"Now I realize you want to hear about the human sacrifices," the professor said with his bulging muscles, solid frame and coal black skin. He allowed just the right mischievous glint to show in his eyes and the thick lips to curl upward in a small smile, signaling to his students here at the University of Belize at the central campus a half mile from the Blue Hole swimming spot on the Hummingbird Highway, that they could take this serious topic about their ancestors with a sense of humor. This year's class was no different and he got the appropriate chuckle from the collective audience squirming to settle themselves more comfortably in the undersized seats.

"Virgins having their hearts cut out," the Carib Belizean professor articulated slowly in broad Creole, or being thrown into cenotes and underground limestone caves" that sort of thing."

The mixed bag of mayan, whites, asians, arabs, chinese,east indians, creoles, meztizos and other assorted mongrel mix, chuckled even louder. His name was Martin Bowman, a fifty eight year old black Caribe from Dangriga, with white hair, massive body and muscles, cheap plastic bifocals, wearing a guayabara, giving off that unique smell common to one who ate boiled ground foods from a home grown plantation. He was liked and respected by both colleagues and students and enjoyed talking about his life's obsession, the history of Belize.

"Actually, the Maya didn't sacrifice virgins, they had a better use for them." Professor Bowman added. " Most of the skeletons we've retrieved from the sacred wells - they are called cenotes, by the way; you might as well begin learning the proper terms- belonged to males, and most of those had been children."

The students made up their faces in disgust at their ancestors antics.

"The Maya did cut out the hearts, of course," Professor Bowman said. "But that's the most boring part of the ritual."

Several students looked questioningly at each other, mouthing the word "boring?" to one another.

"What the Maya would do is capture an enemy, strip him, paint him blue, take him to the top of a pyramid, break his back but not kill him- not yet at least; the temporary objective was just to paralyze him- then cut out his heart, and now held die, but not before the high political priest was able to raise the victim's pulsing heart for everyone to see. The heart and the blood dripping from it were smeared onto the faces of gods carved into the walls at the top of the temple at places like, Caracol, Xunantunich and Cerros. There is a theory that the high political priest ate the heart, but we don't know for sure. We do know the victim's body was subsequently hurled down the steps of the pyramid. There another appointed person would cut off the victim's skin and slip it on and dance around in it. The corpse was then chopped up into pieces and barbecued for a public feast."

The students at the University of Belize swallowed uncomfortably, as if they felt sick.

"But we'll get to the dull stuff later in the term, " Professor Bowman said, and the students laughed in relief.

"As you know, this is a multidiscipline course." He switched tones with expert ease, deepening his voice, abandoning his creole dialect and role as entertainer, becoming once again a lecturer. 11 Some of you are from art history, others are ethnologists and archeologists. Our purpose is to examine Mayan hieroglyphics, to learn to read them, and to use the knowledge we obtain to reconstruct Mayan culture." In an aside he whispered - "the fact you can make ten thousand American dollars for a hand carved mayan stellae replica sold to the tourist and museum trade and export market has nothing to do with this course."

The students laughed.

"Please turn to page seventy nine of Classic Maya Political History by T. Patrick Culbert. You will understand now, why stories of wars and sacrifice are dull." He looked directly at his nineteen students. "Since we have to start learning to read Maya somewhere, lets start just like children with lines and dots for the counting system. These things depict a date and if you look at the glyphs you will note they are bars and dots. Each dot has a value of one. A bar or line has a value of five. The problem with learning to read these dates, is that they will mean nothing to you, because the Maya used a different calendar than we 66. Their calendar was as accurate as our own, but considerably more complicated. In order to understand it, we must understand their concept of TIME. For the next class I want you to read "A Forest of Kings" by Linda Schele and David Friedel."

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