The Mayan Civilization was made up of an ethnic population from Mexico and Central America, the Maya people. The territories of modern-day Yucatan, Mexico, and southward through Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras have been occupied continuously for hundreds of years by them. The name Maya derives from the ancient Yucatan city of Mayapan, the people’s last capital before the mysterious collapse of their Civilization in the middle of the last millennium.
Interesting Mayan Facts
But how much do we know about that about them? The Mayans are one of the most fascinating civilizations that have ever existed on Earth… precisely because mystery and controversy still shroud so much of their Civilization.
Here are some interesting facts about the Mayans:
1. Mayans’ pyramids and cities are still being explored
It’s wonderful to consider that today, anything as huge as a pyramid might elude archaeologists. But it was just a few years ago at Toniná in the Mexican state of Chiapas that a Mayan pyramid more than 1000 years old was uncovered. It had been concealed under what was thought to be a natural hill.
In 2015, researchers said that this recently discovered monument was probably the tallest pyramid in Mexico at 246 feet (75 meters) in height, surpassing Teotihuacan’s 213-foot Pyramid of the Sun. In Mexico’s state of Campeche, the remains of two Maya cities obscured by dense vegetation were also recently found. Thinking about their era and development, these facts about the Mayans are really startling.
2. They enjoyed sports
In Maya towns like Chichen-Itza in Mexico, ballcourts take up prominent real estate. This is where a game known as Pitz was staged by the Maya. Without using their hands and wearing equipment to shield their ribs, knees, and sides, players would attempt to move a heavy rubber ball (the size of a soccer ball).
The end goal was to get the ball into a really high stone hoop. It wasn’t exactly a pastime to play the sport, but more a significant ritual, and losing could lead to human sacrifice. Life on Earth only became possible when two brother deities beat the underworld’s supernatural lords in a ball game, according to the creation story of the Mayas in their epic text known as Popol Vuh.
3. They took ritual enemas
Eating hallucinogens and intoxicants was the perfect way for the Maya to communicate to spirits. Like balché, which was made of fermented (and possibly psychedelic) honey, they drank substances. But they may have ingested alcohol and psychoactive along the rectal route to get drunk more easily and prevent vomiting.
In a ceremonial context, there are several scenes portraying enemas in Maya pottery. “In the 1980s, researchers investigating the effects of an ancient ritual enema did some self-experimentation and tried it out for themselves, and reported that their findings “certainly confirm the theoretical suggestion that an enema absorbs alcohol well.
4. Mayans books were burned by the Europeans
This is one of the important facts about the Mayan Civilization that proves the disappearance of their history. In their intricate hieroglyphic script, the Mayas wrote books on long strips of sturdy paper made out of fig trees’ inner bark.
Yet there are only three of today’s remaining Maya codices: the Dresden Codex, the Madrid Codex, and the Paris Codex. (There’s also the scattered Grolier Codex, but scholars question its authenticity.) Plenty of Maya books were victimized to the damp conditions of Mesoamerica, or the arrival of Europeans who deliberately ruined Maya texts.
One such scene was mentioned by Diego de Landa, a Franciscan friar from Spain who arrived in Yucatan in the 1540s: “We found a great number of books in their papers and because they had nothing in which there was no superstition and lies of the devil, we burned them all, which they regretted to an amazing degree, causing them sorrow.”
5. Mayans ate chocolates
More than 3500 years ago, the Olmecs of Mesoamerica were perhaps the first to know that you could eat chocolate with some effort, but the Maya transformed it into an art form. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Maya manufactured cacao at least 2600 years ago.
In Mayan ceramic vessels in Guatemala, which date back to 600 BCE, cacao chemical signatures were discovered. These facts about the Mayans having chocolate might surprise us but the evidence’s proved so. Yet the drink they made was nothing like the hot chocolate we have today. To produce a foamy, spicy beverage, the Maya would combine cacao with water, honey, chili peppers, cornmeal, and other ingredients.
Maya art and hieroglyphs indicate drinking cacao was an essential aspect of festivities and ceremonies. For example, the Dresden Codex illustrates the sustenance god K’awil carrying a vessel of cacao beans.
6. Mayans’ calendar, while nuanced, did not foresee the end of the world
In some paranoid corners of the Internet, there was a lot of chatter that Doomsday would arrive on December 21, 2012, as predicted by the Maya calendar. The date came and went and the apocalypse never materialized, but you should have been told by any Mayanist that you have nothing to think about.
In the Maya’s so-called Long Count calendar, December 21, 2012, only happened to coincide with the close of a complete period of 5125 years. One of the early applications of zero as a mathematical term in the literature, this calendar was remarkable because it used zero as a placeholder. And it was also one of the Maya calendars that they used.
They also had a sacred calendar of 260 days or Tzolk’in, that was used to schedule religious rituals, as well as a lunar calendar of 365 days known as the Haab’.
7. The Maya painted the sacrifices of humans the color blue
Archaeologists have long been intrigued by the colorful pigment known as Maya Blue. It is remarkably durable, lasting on stone monuments for decades, including in the Mesoamerican jungles’ harsh environments.
Yet, the happy color was still used in the sacrificing of mankind. They painted human sacrifices blue, ripped their hearts out on stone altars, or tossed them down the wells when the Maya tried to appease the rain god.
8. Turkeys were domesticated by the Mayans
Nowadays, a symbol of American Thanksgiving, the Maya may have domesticated turkeys for the first time. Turkeys were not only used for food; bird parts such as bones and feathers were often used by the Maya to make fans, tools, and musical instruments.
Mexican turkey bones dated to the Preclassic Maya period were found at the archaeological site of El Mirador in Guatemala. This position was far beyond the range of the species in the wild, leading archaeologists to believe that the Maya had domesticated turkeys by this point.
9. Mayans didn’t disappear
Of course, many of the great Maya cities have mysteriously deserted themselves, but the people have not disappeared. The Maya descendants are still around today, many of whom live in their ancestral homelands, like Guatemala, where the majority of the population is actually made up of Maya people. ‘Maya’ is a general term for various indigenous ethnic groups who can speak different Mayan languages, such as Yucatec, Quiche, Kekchi, or Mopan.(Last Updated On: May 11, 2021)