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Stone of Kings: In Search of The Lost Jade of The Maya Hardcover – December 6, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (December 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762763515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762763511
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,148,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I never really thought much about jade, now I can think of little else. I'm anxious to revisit some museums with a new appreciation for Olmec and Mayan jade artifacts. In addition to an overview of the stone's importance in pre-hispanic cultures and the rare geological conditions required for true jade's formation, Stone of Kings follows various archeologists, adventurers and entrepreneurs as they search for jade in the Americas. From the suprising discovery of thousands of jade artifacts in Mexico and Central America to very recent discoveries, the mystery of its source is a facinating story. Highly recommended for armchair travellers, rock-hounds, history buffs, and anyone who enjoys a good story.
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Format: Hardcover
Gerard Helferich's book Stone of Kings is a wonderful mixture of archeology, geology, travelogue and treasure hunting. It begins with an overview of the Mayan and Olmec cultures of Mexico and Central America and the importance of jade in their socities. It moves on to explain some of the important finds made by archeologists in the late 1800's and early 1900's which began to reveal the incredible craftsmanship exhibited by the Mayan and Olmec artists particularly in the many jade objects they produced. An artistry which is even more amazing when one considers that jade is one of natures hardest minerals and that these societies had no modern metal tools. While jade was apparently a very important component of Mayan and Olmec religious ceremonies, the source of the jade was unknown until fairly recently. This book vividly describes how the persistence of two people, Jay Ridinger and Mary Lou Johnson, lead to the rediscovery of at least some of these ancient sources of jade and how their entrepreneurial sprit resulted in the reestablishment of jade carving as a skill in a country the Maya's had called home. All of this takes place while Ridinger and Johnson made their homes in a historic colonial city in the highlands of Guatemala during a period when they had to endure earthquakes, floods and political upheaval. So, on many levels I found this as very wonderful book to read and I would recommend it highly to anyone interested in the fascinating subjects it deals with.

Mathew Smith
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have visited mesoamerica many times and have spent quality time in many Olmec and Mayan sites referred to in this great book. As fascinating as I have found my past travels, I can't wait to revisit them with a new found appreciation for jade and jadeite. This book sheds an exciting new light on the subject.

The author has done his homework and framed his subject well. I'm pleasantly surprised at the way he is able to take what many may regard as a 'dry' subject and make it exciting. The way it's written should appeal to anyone who has even a modest interest in mesoamerica. For those of us who have a deeper interest in mesoamerican archaeology, it's a 'must read' in the style of an Indiana Jones thriller.

What's even more fascinating is that the search continues for further information about this mysterious and precious stone...and the possible connection to the ancient Chinese culture. We may never know all the answers, but the search can take on a life of its own as suggested in the pages of this fine work.

Good stuff!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There a good amount of particular history in this book. The first third of the book gives some good history, the second third gives more of the story of archiologist and their journey with little tidbits of history, and the remaining part of the book refers more on jade and the people finding it. I would say that the first half of the book was somewhat exciting to read, but towards the second half til the end, I couldn't wait to finish the book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Indiana Jones......Geologist? This book took me a while to get into, but once I was there, I was hooked! This story is about so much more than the stones themselves, it is the people, well-drawn and compelling, that really make this a winner! A Book club book I'd recommend to anyone.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wish we had this book available when we took a rapid tour of the precolumbian areas of Mexico and Guatemala in 1998.

I think the author did an excellent job of summarizing the history of the area as well as describing the recent "rediscovery" of the areas. Also, he delves into the geology of "jade" and the techniques of measuring various parameters, which I found interesting.

I had no idea what the green material, being shown in a local shop was at the time. We purchased an interesting mask and (assuming my mask really is jade) this book adds another dimension to my understanding of it.

John Rich
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well written, interesting information for anyone interested in Middle American history - especially the Mayan and Olmec times. Also for anyone interested in jade. Really explains what jade is. Never boring.
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