WARNING: If you haven’t read the book yet, you should not view this webpage. It contains pictures and descriptions that will spoil the plot. This page is intended to supplement the book. Please view this page only after reading THE DEATH RELIC.

Chapter 2 Cancún is a coastal city on the northeast tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Hotels line the light-blue waters of the Yucatán Channel, a 135-mile strait that separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea and Mexico from the island of Cuba.

Cancun, Mexico

Chapter 3 The Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach is a luxury resort on the northern end of Cancún’s hotel district. With sweeping views of Isla Mujeres and the Caribbean Sea, it is annually recognized as one of the best hotels in all of Latin America.

Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach

Chapter 5 Isla Contoy, a poolside bistro at the Fiesta Americana, offers fabulous views of the Caribbean Sea and the hotel’s sandy beach.

Isla Contoy at dusk

View from inside the restaurant

Chapter 8 Station Square is a 52-acre entertainment venue that sits on the southern shore of the Monongahela River near the confluence of Pittsburgh’s three rivers. Built in the 1800s as a major hub for P&LE Railroad, the railway complex was converted into retail space in the 1970s by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

Entrance to Bessemer Court at Station Square

Grand Concourse restaurant
(formerly the main railroad terminal)

Chapter 11 ― As amazing as it sounds, only three Mayan codices have been discovered and authenticated. They are named after the city where they are currently being displayed: the Dresden Codex, the Madrid Codex, and the Paris Codex. Here are pages from each of them.

Dresden Codex

Madrid Codex

Paris Codex

Chapter 17 Mexico City is the third most-populated metropolitan area in the world, behind only Tokyo, Japan, and Seoul, South Korea. With over 21 million people, Mexico City accounts for nearly 20 percent of the population of Mexico. It also has a major smog problem.

Smog in Mexico City

Chapter 18 Plaza de la Constitución, better known as Zócalo, is in the historic center of Mexico City. It is one of the largest city squares in the world.

Zócalo (Mexico City)

Raising of the Mexican flag (Zócalo)

Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary (Zócalo)

National Palace (Zócalo)

Chapter 18 (cont.) Married to Frida Kahlo (and her distinctive eyebrows), Diego Rivera painted a giant mural inside the National Palace that covers many walls and stairwells. The mural depicts the history of Mexico in his colorful style.

Part of Diego Rivera’s mural (National Palace)

More of Diego Rivera’s mural (National Palace)

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Self-portrait of Frida Kahlo

Chapter 21 ― The Aztec city of Tenochtitlan was founded in the shallows of Lake Texcoco in 1325 AD. It was completely surrounded by water. Perpendicular streets that were half land and half water allowed boat and foot traffic throughout the city. The Templo Mayor, the main pyramid in the city, was torn down by the Spanish and replaced by the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Ceremony at the Templo Mayor (

Templo Mayor (

The holy center of

Top: Layout of Zócalo
Bottom: Layout of

Old map of

Diego Rivera mural of

Chapter 24 ― In May of 1521, the Spanish blocked the causeways to the city, ruptured the freshwater aqueducts, and starved the Aztecs into submission. Less than three months later, Cuauhtémoc was forced to surrender. The Spanish tried to torture him for information about Aztec treasures, but he revealed nothing. For that, he is considered a national hero.

Tenochtitlan and its surrounding causeways

The torture of Cuauhtémoc
(notice his feet in the flames)

Chapter 24 (cont.) ― In 1978, workers discovered a stone disk underground near the Zócalo. Weighing 8.5 tons and measuring nearly 11 feet in diameter, the disk depicted the Aztec moon goddess, Coyolxauhqui, and dated back to the 15th century. In the following months, historians uncovered many objects that changed our basic understanding of the Aztecs.

Stone disk discovered in Mexico City (1978)

Chapter 34 First discovered by the Spanish in 1518, Tulum was a walled city built atop a 39-foot bluff that overlooked the Caribbean Sea. Because of its positioning along the shore and the strength of its fortified walls, Tulum managed to survive seventy years after the Spanish occupation of Mexico. Scenes for the movie Against All Odds were filmed here in 1983.

Mayan ruins at Tulum

Mayan ruins at Tulum

Mayan ruins at Tulum

Mayan ruins at Tulum

Main pyramid (“El Castillo”) at Tulum

Mayan ruins at Tulum
(notice the surrounding jungle)

El Castillo (Tulum)

View of Tulum from boat

Temple of the Frescoes (Tulum)

Jeff Bridges and Rachel Ward
(“researching the Maya”)

Chapter 35 ― Bright-green Volkswagen Beetles are used as gypsy cabs in Mexico City. How many can you count in the traffic jam around the Zócalo (see below)? No wonder Tiffany’s crew used them as escape vehicles. There are tens of thousands of them in the city.

