech science to engineering. He is a registered Professional Engineer in over 15 states and has developed new computer techniques for engineering design and new methodologies for investigating distressed structures. This experience gave him the ability to “reverse engineer” complex distressed buildings and identify the cause of the distress. This same experience has enabled him to discover, dissect, analyze and reconstruct lost Maya technologies. He brought all these special talents to the research and writing of his book, The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology.

Relevant Links

Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from THE LOST SECRETS OF MAYA TECHNOLOGY© 2012 James O’Kon. Published by New Page Books a division of Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ. 800?227?3371. All rights  reserved.



  1. Bonni says

    Sorry but I’m not following. 12ft tall columns that are 35ft in diameter? So these are broad, squat and designed for a bridge that only needs to be 12ft about the ground? Was there 7ft deep water? Those measurements have to be backward.

  2. Ab Asaff says

    I believe James O’Kon knows what he is talking about. Not only does he have the credentials, it appears he was diligent in doing his home work. Looking forward to an intriguing and enlightening read.


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