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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,395
Marty Offline OP
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The Maya did not evolve in isolation. They made up one of the cultures of mesoamerica. Their neighbours were people like the Zapoteca, Huaxteca, Tolteca, Tlaxcalans, Mexica (Aztecs) - these peoples were all contemporary with the ancient Maya.

The Teotihuacanos were one of the first civilisations. The Olmec civilisation who lived in the Gulf Coast of Mexico had organised civilisation which began about 1500BC to about 600BC, then they were absorbed as a culture into the larger culture that Mesoamericans will pursue after 600BC.

It is wise to state the chronology of Mesoamerica here:

10,000BC - 7000BC The Paleo-Indian Period

7,000BC - 2,000BC Archaic Period

2,000BC - 300AD Pre-classic (Formative Period)

300AD - 900AD Classic Period

900AD - 1,500AD Post Classic Period

1,500AD - Present Historical Period

The Maya, lived within this vast land which is mesoamerican in simple, quiet village life in places like El Baul for example.

Between 900 and 300 BC, there is great trade going on within groups in the mesoamerican area. Scholars have deciphered that between 300BC and 300AD is when the Maya civilisation develops most of their sophistication - at least about the birth of Christ.

Certainly, all the information we know today about these great people was not originally shared by scholars. In fact, we think it is important to make a note of the history of the research of the ancient Maya. We add this below:

Spanish Travellers: (1520-1759)

Spanish Explorers: (1760-1840)

Major Scholars: (1920-1970)

Problem Oriented Period: (1970-Present)

Later in the writing, we will come back to the table above and go into detail for the dates applied. What we certainly want to share, because like us, the earliest people wanted to know the origins of these people who were claiming that their ancestors were the ones to build the buildings these explorers were consistently finding in one of the most unforgiven jungles in the world. We will now add a list of ideas that people were suggesting to have been the origin of the ancient Maya civilisation:


  1. Atlantis
  2. Mu
  3. Lost Tribes of Israel
  4. Africa
  5. Aliens (Yes, from outer space - diffusionists/hyperdiffusionist theories)
  6. Native (In situ, Local)

Dr. Paul Kirchoff.

The term mesoamerica was first coined by anthropologist Paul Kirchoff. In 1943 anthropologists attempted to differentiate culture areas - cultures that shared characteristics that were found in the middle part of the America's. These characteristics were monumental architecture and other important developments such as:

Corbel Arch


Folded Books

Complex Calendars

Knowledge of Astronomy

Reliance on corn, bean, squash

Human Sacrifice


The Spanish Travellers:

This is the period that will eventually lead to the conquest of the Maya. As we have probably heard or read somewhere in history, Christopher Columbus made 4 voyages to the America's. On his 4th voyage he came to the Bay of Honduras (The area toward the southern end of Belize where it meets with Guatemala and Honduras). he claimed he met some people (Maya) on some dugout canoes - large enough for 25 men and cargo.

By 1520, several events began to happen with the earliest travellers and the ancient Maya:

  • Shipwrecked Spanish swept to coast of Northern Belize and Southern Mexico
  • The Maya started to sacrifice them except 2 of them
  • The two who were Guerrero and Aguilar who were adopted by the Maya
  • Guerrero marries the daughter of Nachan Kan, who was the ruler of Chactemal (Santa Rita ancient Maya City today)
  • At the same time deeper in the heart of Mexico, one Valdivia convinces Hernan Cortez to mount an expedition - they subsequently march into the ancient city of Tenochtitlan (Mexico city)

Elsewhere in Mexico, a Spanish priest Fray Antonio Bienvenida became one of the first to visit Tihoo, which is todays Merida in the Yucatan. Fray Bienvenida, absolutely impressed with what he witnessed. He wrote to Spain - "�there are fine buildings here built before the birth of Christ", certainly, he was wrong because the buildings the ancient Maya had built there were built after the birth of Christ.

Another Bishop arrives in 1549. The world will soon never forget him. Bishop Diego de Landa becomes the new bishop of the diocese of Merida. In 1562 he decides to have an event which in history was called 'Auto Da Fe' in Mani a city in Merida. This is when he destroyed the ancient Maya idols and all their books.

Bishop Diego De Landa

Of the tragic misdeeds this particular bishop organised and oversaw, one thing he decided to do which, even though wrong, helped us understand the Maya writing was, attempting to work on the Maya alphabet. He also wrote a book he called, Las Relaciones De Las Cosas De Yucatan between 1562-1563. This book was not found until 1863.


The Spanish Explorers

Charles lll of Spain
King Charles lll, Picture Credit:

Towards the end of the colonial period, Charles lll became king of Spain. His interest was getting to know more about native cultures in Central America and Mexico. Certainly the Spanish were bringing back to his motherland great wealth in the natural resources they were taking from the indigenous of America. He commissioned one Ordonez to fins out some more of the cultures. Ordonez visited Palenque. He was in such disbelief of the wonders of its architecture that he made certain he told the king that it was the Romans who had to have built that city! King Charles was amazed at that news. To reconfirm that, he sent another person, Antonio Del Rio to Palenque but unfortunately for Del Rio, he was hijacked by the British and his commentary never reached King Charles lll.

