The mysteries of the Mayans are fascinating and intriguing. The ancient civilization extended across northern Central America and the remains of their cities and temples draw visitors from all over the world to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Do you fancy a trip to uncover some of the mysteries of the Mayans? Let’s go!
Mass media hysteria and dramatic movies have suggested that the end of the world is nigh, but one of the mysteries of the Mayans recently dispelled is that they don’t believe the world is coming to an end at all. Many Mayans embraced the end of their 5,000 year calendar on December 12 2012 and the beginning of their new one, just as we did the new millennium in the year 2000. In fact, many Mayans hoped that the start of the new calendar would bring fresh new beginnings, perspective and peace in the world. The earliest known example of a Mayan Calendar was discovered in 2010 in the ancient city of Xultan in the Guatemalan rainforest.
The population in Guatemala of around 14 million people is actually 40% Mayan. In fact, their festivals and cultural celebrations still continue to flourish in many places today. It is only really when you start exploring the south of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula that travelers will discover the wealth of traditional Mayan tribes still living and continuing with their lives, some 5 centuries after the Spanish conquest.
Some of the biggest mysteries of the Mayans and their fascinating culture still remain underground. Visitors, who have made their way to Palenque in the southerly region of Mexico, will have been to some of the major Mayan sites that have already been excavated. But one of the most famous ruins in Guatemala – Tikal (pictured above) – still has many undiscovered delights buried below the surface.
One of the not so well kept secrets of the Mayans was their love of steamy saunas. The ancient Mayans believed that a steam sauna or sweat house was the path to spiritual fulfillment and they were also used regularly for health reasons. Visitors making their way to Mayan countries will find that the sauna is a popular addition to guest accommodation.
Much of Maya country is still volcanically active, and when visiting the popular tourist resort town of Antigua in Guatemala, you can see the plumes of smoke from the wild Fuego volcano that has been active for many years. After dark, the sparks of red hot lava can be seen lighting up the night sky and tours are regularly taken to the nearby Pacaya volcano near Antigua.
One of the most fascinating mysteries of the Mayans are the pyramids that were originally built and designed to reflect different astronomical events. Many Maya people were incredibly progressive astronomers, with knowledge of the stars way ahead of their time. And a fabulous example is El Caracol at Chichen Itza, also called the observatory, which was built to link with the orbit of Venus. When the front staircase comes into line with Venus in the north, the corners of the building are actually aligned with the sun’s position during the sunset at the winter solstice and the sunrise at the summer solstice.
To this day one of the greatest unsolved Mayan mysteries is the cause of the huge decline of the civilization itself. Somewhere between the 8th and 9th century, there was a massive drop in the numbers of people. There are many wild theories that include everything from war to deforestation to soil depletion, but to this day nobody really knows.
Mayan blood sport was no ordinary pastime; it was a violent battle between warriors, with the loser giving up his life. After the festivities, if you can call them that, there were human sacrifices made to please the gods, this is excluding the lives that were lost in the events in the court. According to tradition, it was considered the highest honor to die at these games.
We’ll probably never get to the bottom of some of the mysteries of the Mayans, but their ruined cities, pyramids and temples are fantastic and awesome places to visit. Are you as intrigued as I am?
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