Pre-Columbian Murals and Norse Sagas Suggest Vikings Met the Aztecs, and the Outcome Was Not Pretty

Pre-Columbian Murals and Norse Sagas Suggest Vikings Met the Aztecs, and the Outcome Was Not Pretty

Did the Vikings visit Pre-Columbian Mexico? The depiction of white people on Chichen Itza murals in the Temple of the Warriors probably represent Vikings - the major European navigators around the time this temple was built. This suggests the tradition of the “White Lords” who had visited Mexico before the Spanish were the Vikings.

Norse Sagas Discussing Voyages that May Have Landed in Mexico

Hans Ebeling published the book ‘Die Reise in die Vergangenheit III. Die Europäer gewinnen den Erdball. Geschichte der Neuzeit bis’, in 1789. In his text, Ebeling talked about how Moctezuma II welcomed Hernán Cortés as Quetzalcoatl. Guðrún Guðmundsdóttir and Björn Thorsteinsson translated Ebeling’s book into Icelandic. They discussed the Eyrbggia saga in the epilogue. This saga mentions two possible Vikings who may have sailed to the Yucatan region of Mexico - Gudleif Gudlaugson (c.1025 AD) and Björn Breiðvíkingakappi (c.965).

Guðmundsdóttir and Thorsteinsson claim that the Eyrbyggja saga describes how Björn Breiðvíkingakappi (Björn the champion of the Broadwickers) sailed around Ireland and landed in Mexico.

Drawing of Norsemen in a ship by Oscar Wergeland.

Drawing of Norsemen in a ship by Oscar Wergeland. (Public Domain)

There are also three traditions of the Norse Sagas that mention that in 965 or 986 Ari Marson set sail from Ireland in an attempt to reach Greenland. The story has it that Marson’s ship ran into rough seas and a storm threw him off course. Within six days he had reached Mexico instead. The Eyrbggia saga and the voyage of Ari Marson may explain how the first white people got to the Yucatan.

Mural in the Temple of the Warriors, Chichen Itza, Mexico. The image shows light-skinned men as they pack to retreat by sea, while others defend a village or are taken away as prisoners.

Mural in the Temple of the Warriors, Chichen Itza, Mexico. The image shows light-skinned men as they pack to retreat by sea, while others defend a village or are taken away as prisoners. (The Plumed Conch)

The White Lords’ Return

Many researchers claimed that tens of thousands of indigenous peoples helped Hernán Cortés conqueror the Mexica (Aztecs) in 1519. They formed a confederation of a number of disparate peoples who wanted to throw off the Aztec yoke.

Some researchers claim that the tribes joined the conquistadors’ in defeating the Aztecs because they represented a return of the “white lords”. However, most researchers say that this story about “white lords” was a myth created during the Spanish conquest. Restall wrote that: “The legend of the returning lords, originated during the Spanish-Mexica war in Cortés' reworking of Moctezuma's welcome speech, had by the 1550's merged with the Cortés-as-Quetzalcoatl legend that the Franciscans had started spreading in the 1530s.”

Codex Azcatitlan page depicting the Spanish army, with Hernán Cortés and Malinche in front.

Codex Azcatitlan page depicting the Spanish army, with Hernán Cortés and Malinche in front. (Public Domain)

But this story of “white lords” in Pre-Columbian Mexico may make sense. The Temple of the Warriors in Chichen Itza suggests that Europeans had visited Mexico between 600-900 AD. Murals in the temple depict black, white, and brown people. In some of these murals one can see whites fighting and in bondage to blacks.

White prisoners in bondage to blacks.

White prisoners in bondage to blacks. (In the Cavity of a Rock)

The Complex Dance of the Giants

In Esotericism of the Popol Vuh by Raphael Girard, one reads about the ‘Dance of the Giants’. This Mayan dance appears to represent a Pre-Columbian conflict between white and black people in Mexico.