Taxis in Mexico City

Daytime traffic around Zócalo

Chapter 54 Built by the Maya sometime between 1000 and 1200 AD, El Castillo―the giant pyramid at Chichén Itzáserved as a solar calendar. Each of the structure’s four stairways contains 91 steps. When counting the top platform as another step, the pyramid has 365 steps, one for each day of the year.

El Castillo (Chichén Itzá)

El Castillo (Chichén Itzá)

Jaguar throne found inside El Castillo

Chac mool discovered at Chichén Itzá

Chapter 54 (cont.) The Maya angled the pyramid in such a way that sunlight, in the form of a serpent, crawls down the balustrade at sunset during the spring and autumn equinox until it is reunited with its head below. At any one moment, the snake is nothing more than sunlight and a series of triangle shadows—cast by the western corners of the pyramid—but viewed with time-lapse photography, the serpent of light appears to slither along this railing.

The serpent of light during the Autumn Equinox

A similar effect with artificial light

Chapter 55 Measuring 545 feet wide by 223 feet long, the Great Ball Court at Chichén Itzá was the largest ball court in ancient Mesoamerica. Two stone walls, nearly 39 feet in height, ran the entire length of the end zones. High in the middle of each wall was a stone ring, carved with intertwining serpents. The goal was to get the ball through the hole―without using your hands.

Overhead view of Great Ball Court (Chichén Itzá)

Field view of Great Ball Court (Chichén Itzá)

Field view from the other direction (Chichén Itzá)

One of the stone rings at the Great Ball Court (Chichén Itzá)

Chapter 55 (cont.) Nicknamed “the snail” because of the spiral staircase inside the domed tower, El Caracol was built high above the surrounding vegetation in the tenth century. Windows were angled with such precision that sightlines for more than twenty astronomical events—including solstices, equinoxes, and the cycles of Venus—were discovered inside the structure.

The observatory at Chichén Itzá

Chapter 56 Known as Chichén Viejo in Spanish, Old Chichén is a relatively new discovery that isn’t open to the general public. At least not yet. Archaeologists have been working on the site for nearly a decade, trying to clear the roots and vines that have overwhelmed the ruins.

Temple mound (Old Chichén)

Stone wall (Old Chichén)

Temple of the Monkeys (Old Chichén)

Stone altar (Old Chichén)

Stone sentinels (Old Chichén)

Chapter 60 A thousand years ago, when this city was thriving, the Maya used to sacrifice humans and treasures into the sacred cenote in order to honor Chaac, who was the Mayan rain deity. According to Mayan mythology, Chaac produced rain and thunder when he struck clouds in the heavens with his axe of lightning.

Cenote Sagrado (Chichén Itzá)

Chapter 60 (cont.) ― The Great North Platform at Chichén Itzá is made up of several buildings, including El Castillo and the Great Ball Court (already pictured). Here are some of the sites that were featured in THE DEATH RELIC. If you look closely, you can see blood and bullet holes.

El Mercado (“the market”)

Templo de los Guerrerors (“Temple of the Warriors”)

View from the Temple of the Warriors

Artist’s rendering of Temple of the Warriors

Plaza of a Thousand Columns

Chapter 63 The FN SCAR-L is a gas-operated, rotating-bolt rifle that is capable of killing a lot of people in a short amount of time. Payne proved this fact at the Great Ball Court. He positioned himself in the Temple of the Bearded Man, which sits on the northern edge of the playing field.

FN SCAR-L assault rifle

Temple of the Bearded Man (Chichén Itzá)

Chapter 72 ― The Great Pyramid of Cholula is the largest pyramid by volume in the world. Twice the size of the pyramid at Giza, the base alone is the length of five American football fields. According to legend, the Aztecs were so convinced that the Spaniards would destroy it—like they had done to the great monuments in Tenochtitlan—that the locals covered it with soil and seed. By the time the conquistadors arrived in Cholula, the pyramid looked like a hill. The Church of Our Lady of Remedies was eventually built on top.

The Great Pyramid of Cholula is hidden underneath the grass

The pyramid is not the largest “hill” nearby

Foreground: Church of Our Lady of Remedies
Background: Popocatepetl (an active volcano)

Model of the Cholula archaeological site

Artist’s rendering of the Great Pyramid of Cholula

Chapter 73 Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (Church of Our Lady of Remedies) was built on the Great Pyramid of Cholula after the Spanish Conquest. The Basilica was constructed with brada stone and decorated with "laminilla" of 24 carat gold.

Church of Our Lady of Remedies (Cholula)

Interior of Our Lady of Remedies (Cholula)

Chapter 73 (cont.) The tiny statue of the Virgin Mary arrived in the New World in 1519. It was brought to the Americas by a Spanish soldier named Juan Rodríguez de Villafuerte, who viewed the idol as his protector for the dangerous trip. Eventually, the statue was made a protector of the church―and hid the entrance to the Mercado Treasure.

The statue of the Virgin Mary protected more than the church

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