When Catherwood broke open the discovery of Mayan Civilization, he touched a nerve in advocating that Central/South American Civilizations were indigenous and therefore unrelated to Near Eastern Civilizations. His work and genius would require others to ratify what he first saw and believed, namely that Mayan, Incan Civilizations were sui generis (latin for 'of its own kind' pronounced 'Sue-ee Gen-ER-Rus').
Landing in British Honduras in 1839 for a year of exploration, he pursued finding and marking lost Civilization's of the Americas. His first discovery was the ancient city of Copan in 1839, his lithographs of sacrificial altars, empty temples devoted to astronomy and calendric memory were the first known representations of the New World.
His work was published in 1841 titled Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chipas and Yucatan. His work represents an original casting of groundbreaking archeological sites known as Copan, Palenque, Uxmal, Las Monjas, Chichen Itza and Tulum.
He would die an unfortunate death aboard a steam vessel bound for New York from Liverpool, England after resuming life in San Francisco during the gold rush. Born in 1799, he was lost at sea in 1854.
Brief article detailing his travels throughout Central America http://www.ancient.eu/article/419/
All lithographs referenced here http://www.casa-catherwood.com
His personal papers are located at the Pennsylvania State University & Stanford University Rare Manuscripts Division http://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/5713307
Originally reproduced digital copies of his first publications here http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015038660737;view=1up;seq=11
His best biographer is Victor W. von Hagen's publication F. Catherwood: Architect-Explorer of Two Worlds.