This book is quite illuminating. In it, Girard discusses the Dance of the Black Giants. The dance of the Black Giants explains the reason why the other indigenous peoples joined the Spanish in destroying the Aztec nation. Girard's description of the Dance of the Giants is startling. He wrote:

“In the following episode, Apparition, the vicissitudes undergone by the White Giant, who has fallen into the hands of his rival, are mimed. The Black Giant "intimidates" his opponent by beating the ground furiously with his sword while he makes menacing gestures and movements in hopes of touching or wounding the White Giant, who defends himself as best he can by trying to evade and riposte the thrusts. The battle is suspended at intervals while the giants pay homage to the sun, but is then immediately resumed with greater fury. During the whole episode the Black Giant maintains a menacing stance, not only toward his rival but also toward the large audience witnessing the spectacle. Both actors watch each other constantly, trying to take advantage of the smallest error of the other. For whole minutes they are motionless like statues, then cautiously cross swords as they dart glances around in all directions as if fearing some invisible danger. Then they come to grips and each places the point of his sword against his opponent's neck, a tragic pose that lasts but an instant. Finally the Black Giant succeeds in decapitating the White Giant "because his power is greater," an episode that for the Chortí represents the moment "when our Lord was suffering under the dominion of the bad spirit.”

The defeat of the white giant by the black giant is not the end of the dance. In the Dance of the Giants a white person called Gavite returns to Mexico and helps the indigenous peoples defeat the black giants. Girard explains:

“Finally, Gavite decapitates the Black Giant and takes away his sword, after the giant humbly says to him: "Rest a moment, child, and I will give you your payment, because I now yield myself, and even my heart trembles." He acknowledges himself vanquished and a tribute-payer to Gavite from thenceforward. But the hero-god replies: "There is no rest now, boastful giant, because we are beginning the end of the labor [hornada]." We note here for the reader's better understanding that the word hornada means task, act, or ceremony, and is a term frequently employed by Chortí elders in that sense.”

Scene from the traditional ‘Dance of the Giants’ showing Gavite and the Black Giant, amongst other characters.

Scene from the traditional ‘Dance of the Giants’ showing Gavite and the Black Giant, amongst other characters. (Theosophical University Press Online Edition)

Girard continues the tale:

“There is no discrepancy between the Chortí and the Quiché sources regarding the manner of killing the chief of the infernal forces. Gavite cuts off his head, just as Hunahpú did that of Hun Camé in the Popol Vuh: "The first to be cut off was the head of the one called Hun Camé, the great Lord of Xibalbá." Offering the Black Giant's head and sword as trophies to the King and Captain, Gavite says: "Here I bring you the head of this giant, with a blade of steel from my sling, from my battle. It will overcome the whole world, since if you do not subdue it, it will be your subduer.”

The Chichen Itza mural indicates that the indigenous peoples had sided with the blacks when the whites first attempted to invade Mexico. However, it later appears that they felt the ‘black giants’ were arrogant and boastful and they wanted to overthrow them – even though they originally had helped defeat the Vikings.

The Dance of the Giants probably represents the fight between the whites and blacks for power. The whites lost the first battle (as depicted in the murals at Chichen Itza) but the Maya people were used as pawns by the blacks to defeat the whites. In one of the murals one can see a blond-haired man being sacrificed by two black men.

A part of a mural showing a blond-haired man being sacrificed by two black men.

A part of a mural showing a blond-haired man being sacrificed by two black men. (In the Cavity of a Rock)

Describing the Aztecs

Although many of the Indigenous peoples sided with the blacks in their battle against the white invaders in Pre-Columbian times, by the time the Spanish arrived in Mexico the black rulers, namely the Aztecs, were mistreating the other groups of Indigenous peoples.

The Spanish described the Aztecs as follows: “The people of this land are well made, rather tall than short. They are swarthy as leopards, of good manners and gestures, for the greater part very skillful, robust, and tireless, and at the same time the most moderate men known. They are very warlike and face death with the greatest resolution.”

Folio 65r of the Codex Mendoza, a mid-16th century Aztec codex.

Folio 65r of the Codex Mendoza, a mid-16th century Aztec codex. (Public Domain)

Archaeological evidence, Mayan and Spanish descriptions, and pictorial evidence from the codices indicate the Aztecs may have been black people. This would not be surprising because the Paleo-Americans Luzia and Naia were also black.

In addition to the Spanish describing the Aztecs as black ‘like leopards and jaguars.’ The Mayas called the Aztecs xilaan “curly or frizzy hair”, which is characteristic of Sub-Saharan Africans. Furthermore, one can find Black/Negro/African people in the Mexican codices, including the Codex Telleriano and Codex Mendoza.