The next thing we know is that Jean Frederick Waldeck publishes this Del Rio report in England. How interesting isn’t it?

The Major Scholars

Soon after Spain’s colonies started to get their independence, John Lloyd Stephens, an American from Boston, Massachusetts travelled to the Middle East where he met a gentleman by the name of Frederick Catherwood, an artist. They both travelled to Belize City then to Honduras where they visited Copan. Stephens fell so much in love with that ancient City that he bought it for USD$50.00!!! Not long after Stephens publishes his first volume of Incidence Of Travels In Central America. �

Frederick Catherwood
Frederick Catherwood. Picture Credit:

JL Stephens
John Lloyd Stephens. Picture Credit:

John Lloyd Stevens spends some time in Chiapas and in the Yucatan. It is important to note that John Lloyd Stevens is the first non-cleric to suggest that the ancient Maya glyphs and carvings were the actual writing by the people that lived there.

Charles Etienne Brassieur De Bourbourg

Charles Etienne De Bourbourg. Photo Credit:�

Charles Etienne Brassieur De Bourbourg came to America and in Merida he discovered Fray Diego De Landa’s Relaciones. Apart from this great informative work he also discovered the Madrid Codex and the Rabinal Achi – the first piece �of Maya drama.

Madrid Codex.
The Madrid Codex. Photo Credit:�

Fray Francisco Ximenez discovered the Popol Vuh (The Sacred book of the Quiche Maya) around 1800.

Some of the great scholars who have invested heavily on our learning of the ancient Maya are people like: Alfred Maudslay, Theobert Mahler, Edward Thompson, Desiree de Charnay, Tatiana Proskouriakoff, Pollock, Berlin,


Alfred Maudslay in a palace room where he lived in Tikal, Guatemala. Photo Credit:

The Institutional Period

The institutional period refers to the first time when universities become interested in the Maya area. For example, the University of Pennsylvania, Tulane university, The Peabody Museum. These universities and museums produced some of the first courses on the Maya. Teachers such as Alfred Kinner, Alfredo Caso, Cobarubias and J. Eric S. Thompson – who wrote more books than any one of his colleagues at the time. In addition, Gordon Wiley was another prolific writer on the Maya, he worked in the Cayo District, Belize at the Melhado site and Lubaantun, to name two sites.



MU and Atlantis Map
Suggested Origins Of The Ancient Americans. Map Credit:�

Where in the world did these early Americans come from? This was the huge question Europeans attempted to answer. Certainly, it is human nature to want to know some answers to some questions like: Why are we here? What are we here for? Where are we going after this life? This is the kind of curiosity which drives all people to organise, culturally, their responses.

There are these two great land masses which have disappeared from the centre of the Pacific Ocean and the centre of the Atlantic Ocean. The people �who inhabited these land masses were known as the Mu people from the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantean’s from �Atlantis on the Atlantic Ocean. These two places have never been found.

Other people have suggested that the Phoenecians were the ones who brought civilisation to the America’s, however, there is no proof of this culture on the American continent.

There are other people, scholars included, who suggest that the Africans brought culture to the America’s. One of the most significant proof they have organised for the argument are the “elephants” found on friezes (art) on the walls of buildings, for example the ones at Chichen Itza, Yucatan Mexico. While this is intriguing, archaeologists have learned that the art pieces claimed to be elephants by some people are truly Chaac masks – the >Maya Rain god.

Chaac god at Chichen Itza
Chaac, the Maya rain god. Photo Credit:�

Another interesting origin of the Maya was Egypt. This argument has been organised via the pyramidical shapes of the ancient Maya temples and the pyramids of the Egyptian kings. Impressively, there is a major difference that has been discovered between Maya pyramids and Egyptian pyramids. The Maya kings used their pyramids during their life times and eventually, they were buried in the floors. The Egyptian pyramids were built for one purpose only – to bury their kings.

There are people who suggest that it was Jesus, the Christ who introduced civilisations to the Americans.

Eric von Daniken suggested that aliens came from outer space and interacted with humans. He believed that aliens were the creators of the beautiful architectural designs the ancient Maya had on their buildings. None more so convincing than the cover of King Pacal’s sarcophagus from the ancient city of Palenque in Chiapas Mexico.

Pacals Sarcophagus Cover
King Pacal’s of Palenque Sarcophagus Cover. Picture Credit:�

�The truth is, Native Americans developed their own culture. Whether you argue that the culture spread via diffusion (started at one place and from their spread to other places) or different places created their own cultural traits independent of other places, there is seemingly just not enough evidence of the origins of these mesoamericans to have evolved from the suggested origins mentioned earlier in this essay.


Theories As To Why The Maya Developed High Civilisation

What is most incredible about the ancient Maya is the fact that they did not evolve in isolation as a civilisation. There were other cultures next to them and around them. None developed such high civilisation as the Maya. This certainly was an incredible accomplishment.


