As Arid Durant once said “a great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within,” it turns out that there is more to the vast and mysterious Mayan civilization than what is being vaguely understood by most people. From the Yucatan in the north to Honduras in the south, Belize in the east, and Mexico City in the west, the ruins of Mesoamerica (many of which are over a thousand years old) continue to intrigue and fascinate archaeologists and researchers worldwide. In an attempt to help you decipher the profound history of the Mayans, we piece together astonishing facts about the Mayans- a civilization that developed its own written language, architecture as well as mathematical and astronomical system. Here are 9 unbelievable facts about the Mayans that might surprise you
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The amazing facts about the Mayans continue to fascinate civilians and expert researchers alike. It is believed that their impressive civilization flourished for over 2,000 years, in the middle of America (also called Mesoamerica). During this time, they built impressive stone pyramids as well as temples and idols for worship- many of which stand as historical monolithic structures to this day.
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Perhaps the only ones outside the Babylonian system, the Mayans are believed to be the first recorded civilization to have used the number 0 as a place holder. Indian mathematicians later extended the use of the numerical to that of a mathematical value in computations.
By far one of the most intellectual races to have lived in those times, the Mayans, using hieroglyphs, developed their own writing system too. Having built a functional agricultural system, they had the resources and skills to successfully administer several independent city-states.
While the studies and facts about the Mayans are indicative of a vast and flourishing civilization, it is unclear how an empire such as theirs declined. As many of the great cities had been long abandoned way before the Spanish discovered the ruins, the exact knowledge of the enormous civilization remains elusive and, to a large extent, steeped in unfathomed mysteries. However, with research indicating that each city might have housed more than 100,000 inhabitants, many scholars claim they have reason to believe that the decline could have been triggered from factors such as drought, famine, overpopulation, and/or climate.
They believed in the concept of three worlds (namely the heaven, the earth, and the underworld) and symbolized the amalgamation of the three worlds with a giant world tree.
It is believed that the Mayans were highly spiritual beings. The ancient Mayans worshiped a complex pantheon of deities and gods – some of whom the Mayans believed could transform themselves into human and animal species. Here are a few facts about Mayan gods:
- Kukulcan was a winged-feather serpent god, believed to have been worshiped in a pyramid called the pyramid of the sun in Teotihuacan.
- Chac (sometimes spelled “Chaac”) was the god of rain and thunder. He was also worshiped as the god of fertility and agriculture. While some Mayans worshiped him as a single god, some others worshiped him in the forms of 4 separate gods, each depicting the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west).
- Kinich Ahau or Ahaw Kin was revered to as the sun god. The god is usually shown depicting filed teeth and jaguar-like features. It is believed that the Mayans too filed their teeth so as to show their reverence and belief in their god.
- Yumil Kaxob was worshiped as the god of vegetation and agriculture. Also known as the Maize god, Yumil Kaxob is shown sporting a headdress of maize as well as a bent band on his cheek.
The Mayans had a complex and advanced knowledge of astronomy and predicted the end of times with regards to their calendar. Their calendar had different cycles. While the end of some cycles was predicted to end with fire or flood, the one we are currently in is predicted to end with a massive earthquake.
Extremely organized, the Mayans had a system for everything, including the naming convention for their children. With each day having a specific name for boys and girls respectively, the Mayans named their children with regards to the day on which they were born.
With an intellect as high as theirs, it is no surprise that the Mayans used a complex study of mind, body, science, as well as rituals and religion to treat ailments. Scholars believe the Mayans administered critical medical treatments with the help of hallucinogenic drugs.