Mayan Facts

The Mayans and the Maya Empire are widely discussed, but little known is about them. Many people may wonder exactly where the Mayans existed in the world even.

In general, the Mayans lived and occupied the lowlands of present day Guatemala and Mexico that expanded in the direction of the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize and parts of Honduras and El Salvador.

Let’s learn more about the incredible world of the Mayans below. The Maya people have helped develop early views and research on astronomy, calendar types, and even hieroglyphic writing. This list of facts and nuggets of information will really surprise most anyone.


Mayans thought human sacrifice was an important and accepted part of life

Human sacrifice

Before the 1700s, human sacrifice in Mayan culture was accepted and regularly practiced in the Maya territories. For example, the ritual sacrifice offering or nourishment to the gods was performed by priests. Human and animal sacrifice had been more common in pre-modern societies with the intent to appease the gods in other worlds.

All in all, the Mayans viewed blood as a powerful source of nourishment for the Maya gods, and the sacrifice of a living creature or human being was a symbolic and symbolic blood offering. IN terms of duration, Human sacrifice was practiced by the Mayans in the Classic period around 250 AD until the Spanish conquest in the 17th century.


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Mayans played a game of life and death that was known as the Mesoamerican ball game

Mesoamerican ball game

Games that were played by the Mayans were serious and meant life and death. The competitive level of sports meant you may lose your life. The Mesoamerican ball game has origins from around 1800 BC.

Competitors who lost may have been sacrificed if it was for a ritualistic event or game. Images of art in Chichen Itza depict beaten up competitors or even some who are shown decapitated.

The rules of the game were similar to racquetball, where the goal was to keep the ball in play. The biggest issue was that there would be an addition of mixing competition with human sacrifice for religious reasons. The ritualistic features of this ballgame are what made this game deadly.


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Healers in the Mayan world were called Shamans and were powerful

Shamans

DThe idea of a healer let alone a shaman is very powerful. And the Mayans had healers that were special and had a special quality. A Shaman today and in the past is a keeper of sacred knowledge. The Shaman would use dreams, trances, and even try to contact spirits to bring about change and cures.

Shamans in the Mayan world would use plants for medicinal purposes and even do cures and healing. The method of healing and curing was natural and in a way supernatural. Many would claim that this practice of herbal cures existed to save people and villages.

In general, the Mayans had this view that the Shamans were divine and above everyone else of course. The idea of a Shaman today is less believable but the Mayans saw life and healing differently.


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Mayans enjoyed getting out of their mind and hallucinogenic drugs

Getting out of their mind

It may not be well known, but the Mayans enjoyed altered states of consciousness.This meant that Mayans loved to get “high” and take and consume drugs that would give them hallucinations.

The reason why the Mayans did this was to prepare and be involved in rituals as well as participate in ceremonies.

One particular trance for Mayans involved having to lick the backside of cane toads to get into an altered state. Ritual included psychoactive substances that included and were similar to Aztec used peyote. All in all, the Mayans had a lot of ways to escape reality and be adventurous.


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Mayans loved and used saunas like other places around the world

Saunas

Finland or Russia may be places with saunas but add as well the Mayan people. In general, Mayans were fond of similar things to what people may know Finland for as well. The baths for the Mayans were viewed as an element of purification and cleansing. All in all, these things were seen as a vital thing for priests and rulers to enjoy and feel transformation.

In the Mayan world, the saunas played a major part in society. For example, new mothers who recently gave birth would seek a way to stay strong and revitalized, so saunas were key. Also, people who were ill visited saunas for improvement and well being.

In summary, it was the Mayan rulers or kings who enjoyed the saunas or baths most and regularly. The sauna is usually not associated with Mayans but has much more importance than many realize.


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The Mayans believed chocolate was otherworldly and powerful

Chocolate

Around  300 AD, the Ancient Maya were given credit for discovering the divine in cacao i.e. chocolate. Cacao, i.e. chocolate,  was included in many significant events within the religion, social, and economic of the Mayans. The simple reason was that chocolate was viewed in the same light as gold today.

Mayans thought that chocolate, cacao, was from the gods of the Mayan world, so they would baptize babies and celebrate major occasions with cacao water. Lastly, The Mayans would drink something called Xocoatl, which is a thick, frothy mix of cacao, seeds, chili, cinnamon, water and more.


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Mayans would change their appearance in ways that was unique for the time

Change their appearance

Mayans would change or enhance their facial features to bring out or have a special type of beauty. In a way, the Mayans were one of the first to do plastic surgery.  The Mayans believed they could use and make their idea of beauty by using their own bodies as a piece of art for everyone to see.

For example, the Mayans would flatten their foreheads or sharpen their teeth to make them pointier and sharper. The reason the Mayans did this was to appease the  Mayan gods.  So, they would go through various transformations where the body was the central vehicle to show and offer to the gods.


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The largest cities in the Maya world were Tikal and Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza was one of the largest Mayan cities in the Maya world. This city is located near Mexico City. However, the biggest city or settlement was called Tikal, which was quite expansive.

The famous and iconic Mayan pyramids commonly seen are from Chichen Itza in Mexico. Tikal existed in its grandeur and biggest conception from 200 to 900 AD and had at one point a population of 100,000 to 200,000 people.

Tikal, which you can visit in Guatemala features 6 very large pyramids or temples. Today Tikal is one of the biggest archaeological sites in Mesoamerica and the world at this point.


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The Mayans used a complex form of hieroglyphs for writing

The Mayans hieroglyphs

Mayans used a fairly complex form OF HIEROGLYPHS, which meant that some words were formed with combinations of up to 26 letters. Moreover, the language or writing itself featured more than 800 hieroglyphs. Each hieroglyph or picture/character represented what would be a syllable sound.

The language and structure of the Mayan writing originates more or less from the late Preclassic period. This historical period is from 300 BCE to 100 CE roughly.

If you are curious to see some of these very mysterious writings or hieroglyphs you can still see some at some sites in present day Mexico or Guatemala. You can see this form of writing still in its authentic form as you see it on buildings, variable monuments., ancient books, and even pottery and different artifacts and artwork.


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Mayan pyramids and artifacts are still being discovered today

Mayan pyramids and artifacts

Still to this day, many Mayan artifacts and even pyramids are still being discovered and explored from Mexico to Honduras in Central America. Archaeologists are still discovering incredible history that can be up to 1000 years old in places like Chiapas. For example, just in 2015, there was a discovery of Mexico’s tallest pyramid that is bigger than the pyramids of the sun at Teotihuacan.

For example, the ruins of two Maya cities were hidden by overgrown vegetation and only recently discovered in Campeche of Mexico. In 2018, a massive Maya city was discovered in Guatemala’s Peten region, which included lots of relics, artifacts, and various ancient historical items.


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Mayans used up to three different calendars at one time!

Calendars

Mayans made use of three separate and different calendars. However, the basic structure of the Maya calendar is  based on a system dating back to the 5th century BC. The Mayan Calendar is similar to other American civilizations like the Mixtec and Aztec.

The other two calendars they used were more similar to modern day time and date recording. For example, the Mayans would use the Gregorian calendar that has 365 days. But, the most spectacular and most infamous or popular calendar was the Mayan one that predicted the end of the world or a reset in 2012. The Mayan Long Count calendar, which they devised included cycles or years every 2,880,000 days!

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