There are 2 interesting ideas that we do not agree with in as far as what points to why the Maya developed such high culture. The first is the Hyper Diffusionist Theory. This theory suggests that an external culture came into America and help develop the Maya, such as the Phoenicians and/or the Egyptians. The second is Local Diffusion. This suggests that there was a mother culture in America (Cultura Madre), such as the Olmec, Zapotec or Teotihuacan cultures, from which the ancient Maya developed.


We believe that the ancient Maya developed their culture based on a combination of diverse factors or several things made them develop their culture the way they did.


The great scholar and Mayanist Dr. Robert �Sharer suggests three important factors as to why this culture stood out in the American mainland. They are listed below:

  1. Ecological adaptations – mesoamerica is such an ecologically �diverse area of the world that there was enough resources to fire up a fantastic economy. For example, salt and cotton in the Yucatan; granite on the Maya Mountains and Jade in the Motagua River Valley of Guatemala.
  2. There was unity of the elite subculture: The Maya elite shared requirements – they encouraged interaction and trade and they adopted all innovations learned through trade.
  3. With the rise of the population, first simplistic management arose then more sophisticated government became the way of life.

Landscapes 2
Picture Credit:

With all this organisation, amazingly, the ancient Maya achieved a few amazing scientific achievements such as: mathematics, astronomy, writing, monumental architecture, long distance trade, art, non-monumental architecture, a complex social and political system and an incredible religion and world-view system.

The ancient Maya world view

What was certain was that the Maya shared temporal and spatial diversity. They spoke many different languages and as mentioned �before, the elite �were unified.

They also shared a network where much interaction occurred. They were certainly not isolated and they were always at a juncture with other mesoamerican regions.

Later in the history, certainly from the 500’s AD there is evidence of conflicts between big and small cities. But for sure, by 800AD it would seem that the entire Maya area of mesoamerica was either at war or at least planning to go to war. The competition for resources and economic control certainly was one of the major ‘dominoes’ that toppled the entire civilisation.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,395
Marty Offline OP
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Since the ancient Maya were the only fully literate civilisation of mesoamerica, it is important that we offer some information on some of the concepts they develop. The following writing will include concepts such as: creation, cosmos (world view), and Religion Lets take a concise look at these concepts.

An artist rendition of a scene in the Popol Vuh. Credit:�


  • The Maya conceived time as cyclical (Life/Universe)
  • The Maya tried so hard to syncretize their needs and that of their environment
  • They Maya believe that we have now entered the 5th creation of the universe
  • They believed that man was created 3 times – 1st of clay, 2nd from wood, and 3rd of corn
  • The Popolvuh was a pre classic time system which was written by the Quiche Maya – it was their book of counsel
  • There were two Hero Twins, one Ixbalanque and the other Hunahpu; Hunahpu was often linked to the corn god
  • The last creation was on December 21st, 2012; before that the last creation was in 3114BC.
  • The Maya believed in a system called the sacred round. This round is every 52 years, when a date on their Tzolkin (sacred calendar) calendar meets the same date on the Haab (solar calendar) calendar again.

Caracol Water Lily Monster Frieze
The Water Lily Jaguar/Monster at Caracol, Belize


  • The maya believed that the earth was quadripartite
  • Each corner was represented with a Bacab (cardinal points)
  • In the centre of the earth was the world tree
  • Each corner of the earth was associated with a colour: North- white; South – yellow; East – red; West – black; the centre was green
  • The vertical division of their world were three: heavens, middle world, underworld
  • The heavens had 13 layers
  • The underworld had 9 layers (level)
  • The Maya believed that the earth floated on a primordial sea on the back of a turtle or a crocodile
  • Sometimes one can see art of the corn god coming out of the back nd shell of a turtle

Barton Creek Cave, Cayo Belize. Photo Credit: Maya Popovich of Conch Creative


  • The Maya were polytheistic (they had a pantheon of gods)
  • Their supreme god was Hunab Ku
  • Itzamna was one of the very powerful gods in the pantheon
  • Religion developed in early cultures for and because of things that people could not explain (rain, sun, fire, health/sickness)
  • Sun god – Kinich Ahau
  • Moon goddess – Ixchel
  • Corn god – Yum Kax
  • Merchant god – Ek Chua
  • The Maya believed that many of these gods were dualistic. They could be good or bad (Rain god – floods; WInd god – storms)
  • Underworld gods were known as the Bolontiku. It was called Metnal by the Yucatec Maya and Xibalba by the highland Maya
  • Xibablba or Metnal was a place of death and of creation. The source of the human spirit and flesh was in the underworld
  • Even in the act of farming the Maya recreated the birth and rebirth in the underworld
  • The most sacred activity performed in caves by the Maya were ritual ceremony for agriculture and sustenance

The Pax god on the East frieze at Xunantunich, Belize.

