"A compelling tale.... This well-focused and well-told account brings America's most mythologized gemstone into sharp relief." —Wall Street Journal "[A] great pre-Columbian civilization takes center stage in Gerard Helferich's Stone of Kings . . . the story of the search for the long-vanished mines of the Mayas and their predecessors, the Olmecs . . . [with] engaging digressions into plate tectonics, the technology of jade carving and the brutal history of the regimes of a succession of Guatemalan generals. . . . [Prospectors] Ridinger and Johnson endured earthquakes, coups, kidnapping, even civil war. But eventually they stumbled upon huge blocks of the alluring, elusive stone." —New York Times Book Review "This is an absorbing and exciting story about a stone that ancient Mesoamericans prized above gold. The search for the sources of this mysterious rock reads like detective fiction, and involves geologists, archaeologists, entrepreneurs, poachers, and a host of other characters, but it's all true. A wonderful read!"—Michael D. Coe, author of Breaking the Maya Code "While others were anticipating the dubious 2012 Long Count apocalypse, Gerard Helferich was chasing an answer to a much more interesting Maya mystery—where had the legendary Maya jade come from? Stone of Kings is a rare creature in the world of adventure literature: equal parts fascinating travelogue, rich history, and good old-fashioned detective story."—Mark Adams, author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu "Stone of Kings is a well-written and fascinating book that tells the full story of Mesoamerican jade. In today's world jade is a highly prized gemstone, but for the ancient Maya and other pre-Columbian Mesoamerica civilizations, jade was the most precious and powerful substance in the universe. Against the backdrop of the rise and fall of these civilizations, and a history of conquest, revolution, and civil war, Gerard Helferich describes how archaeologists, geologists, adventurers, and entrepreneurs rediscovered the long lost source of Mesoamerican jade. He also tells us how this discovery led to the rebirth of the art of jade carving in Guatemala, the original homeland of both jade and the Maya people." —Robert Sharer, author of The Ancient Maya"In Stone of Kings, Gerard Helferich finally demystifies jade in the Americas. From the other-earthly blues of Olmec times to the apple-green translucent jades of the Classic Maya, this book is a gripping travelogue through time and the mysterious backcountry of Guatemala, where fabulous discoveries of this most exotic and highly treasured stone of the New World have recently been made." —David W. Sedat, Founding Director, The Copan 2012 Botanical Research Station "This is a delightful and exciting book. It has a perfect mix of science and adventure, plus a fascinating cast of real characters, the jade hunters themselves. Recommended to anyone who likes tales of archaeology mixed with adventure—and vice versa!"—Arthur Demarest, author of Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization "Synthesizing the works of geologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians, this book is a highly readable and fascinating description of the search for jade in Mesoamérica from ancient times to the present. Helferich intertwines this story skillfully with the political and economic history of Guatemala and with the crucial role that entrepreneurs Jay and Mary Lou Ridinger of Antigua Guatemala played in this process."—Ralph Lee Woodward, author of A Short History of Guatemala"An engrossing read that should be enjoyed by the general public and scholars alike."—Jeremy A. Sabloff, President, Santa Fe Institute "Fusion of geological treatise and adventure yarn, exploring the mysteries of Central American jade…. Helferich delivers a lively narrative…. Engaging cross-cultural tale of ancient peoples and modern desires." —Kirkus Reviews
From the Inside Flap
Long prized as one of the most precious substances on earth, jade has been used to adorn kings, cure disease, and perform sacred rituals, including human sacrifice. For millennia, it played a crucial role in the culture of the Maya and other ancient Americans, who treasured it above all things. But the Spanish lusted after gold and silver, and within fifty years of the Conquest, the sources of Maya jade had been forgotten. Centuries later, archaeologists excavating Maya cities uncovered stunning jades carved with the images of gods and kings, evoking all the mystery and power of a bygone civilization. But where had the stone come from? Some guessed China, others Atlantis—but no one could say for sure, because for the only time in history, a civilization's most valuable resource had been lost. This is the story of the gripping, 400-year search for the lost sources of this precious stone. A vivid tale of great rulers, renowned archaeologists, gifted scientists, unlettered prospectors, and hopeful entrepreneurs, Stone of Kings melds history, popular science, and armchair travel into a real-life, high-stakes treasure hunt for the astonishing Maya jade.