mayan world

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The ancient civilization of the Maya has been fascinating scientists as well as laypeople since the breathtaking ruins of Mayan cities were discovered in the depths of the tropical primaeval forests in the area ranging from the state of Tabasco in the southern part of Mexico, through the Yucatan, Belize and Guatemala up to today's Honduras and Salvador. We owe the discovery of these mystical cultural and religious centres in particular to John Stephenson and Frederick Catherwood, who uncovered, in the middle of the 19th century, remnants of the famous cities in southern Mexico and Guatemala and thus re-discovered the lost world for other archaeological fans, scientists and adventurers.

This extensive part of Mesoamerica represents one of the most varied climatic areas of our planet. Ranging from cold mountainous vegetation up to tropical humid jungle - thanks to which we can find here extremely diverse flora and fauna. This world full of colours was the world in which the ancient Maya developed their civilisation that underwent many changes in the course of its existence. Today, we can admire not only their architecture, but also murals, sculptures and what little has been preserved in written form and even some of their customs and ceremonies, which have survived up to now among the local Maya inhabitants. The map below shows the most important Mayan centres in the area of Mexican Yucatan and partly in Guatemala as well. The monumental temples, palaces and pyramids, richly decorated with various reliefs or sculptures of gods provide evidence of a society whose ruling class had an unbelievably deep knowledge of astronomy, mathematics and calendar symbolism, and whose perception of time of differed from ours to a great extent. It was a society of frequent wars, political marriages, conspiracies and ritual ceremonies quite often associated with bloodshed.

With the passage of time, new findings occurred and decipherment of the Mayan hieroglyphics has brought new and sometimes very surprising information on the ancient civilization. It seems that the red ribbon of imminent apprehension of extinction and collapse of the entire empire followed the entire Mayan civilization. These forecasts or prophecies were based on the perfect knowledge of astrology and mathematics, the movement of celestial bodies, solar phases and cycles and eruptions. This led to a cyclic perception of time and forecasting of experienced or deduced events. The collapse of the Mayan civilization, which was blooming in the Mayan classic period, and the literal “disappearance” of some of the city states, in particular in the southern and central area, has remained a complete mystery, although there are “various” theories explaining the reasons why. Come with us to lift the veil of mystery a little and look into this fascinating world of the ancient Maya.

Lost in the jungles of Mesoamerica, remnants of this mysterious nation are found. Who were the Maya? What were these people like, where did they come from and what legacy did they leave behind for our modern times? These questions are asked today not only by scientists and researchers, but also by ordinary people who are fascinated by the approaching date of December 21, 2012, the end of the Mayan calendar. The Maya differed in many respects from our civilization of today. Unlike us, they had almost no personal belongings (possessing only what they needed to survive). They cultivated land and ate mainly corn, beans and jalapeños (hot peppers). They knew rubber, vanilla, coffee and cocoa. They had a structured society where rulers as well as farmers knew their place.

Each of the Mayan cities was the centre of a small state controlled by its own dynasty. The rulers of the Mayan city states were not only ordinary rulers but also “sacred kings”, direct incarnations of the gods and, in the eyes of their subjects, embodiments of the universe as such. As symbols of spiritual power, the Mayan sacred kings were responsible for the recovery of the spirit of their people and land. The temple pyramids served in particular as stages: from the tops of them, they performed their rituals for their subjects assembled around them. Among the most frequent events, there was a ritual sacrifice of own blood. In this manner, they were connected to their gods and received visions from them, on the basis of which they then decided on important events, such as when to wage war, when to sacrifice to the gods, etc. In addition to the ruling dynasty, there was an important class of priests, who were excellent mathematicians and astronomers as well. They were able to observe and record movements of the planets and stars with nearly perfect accuracy, although they did not have telescopes or any other specialized equipment. They were able to foresee eclipses of the sun, conjunction of planets, solstices and equinoxes, during which some structures provided mystic show, as in Chichén Itzá where a serpent is crawling down from the top of the pyramid. The Maya were the first people on earth to use the zero and were obviously the most advanced mathematicians of their time. They had the best writing system of the

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