Maya Women

Many people have asked throughout time and everywhere in the Maya world about the role of women in ancient Maya societies. As in all societies, certainly, women were important. The played some vital roles which helped ancient Maya societies thrive. For example:

  • They were rulers, as in the case of Lady 6 Sky of Naranjo. They were certainly important for political alliances, such as the one with Calakmul and Caracol through Lady Batz Ek.
  • There have been some representation on art panels of women ball ams players in the Tabasco and Campeche, Mexico areas.
  • They served in many cases as ritual conductors, especially fertility rituals
  • There is no secret that Maya women were some of the best weavers in the world
  • There is also no secret that Maya women were some of the best potters in the world
Maya Woman
Tattooed Maya Woman. Source:


The ancient Maya Kings, priests and Royalty went into trance every time they participated in rituals on behalf of their people. After all ancestor worship and the marking of time were two major areas of reverence they invested in. Many people have asked what the ancient Maya used to get to that trance plane where they would certainly communicate with their ancestors and gods. The following are a few of the intoxicants they ingested to get to the metaphorical sky of thought:

  • Native tobacco, which gave a major nicotine rush
  • Trumpet leaves (from the trumpet tree –�Cecropia peltata)
  • XIbalba Okox – underground mushroom
  • Toad glands (intoxicating sap)
  • Ritual enema’s (Balche – fermented corn)



Ritual Enema. Source:

Maya Subsistence

To survive, the ancient Maya organised what Dr. Jared Diamond of UCLA refers to as the greatest invention in agriculture in a tropical space: slash-and-burn/Swidden/Milpa system. They did not only farm, they also were invested in animal husbandry where they raised turkeys, wild boars, deer, stingless bees, and the dog to name a few animals. They also traded for food stuff that they did not immediately have access.

The ocellated turkey. Source:

Extensive and intensive farming were the two most used systems of their agriculture. The former, requires a substantial amount of land (it is important to make known here that this form is still applied to the forests and fields in Central America today). The latter system was organised around raised fields and alluvial valleys�with substantial terracing. Terraces captured sediments as they would flow down hill with rainfall. On these fields the Maya subsided on corn, beans and squash – which was considered the nutrition “trinity” – macal (potato-like tuber), chilis, avocado, tomato, amaranth, jicama, all spice, cilantro, cacao, kinep, mamie apple, yuca (cassava), chaya and cilantro to name a few.

Terraced Maya fields.
Terraced Maya Fields. Source:�

Theories For Decline In Central Maya Lowlands

How could a civilisation like the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Africans �and the Maya just seemingly disappear. For sure, the people didn’t, they certainly evolved and mixed with other groups, but the great astronomy, the mathematics, the trade, the kings�it blows minds! �For the purpose of this essay the Maya decline will be discussed.

There are two broad-based theories tied to the ancient Maya decline. Those are based on internal factors and the other, based on external factors.

The External Factors

Some scholars originally suggested that there was foreign invasion from the West, the Putun area – on the Western neck of the Yucatan (on the map below, the area closest to the sea in Campeche).

Map of the Maya area. Credit:

The Putun Maya you see were great sea traders and raiders. As per the usual everywhere in the world, the traders were bilingual and so were the Putun. Some scholars suggested that the Putun invaded the Central Maya Lowlands. Their fine orange pottery was found in every part of the central lowlands, seemingly adding to idea that these Western people would have invaded. However, scholars later recognised that the pottery was based on trade, not take-over.

What could have happened to the central Maya lowlands was a dramatic change in the trade routes which would have had devastating effects on the Maya inland if the trade moved to a strict sea route. Imagine not getting the necessary salt from the coast and you would live at Caracol.

Trade Routes
Maya Trade Routes. Credit:�

The second broad theory is that of internal factors. The list below suggests what internal factors could have been the reason or reasons the Central Maya Lowlands declined and eventually collapsed.

Internal Factors

  1. Natural catastrophes: such as hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions (it must be noted that volcanic eruptions were more based in the highlands). Diseases such as yellow fever and other epidemics caused by overpopulations and poor nutrient ingestion could have been a factor for the decline. Certainly it affects countries and regions throughout the world today.
  2. Social upheaval – or in the language of today – “Central Lowland Spring”. The people rose up against the elite and demanded change and when that change didn’t come they lost their patience and destroyed almost everything that was reflective of the elite.
  3. Warfare: A great story comes out of Dos Pilas a city state in Peten Guatemala where evidence has been found of violence which occurred in the ancient city of Tikal�and Dos Pilas became the new city refuge of the royalty from Tikal. This warfare was happening throughout the ancient Maya world.
  4. Ecological problems: can be caused by many things. A. Methods of exploitation (of resources), B. High Population, C. Inability to produce enough of basic health and nutrition requirements, D. Climate change (Yes! It was changing drastically then too!)

Art Fresco Of Violent Attack Of Maya Versus Maya. Credit:

Many of the reasons mentioned above on their own could not convince researchers, scientists and anthropologists caused the utter abandonment of the the entire Central Maya Lowland cities. There is just not enough evidence to singularly commit to one factor. However, imagine all the factors coming together in the pressure of a tsunami on the sustainable pillars (economic, social, political and environmental) of these people what mighty devastation this would have been – even for todays societies.

Ecosystem Collapse
Ecosystem Collapse. Photo Credit:

The Maya Conquest Notes

If you use your imagination, this piece of writing can truly come to life! Imagine you live in the tropical forest. Everyone you have ever known was brown. You have never seen a horse – actually, you have never heard that word before!