Detail of page 30 of the Codex Borbonicus.

Detail of page 30 of the Codex Borbonicus. (FAMSI)

Connecting the Dots

In summary, it would appear that the character named Gavite in the Dance of the Giants represents the Spanish. The blacks defeated by Gavite were the Aztecs, who were identified by the Maya and Spanish as black and were represented in the codices as a horrible people who mistreated the other local tribes.

The whites who landed at Chichen Itza were Vikings. The Vikings were well-known navigators that sailed to many nations in Europe, including Great Britain. They may have been sailing in the Atlantic and were mislaid by a storm until they reached Mexico.

As Dennis Tedlock notes in Popol Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life: “They didn’t know where they were going. They did this for a long time, when they were there in the grasslands: the black people, the white people, people of many faces, people of many languages, uncertain there at the edge of the sky” (pp.149-150). This mention of whites and blacks in the Popol Vuh supports the diverse populations depicted in the Chichen Itza murals.

A mural from the Chichen Itza Temple of the Warriors.

A mural from the Chichen Itza Temple of the Warriors. (Copyleft)

Top Image: Detail of a mural from Chichen Itza’s Temple of the Warriors. Source: Celticnz

By Clyde Winters


Raphael Girard, Esotericism of the Popol Vuh, Chapter 15.

Restall, Matthew (2003). Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

POPOL VUH: THE MAYAN BOOK OF THE DAWN OF LIFE, translated by Dennis Tedlock.

Þórunn Valdimarsdóttir, Vikings in Mexico 998 AD?


Now this is a clash of cultures I'd like to see on screen. Both interesting and such contrast between the two.


Viking Age 789-1071

Aztec Empire 1428–1521

Unless Vikings travel through time, never happened.

The fact that what we call the Aztec empire only existed between the dates you stated is at best nit picking and in my opinion actually completely irrelevant. The people and groups that formed that empire and their culture existed long before those dates.

Unless you are suggesting that in 1427 these people, their culture and their history didn't exist and then in 1428 they magically appeared out of thin air with an empire.


You are discussing age and empires - which is a dishonest or ignorant answer. You are trying to make the case that these peoples ONLY existed during their age and empire.

Simply not true.

The timeframe you gave for the Aztecs Empire is for just that....their empire, not their existence. That time period is for when they dominated. The Aztecs are Nahua peoples who migrated south into the region in the 6th century. So the Aztecs have technically been there since the 6th century. At least 100 years before the Viking AGE.

The Viking Age is a time period when Vikings were most active, not the time period when they existed.

Maybe, try not to be so eager to be snarky an arrogant next time.

No, he's actually right - not only that the Aztecs could not meet the Vikings (because of the time periods), these paintings aren't Aztec either. Chichen Itzá is a MAYAN city, not Aztec! And not only that - the temple was built about 1200 AD, so pretty long after the end of the Viking age. OK, they existed later too, but the times of those great expetidion were long gone - but let's put that aside, because:

The largest argument against that the painting represents Vikings captured by Mayans is the style of the depiction itself - the Vikings, European in origin (as you all know), would have been an absolutely fascinating sight for the Mayans and the depictions would feature that - beards, blond hair (at least by some of them), strange clothes, weapons and maybe even some heavy stylized horses would have been there, but no - there are just captured people with (peculiarly) un-European hairstyles, faces and ear shapes. Just remember how the Japanese depicted the first Portuguese and other Europeans they saw - almost ape like. Wouldn't the Mayans do something similar? The ships have no masts and sails either. You could argue that this is a depiction of an older conflict that none of the artists remembered personally - so wouldn't the depicted "enemies" be even more stylized? A drakkar or knarr would become a dragon or giant snake on the water, a Viking with metal sword and mail armour a monster. And here we see just some captured naked people - most likely just other native tribes or people from a village of another Mayan city state.

The only reason someone identifies those men as Vikings is their colour. That's nonsense! By that logic, the Mayan warriors should be brownish, not black! And Vikings weren’t red striped either! There are even Mayas depicted as white. What you see here, is just a method of either distinction of the warring parties (we are black, they are striped and those behind the corner would be blue or so), of different clothes or battle paints.

Just use logic...


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