Monday, November 5, 2012

12 Interesting Facts About The Ancient Mayans, Photos

Updated May 15, 2019

1. The Mayans Enhanced Their Children's Features

The Maya desired some unnatural physical characteristics for their children. For instance, at a very young age boards were pressed on babies’ foreheads to create a flattened surface. This process was widespread among the upper class. Another practice was to cross babies’ eyes. To do this, objects were dangled in front of a newborn’s eyes, until the newborn’s eyes were completely and permanently crossed. The Maya filed their teeth to make them pointy and created holes that they filled with jade. Another interesting fact about Mayan children is that most were named according to the day they were born. Every day of the year had a specific name for both boys and girls and parents were expected to follow that practice.

2. The Mayans had Excellent Medical Techniques

Health and medicine among the ancient Maya was a complex blend of mind, body, religion, ritual, and science. Important to all, medicine was practiced only by a select few who were given an excellent education. These men, called shamans, act as a medium between the physical world and spirit world. They practice sorcery for the purpose of healing, foresight, and control over natural events. Since medicine was so closely related to religion and sorcery, it was essential that Maya shamans had vast medical knowledge and skill. It is known that the Maya sutured wounds with human hair, reduced fractures, and were even skilled dental surgeons, making prostheses from jade and turquoise and filling teeth with iron pyrite.

3. Maya Blue or Azul Maya Still a Mystery

Maya Blue or azul maya has been seen at several architectural locations from the ancient Mayan civilization including the archaeological site of Cacaxtla on the Mural de la batalla. Cacaxtla is a large palace with many vibrant colored murals in Mayan style. As one of the highlights of the ancient Mayan civilization this very gorgeous turquoise blue color only survived to be seen because of the chemical characteristics that made it possible and the composition is still unknown.

4. Mayans Played Sophisticated Deadly Ball Games

The ancient Maya ballgame was played for thousands of years throughout Mesoamerica, and had great religious significance.Contact with the ball was limited. Any body part, except the hands and feet, was allowed; The abdomen, thighs, upper arms and back were used. Maybe even the head. Kicking or throwing the ball was forbidden. In addition, the ball was not allowed to touch the ground. Slightly larger than basketball hoops, the rings were positioned on opposite walls, about 25 feet above the playing field. The ball had to be bounced off the wall in order to enter a ring. The ball was made of rubber and weighed about eight pounds! This made severe injury a definite possibility. Ballplayers wore protective gear, including wide padding around their hips called “yokes.” They also wore pads on their forearms and knees so they could fall to the ground in a kneeling position and hit the ball with one hip. Game play itself is thought to have been incredibly violent. Players would ram into each other at top speed so as to cause serious injury or death to an opponent, and this was actively encouraged by the referees. The game ended when the first goal was scored.

5. The Mayans Used Saunas

An important purification element to the ancient Maya was the sweat bath, or zumpul-ché. Similar to a modern day sauna, sweat baths were constructed of stone walls and ceilings, with a small opening in the top of the ceiling. Water poured onto the hot rocks in the room created steam, offering a setting in which to sweat out impurities. Sweat baths were used for a range of conditions and situations. New mothers who had recently conceived a child would seek revitalization in them, while individuals who were sick could find healing power in sweating. Maya kings made a habit out of visiting the sweat baths as well because it left them feeling refreshed and, as they believed, cleaner.

6. The Mayan Used Hallucinogenics and Painkillers

The Mayan peoples regularly used hallucinogenic drugs (taken from the natural world) in their religious rituals, but they also used them in day to day life as painkillers. Flora such as peyote, the morning glory, certain mushrooms, tobacco, and plants used to make alcoholic substances, were commonly used. In addition, as depicted in Maya pottery and carvings, ritual enemas were used for a more rapid absorption and effect of the substance. Above is a statue of a Mayan enjoying their enema.

7. The Mayan Still Practice Blood Sacrifices

Mayan civilization and its people practiced and promoted blood sacrificed to their gods; especially of little children. Their sacrifices usually would take place on the first appearance of the Planet Venus or simply to appease the Sun. Unfortunately the sacrifice of little children existed in almost all ancient cultures as they believe that offering the pure soul of the children to the “gods” can somehow bring them prosperity and avoid adversity. More specifically the Mayas sacrificed human beings for medical and religious reasons. This practice cannot be seen among the present Mayans descendants; however, they still use cattle and chicken blood instead of human blood.

8. The Last Mayan Kingdom Existed Until 1697

The island city of Tayasal is considered as the last independent Mayan Kingdom and it existed until 1696. Finally it was submitted to the Spanish rule, after which the existence of all original ancient Mayas were mysteriously eradicated and no one knows exactly why. Many theories have been put to the table, one of which is that the Spanish carried a virus that Mayas never faced before and it basically irradiated them.

9. Dec 21, 2012 Mayans Marks Rare Cosmic Event

This end-date of the Long Count Calendar December 21, 2012 marks the coming of a truly rare cosmic event that will occur when this procession of the equinoxes positions our solar system in the very center of our galaxy when Earth will cross the ecliptic path of the sun.The world is talking about what will happen on this date, however, not everyone is looking forward to it with the same set of expectations. For some, 2012 hints at a coming apocalypse but more optimistic views believe that, as the Maya claimed, we would begin to experience some form of spiritual awakening, perhaps initiated by some cosmic event or compelling miracle. But, we have no way of knowing for sure what effects these cosmic events will have on Earth, as the last time an alignment like this took place was over 150,000 years ago! 

10. The Mayan Had Advanced Writing Skills

The Maya had fairly advanced writing skills, like the Egyptians their written language was in hieroglyphs. They were capable of writing full sentences and communicating stories.  Most Maya could read some basic hieroglyphs carved in stone but it would have been the nobles and priests that understood the entire language. They covered their cities and building in hieroglyphs and were adept at writing books made out of soft inner bark of fig trees. They wrote using quills made from turkey feathers. 

11. The Mayan Were Fond Of Jewelry

The Mayan culture was extremely fond of different forms of jewelry, the two most common were jade and gold. Families of the Royals and priests wore more jewelry of a  much more sophisticated nature.   The  Jade was worn in beads, bracelets, earrings and ear spools. Jade was one of the items most commonly traded by the Mayans. 

12. The Collapse of Mayan Culture Still a Mystery

For reasons that are still debated, the Maya centers of the southern lowlands went into decline during the 8th and 9th centuries and were abandoned shortly thereafter. This decline was coupled with a cessation of monumental inscriptions and large-scale architectural construction. Non-ecological theories of Maya decline are divided into several subcategories, such as overpopulation, foreign invasion, peasant revolt, and the collapse of key trade routes. Ecological hypotheses include environmental disaster, epidemic disease, and climate change. There is evidence that the Maya population exceeded carrying capacity of the environment including exhaustion of agricultural potential and over-hunting of megafauna. Some scholars have recently theorized that an intense 200 year drought led to the collapse of Maya civilization.
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