Spaniards on horses -
Spaniards on their horses in America for the first time. Credit:�

Then, behind them a ship the size you have never seen before. Yes, the ancient Maya had huge boats but nothing like the Spanish Galleons that came floating to their front door.

Spanish Galleon -
Spanish Galleon. Credit:�

The following are dates that represent the movement of the Spanish upon ancient Maya territory during the conquest.

1502: The first contact with Spanish in Bay of Honduras by Columbus on his 4th voyage

1511: Valdivia is hit by a hurricane and 16 people make it to land in the Yucatan Peninsula. They are captured by the Maya but most are sacrificed. Only 2 survive: Francisco de Guerrero and Geronimo Aguilar – they are sold or given to the Maya King Nachan Kan

1514: The small pox epidemic hits Yucatan and thousands of people die, even before the conquest

1515: The epidemic continues. The Maya call it the “mayacimil” (“The easy death”)

1517: Cordova leaves Cuba and starts to explore (It must be noted that Cuba is approximately 60 miles from the Northeastern tip of the Yucatan). He circumnavigates the Yucatan Peninsula and lands in Campeche. The Maya attack and kill most of them!

1518: Grijalva’s expedition – he also circumnavigates the river named after him

1519-1521: Cortez ransoms Aguilar (captive of the Maya) but is unsuccessful with Guerrero as he was the husband of Nachan kan. He goes on to conquer the Aztec

Gonzalo Guerrero turned Maya
Gonzalo Guerrero “became” Maya

1523-1524: Alvarado conducts conquest of highland Guatemala

1524-1525: Cortez leaves people to conquer Honduras but they wanted to make deal with Spanish government; Cortez then marches to Tayasal (Flores, Peten) after he sacrifices Cautemoc – the last ruler of the Aztec. He then meets Kan Ek at Tayasal

1527-1528: Francisco Montejo (the elder) gets the “go ahead” by Cortez to lead conquest of the Yucatan, but dies before that opportunity. His young son then takes over.

1540-1546: Montejo (Junior) only partially conquers Yucatan – only the Western side. Bacalar was his base. Spanish priests, Juan de Orbita and Fuensalida build churches at Lamanai, Zaczus, and Tipu. From Tipu, via the Mopan river (flows through Benque Viejo town and San Jose Succotz, Western Belize) the enter Lakes in the Peten until the arrive to Lake Peten Itza (The second largest lake in Guatemala within which Flores, the island Capital sits).

1697: Tayasal finally falls to the Spanish

Flores (Tayasal) Peten, Guatemala.

After these dramatic occasions above, most Maya kept on with their lives independently. In the 1800’s the Maya eventually gained immunity to small pox and chicken pox.

1847: The Caste war commences (Yucatan). It was led by the Cocom family (Tribe). As history would have it, they stopped the fight due to their cultural planting season, just before they reach Merida. If they would have continued, perhaps, the Yucatan would have been an independent country. WHo knows!

1869: The Maya attack the Spanish at San Cristobal de las Casas; they also attacked the City of Tzotzil �they were not allowed to be in these cities after dark.

Commandante Marcos
Comandante Marcos, iconic leader of the Zapatista movement.

1990: The Maya revolted in Chiapas, Mexico – called the Zapatista revolt

One of the greatest achievement of the Maya is their RESILIENCY!

Chichicastenango, Guatemala1996
Maya girls from highland Guatemala. Credit: upload.wikimedia.org_.jpg

They are still here with us!!

Olmec In America

The name Olmec translated refers to “dweller in the land of rubber”. They were an American civilisation that certainly may have had a lot of influence on civilisations on the American mainland, including the Maya. The predominant sites that these “rubber people” dominated and gave to history were found in the centre of the Mexican Gulf Coast.

The Olmec Trade Routes. Credit:�

The names of those initial sites were Tes Zapotes, Laguna de los Cerros, San Lorenzo and La Venta which are found in the Mexican provinces of Vera Cruz and Tabasco.

These people are credited for some of the influences on other civilisations around them, including the Maya with inventions such as:

The ballgame, arithmetic, calendar, monumental art, portable art (crocodilian images), motifs (such as: the flaming eyebrow, The U-element, Saint Andrews cross, and the Kan cross)

Olmec Colossal Head. Credit:�

In the middle pre classic period people are really organising more. Specialisation starts in many areas such as priests, potters, tool makers and an increase in trade and communication.

Flaming eyebrow Olmec Jade piece
The Olmec Flaming Eyebrow Design On �Jade Piece. Credit:�

The Olmec people are suggested by archaeologists to be the first ‘established” civilisation in America. These people developed in the Olmec heartland in Tabasco and Vera Cruz. The places they organised their entire civilisation were swampy, muggy and tropical.

The Zapotecs were the neighbours of the Olmec and they were developing together from 900BC to 400BC (early pre classic).

Archaeologists found the earliest example of a ball court and rubber ball-making paraphernalia in the year 1920.

San Lorenzo was the Olmec’s first large town (1400 -1300BC to 900BC), then La Venta takes over from 700-400BC. It seems that some group attacked San Lorenzo for this shift to have occurred.

