Did the Aztecs build three pyramids 1,000 years ago which are now underwater in Rock Lake, Wisconsin? That was the question explored in last night′s episode of America Unearthed, The Underwater Pyramids on the History Channel H2. Forensic geologist Scott Wolter heads to Lake Mills, WI, and discovers that not only may there be some pyramids in Rock Lake, but also a sea monster named Rocky! Can Scott find the pyramids without being eaten by the Wisconsin version of the Loch Ness monster? Will he solve the mystery of Rock Lake? Did the Aztecs travel this far north during their empire building days? Or could it be that the Aztecs actually lived in what is now America first, and migrated south to Mexico? Maybe this whole episode is just a lot of corn? Or should I say maize? Let us find out…!
Scott Walter arrives in Mills Lake, WI and meets Jeff Stockingner at the Tyrenena Brew-Pub. Tyenena is the ancient Indian name for Rock Lake and the pub offers several beers promoting the legends of Aztecs, pyramids and even Rocky, the local sea monster. Jeff tells Scott the story of two duck hunters who discovered the pyramids in the early 1900s. The three pyramids are elongated, about 20-30 feet high and about 100-150 feet long. Divers have been investigating them since 1937 and sensed that they were being watched by Rocky the sea serpent. Scott tells Jeff that he plans on investigating the pyramids with a submarine!
Speaking of which, Wolter next meets with Russel and Daniel Canfield (pictured above), owners of Fugusub. They build cute, little yellow one-man submarines and the word Fugu is Japanese for puffer fish. These subs are electric powered and can dive down to 100 feet. The pilot can leave the sub easily and scuba away for a closer look. and to take samples. The Canfield boys tell Scott they have heard of the legends and will need the rest of the day to prepare for a dive tomorrow. So Scott leaves and meets with Dr. Roberto Rodriguez, an expert on the Aztec connection.
Rodriguez works on the adage of ′Follow The Corn′. His investigations on early Native Indian migration has led him to an interesting hypothesis. Corn was created by natives of southern Mexico about 7,000 years ago. Corn grass was cultivated and progressed into what we now think of as corn or maize. The Aztecs were very big on corn, worshiping corn gods and goddesses, even offering human sacrifices to appease them for better crops. The doctor tells Scott something which startles him, that the Aztecs actually began in the United States and later moved south into Mexico. Wolter had assumed that the reverse was true, but Dr. Rodrigues has proof in some old maps.
Most telling is the map associated with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago of 1848, which ended the Mexican-American War. The official map shows an area marked off as ″Antigua Residencia de los Aztecas″, or Ancient Residence of the Aztecs. This rectangular area encompasses much of the Four Corners states of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Dr. Rodriguez believes that the Aztecs originated near the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Known as Aztlan, it means a place of herons or whiteness. The early Aztecs were well known as Pochetas, or merchants who traded throughout much of western North America. So, the question remains did they have any settlements as far east as Wisconsin? It could well be as many words used by Native American Indians are identical or similar to those used by the Aztecs. For example, Michocan, from which Michigan is derived.
The next day, Scott Wolter rejoins Russel and Daniel Canfield at Rock Lake and gets a lesson in how to operate the one-man Fugusub. After a few practice dives, Scott is ready. The subs are towed to the site by a small boat. Scott boards his and is underway, but he must be cautious as he has already run the batteries down quite a bit during his practice dives. Wolter goes underwater searching for the pyramids, but the water is murky. The visibility is awful and the lake bottom is quite muddy. Scott gets too close to the bottom and gets himself stuck in the mud. He succeeds in freeing himself, but the batteries are now really low and he′s forced to give up empty handed.
Wolter spends one more day in Wisconsin exploring another connection, this time at the Aztalan State Park. He meets with Bob Birmingham, a former Wisconsin state archeologist. Bob shows Scott a site where a fortified town once existed about 1,000 A.D.. Excavations of the site have been going on for about a century with many artifacts found. What is most telling is the general layout of the town, which matches the same as that used by the Aztecs. The town had three mounds, earthen pyramids, within the tall, thick walls of the town, with a fourth a short distance outside. Brimingham believes that the Aztalan Tribe may have been interlopers, intruders in the Wisconsin area, causing much conflict with the local natives. That there is a connection between the Aztecs and the Aztalans is nearly ubiquitous as both shared many common customs and beliefs, including human sacrifices to the corn gods. However, according to Brimingham, the Aztalans were derived from another tribe, the Mississippians. They were a powerful tribe whose reach extended from the Gulf of Mexico then north to the Great Lakes region. Their capital was a city in Missouri, Cahokia, near what is now St. Louis. Not only were the Mississippians mound builders, but they were also corn worshipers.
So this fascinating episode of America Unearthed, The Underwater Pyramids, is a perfect example why this series on the History Channel H2 is so popular. Even though the mystery of Rock Lake, with its legends of Aztec pyramids and a sea monster named Rocky were unsolved, we still learned something new anyway. That the Aztecs did not migrate north into the Four Corner regions of the United States from Mexico, but actually went the other way around, from America south to Mexico! Just how close a connection there may be between the Aztecs and the Aztalan Tribe of Wisconsin would largely depend on a connection between the Aztecs and the larger, Mississippian Tribe. All of whom were corn worshipers, holding maize as a scared plant. The mound building, as well as construction of large, elaborate towns and cities is also a common thread among them. Chalk one up for Scott Wolter!