In as far as development, the Olmec made several key developments, as mentioned before, that influenced the Maya civilisation. The Maya developed much of them far more than the original inventors could have imagined. For example, one of the first inscribed monuments which was dated at 31BC �(Stela C) at Tres Zapotes. Certainly the Maya created many more of these with some of the most impressive artistry. None-the-less, the idea of the stelae may have been an Olmec development.

olmec_mosiac La Venta
Olmec Mosaic Art Piece At La Venta. Credit:�

Whether the cultural�characteristics and development of the Olmec diffused into the wider Maya area or not, it is appropriate to make note that these people organised themselves to development that eventually most of the Mesoamerican space might seem to adopt, even the great Maya civilisation.

Olmec Tomb. Credit:�

Multiple Collapses In Mesoamerica

Professor Mark Van Stone, believes that the Creation-Destruction Myth Cycle peculiar to Mesoamerica reflects its history. he thinks that Great Civilisations were utterly destroyed, then rebuilt better than before, but again spiralling down to destruction. To Dr. Van Stone, this became the Cycle of the Suns; a kind of ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny. Dr. Van Stone believes that the destruction of civilisations in Mesoamerica were largely self-inflicted.

Culture Map Meso
Map of Mesoamerican cultures. Credit:�

Cultures worldwide suffer rise and fall. But those in Mesoamerica apparently lived in a more fragile environment; when they fell, they fell hard suggests Dr. Van Stone.

He continues by suggesting that, “unlike Rome, Baghdad and other Old World Cities who rebuilt after a collapse, most of the great Mesoamerican capitals were completely abandoned after their respective falls. Middle America swarms with lost cities.

The Lost City of Xunantunich, San Jose Succotz, Belize

The following is a list and time line of cities and places that collapsed in Mesoamerica:

900 BC �– The Early Preclassic Collapse: the major Olmec City of San Lorenzo abandoned. La Venta rose (Gulf Coast)

400 – 300 BCThe Middle Preclassic Collapse snuffed the Olmec Horizon, and �fertilised dozens of Late Formative / Late Preclassic city-states (pan-Mesoamerica)

300 BC – 200 ADFluorescence of diverse cultures in Chiapas (Isthmian or Epi Olmec), Oaxaca (Zapotec), Soconusco, Maya area, West Coast (e.g. Colima), Valley of Mexico

100 BCCuicuilco buried by a volcanic eruption (southern Valley of Mexico); coincides wight the rise of Teotihuacan (northern valley of Mexico)

Aerial of Teotihucan
Aerial View Of Teotihucan, Mexican Valley. Credit:�

200 ADAbandonment of great Maya cities in the Mirador Basin marks the boundary between Late Preclassic and Early Classic (Northern Guatemala and neighbourhood)

600/650 AD – the burning of Teotihuacan marks the boundary between Early and Late Classic

600 – 800 AD – The Late Classic was not only a dramatic florescence of Maya and Zapotec Cities, but also the appearance of new civilisations: Remojados and Tajin (Southern Veracruz), Huasteca (Northern Veracruz), Xochicalco (Morelos), Cacaxtla (Puebla)

900 ADThe Classic Collapse: Maya, Zapotec, Vercruz, etc. (pan-Mesoamerica)

1100 – 1250 – The rise of the Cholula and Nahua and Mixteca city-states (Puebla, Oaxaca)

The Ancient City of Tenochtitlan. Credit:�

1350 – 1450 – The Aztec/Mexica establish an empire in Western Mesoamerica

1500 – 1540 – The conquest: introduce disease; the fall of Tenochtitlan (1521), and then of the rest of the America’s (pan-Mesoamerica)

Monte Alban Oaxaca
Monte Alban, Oaxaca, Mexico. Credit:�

** Ontogeny (the development of an individual organism or anatomical or behavioural feature from the earliest stage to maturity).

** Phylogeny (the evolutionary development and diversification of a species or group of organisms, or of a particular feature of an organism).

Revisiting The Maya End Date

haab calendar
The Haab Calendar Months. Credit:�

We have been receiving many questions lately about the calendar round and the types of calendars the Maya produced. Inescapably too, the end of the Maya calendar of 2012. The world didn’t end, to the grand surprise of many people. The dramatic did make its way through the psyche of may and certainly it was organised to believable – that the world would truly end. It didn’t. What a wonderful thing that we are still here. SO lets revisit this time for the record. The return date of the calendar round to Whats the significance?

First, we should recognise what the numbers represented. The numbers represented groups of days. The days would be organised �into 5 distinct grouping which all had a name to represent the amount of days. Reading from right to left, Kin, Uinal, Tun, Katun, Baktun. These were organised as expressed below:

Kin – 1 day

Uinal – 20 days

Tun – 360 days

Katun, 7,200 days

Baktun – 144,000 days

panel 5 End date Stela
Carved Stela In Guatemala With End Count Date. Credit:�

The significance of the end date, expressed the most simplest way, is that the Maya Long Count calendar started �not at zero but at; and in late December 2012 it once again reached the date for the first time in 5,125 years, like a clock striking midnight. When the Maya created this phenomenon they may have also realised �or organised that this 2012 date would herald in a new creation.

Second, the earliest known long count calendrical date in Mesoamerica, between 40 and 20 BC come from Chiapa de Crozo, Tres Zapotes and Tak’alik Abaj – the latter is a Maya site, but the other two are Isthmian, the are West of the Maya area. Interestingly, most scholars believe that the long count calendar (Haab) was not a Maya invention.

Third, archaeologist have determined that the Maya calendar may have started on August 11, 3114 BC. �The round went for 5,125 years for the one date “4 Ahau”, the Tzolkin date (260 day sacred calendar) and “8 Cumku”, the Haab �Solar Calendar date (365 days), to come together again since they first started the calendar round in 3114 BC.

Never-the-less, there was much pump and celebration in some parts of the Maya world, while there was utter fear and insecurity in some quarters because of the misconception and misinterpretation of the ‘end date’, and in some quarters – pure “spiritual marketing trickery” about some world-ending catastrophe that truly, the ancient Maya never predicted would occur. Its now 2015. We are still here.

That grand cycle of 5,125 years has started again.

East_side_of_stela_C,_Quirigua -
East side of stela C, Quirigua with the mythical creation date of 13 baktuns, 0 katuns, 0 tuns, 0 uinals, 0 kins, 4 Ahau 8 Cumku – August 11, 3114 BC (Source:

Palenque And Pakal The Great

King Pacal of Palenque. Source:�

In 612 began the rule of Muwaan Mat – the same name as an ancestral deity of the site. Muwaan Mat’s identity remains enigmatic, but may have been the mother of, and regent for, Palenque’s most famous king, K’inich Janaab’ Pakal l (“Pacal” or “Great Sun Shield”), who assumed power in 615 at age 12 and ruled until 683. Pakal is one of the best known Mesoamerican kings, famed for his mortuary monument. Yet his reign was not easy. His kingship to Palenque’s established dynasty was, at best, tenuous, and his reign was mired in foreign conflict. Yet Palenque’s “greatest artwork and longest texts emerged as reactions to the defeat and breakdown of its royal line, as new dynasts strove to legitimise and consolidate their power” (Martin and Grube 2000: 155).

For example, the palace was built on an Early Classic foundation, a platform measuring roughly 58 by 79 meters (190 by 259 feet). Pakal’s rooms and courtyards created an administrative residence that dominated the central part of the site. The palace had facilities for ceremonies and receptions, plus amenities like sweat baths and latrines. The design also included architectural innovations to increase the span encountered by the corbeled vault, and also to reduce the weight displaced to the walls, by the use of mansard-style roofs.

Mansard style roof palenque
Mansard-style roof, Palenque. Source:�

Pakal is even more strongly associated with his own funerary monument, the temple of the inscriptions. The design of the sarcophagus and its cover made it possible to ready the tomb, and then, after Pakal’s death, inter the body and slide the cover over it. The, the coffin was connected to the temple atop the pyramid by a “psychoduct” or “spirit tube” – a pipe built into the stairway, by which Pakal’s descendants could contact his spirit. The tomb was plastered shut, and in the anteroom five captives were sacrificed to be Pakal’s companions on his trip to the otherworld. These rites of passage completed, the mourners would ascend the stairs and emerge in the temple of the inscriptions, performing more rituals in sight of the assembled Palenqueans in the plaza below. Such rites, private and public, would assure a safe transition through the dangerous liminal state of passage from the world of the living to the realm of the dead, for Pakal’s spirit and Palenque’s political stability . However, Pakal’s 7th century reign was Palenque’s time of greatness. The dynasty struggled along until around 800, but soon thereafter, was abandoned (Mathews and Schele).

The above is an extraction from the book,�Ancient Mexico And Central America: archaeology and culture history�written by Susan Toby Evans.

Temple of Inscriptions, Palenque
Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque, Mexico. Source:�

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,395
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The Coming Of Kings Pt. 1

Linda Schele and David Friedel have been two of the most noteworthy archaeologist/epigraphers/Mayanists in the last 30 years. They have collaborated to give the world some amazing insight into the world of the Maya, especially through the social research and the epigraphical research they invested in. This piece reflects some of their thoughts on the Maya development of the politics of kings.

Maya King
A Maya King. Source:�

Many of the great inventions of the past were social inventions. To some extent, and because the population on the earth was growing, social inventions were certainly absolutely necessary. As Schele suggests, just as the Athenian Greeks whom we revere as spiritual forebears, invented democracy, so the Maya invented the ideas which cemented their survival as a civilisation. To Friedel and Schele the most important social invention of all for the Maya was the invention of kingship. To their amazement, the Maya organised this kingship option in the span of a century. Just like that, the ancient Maya people had their great ahauob, the high kings.

Maya royalty in clay
Maya royalty in clay. Source:�

Kingship seems to have been an invention deeply rooted in necessity as external forces were tearing at the then highly egalitarian organisation that the Maya subscribed to. At the same time the Maya were “forced” into kingship their non-Maya Mesoamerican counterparts who they were trading with such as the Teotihacanos, and the Zapotecs (to name a few) who were trading on the coast were becoming incredibly wealthy but the distribution of that wealth was highly was being tragically unequally distributed within these societies. We must remember that the ancient Mesoamericans and the ancient Maya system was one that considered the accumulation of wealth as an aberration hence this left these people cringing in social strife.

Mesoamerican trade route
Mesoamerican Trade Route. Source:�

The success of the trade and agricultural enterprise made many kingdoms fantastically wealthy – even though the inequality was rampant and devastating. What truly was a problem and what they were trying to resolve was inequality �because, as Schele and Friedel put it, “�because that is precisely the state of affairs that the institution of ahau defines as legitimate, necessary, and intrinsic to the order of the universe.

Kingship addressed the problem of inequality, not by destroying or denying it, but by embedding the contradictory nature of privilege into the very fabric of life itself.

Cerros Maya site in Northern Belize. A great place to start with the coming of Kings.�Source:�

The Coming Of Kings Pt. 2

The ancient Maya city of Cerros in Belize is located in the northern-most district of Belize, Corozal. It sits reaching out to the Chetumal Bay just across from Chetumal, a province of Mexico which sits on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Cerros on the Belize map
Cerros Maya site on the Belize map �

This village of Cerros was a late pre classic (200Bc-200AD) Maya village of fishing folk, farmers and traders. Certainly, they were smack in the pathway of the great coastal trade which only grew in the classic period. Eventually that little village was buried by the public centre.

According to Linda Schele, the people of Cerros “did decide consciously to embrace kingship as an institution and the consequence of that decision was profound for all”. In the space of two generations, this small village transformed itself into a mighty acropolis. Everyone was a part of the transformation. From the farmer to the engineers and architects who organised the building in the city, to the healers and priests who made certain there was zen at the transition. But even more impressive, Linda Schele add, “It is difficult for us to imagine such a complete and rapid metamorphosis, but what happened at Cerros constituted nothing less than a paradigm shift.

David Friedel added: “Around 50BC, the community of Cerros began the evolutionary program of “urban renewal” which buried their village completely under broad plastered plazas and massive temples�finished with one way of life, they walked outward and began building new homes in a halo some 160 acres in breadth around the new centre.”

Cerros Maya City � Credit:�

As you may be able to imagine, these people were doing something new and it was extravagant, bold and revolutionary. It was an incredible moment not only for the founders and the creators of the city, – which was evolving from a quaint fishing village – but most importantly for what it did to the entire peninsula and down into the coastal planes and mountain jungles of central and western Belize.

Cerros had a king. It certainly was news all over the Maya area and symbolically they created the First Temple or as archaeologists will soon call it, Structure 5C-2nd.

Shortly, we will express the design and art on the First Temple at this precious site which sits today quietly but certainly proudly, on the NorthEastern end of Corozal Bay in the community of Copper Bank.

Its time to visit Cerros. Its time to come to Belize.

14 Facts Of Ancient Indigenous America

Inca City Machu Pichu -

  1. The American man (Indian) has been on the American continent for more than 30,000 years!
  2. Before the coming of the Europeans the ancient cultures of America existed in the great splendour of mighty cities such as cities of the Zapotecs, Tainos, Inuit, Maya, Inca and many more
  3. The cities were based on agriculture and trade; the people understood the value of nature and � � lived harmoniously with nature
  4. More than 50% of the agricultural products on the planet consumed originate from the America’s
  5. Tenochtitlan, in Mexico. hosted up to 300,000 inhabitants! This reflected a city 5 times the population of Madrid, Spain at the same time!
  6. None of the American cultures were isolated from the other. Trade and communication was prominent between them.
  7. The Inca of South America, amazingly constructed up to 60 kilometres of cobble stone roads.
  8. The ancient Maya roads (Sac Be – “white road”) can still be found today – most are intra city roads.
  9. The ancient cultures of America developed a high level of understanding of astronomy, agriculture, medicine and engineering.
  10. Most ancient American cultures developed terracing to defend the loss of agricultural land.
  11. Beginning in 1492 the most brutal invasion began in America. Columbus first arrive on American shores from Europe – lost, thinking he is in India.
  12. The Europeans organised to believe that the American Indian were savages without souls and without emotions.
  13. The notice of the European conquest was silver and gold. “Gold was the god of the conquistador” (Huatey, 1511)
  14. The Europeans had guns and steel for weapons and a hidden weapon of germs!

Monte Alban -
The ancient Zapotec city of Monte Alban, Mexico. Credit:�

Joined: Apr 2017
Posts: 2
Dear sir/madam. Some years ago I watched an interesting film. There was shown a documentary movie in which some people were studying the karst system in Yucatan. Within the furthest and the deepest of the cave they found a small entrance completely blocked with stone (which seemed to be made by human hands as it looked very elaborate like a stone wall from a masonry), which was supposed to lead into the Mayan underground world (or a kind of a temple). This entrance was supposedly blocked by the Mayan priests, in order to keep the Spanish out of the sacred place, when the latter invaded their lands. The scientists left the entrance as it was, and there the movie came to an end. And I failed to find any further information about what happened after. If you have any, please let me know what kind of cave it finally turned out to be and what kind of movie was it? Thanks beforehand.

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