Pottery found at the Joya de Cerén site, El Salvador


June 10 - June 23, 2014  was a journey of discovery of the Mayan people of Central America both past and present.  Their history is one of great cultural achievements.  From about 2500 BCE the Maya lived in simple houses and villages.  By around 300 BCE these villages had grown into several massive cities with roads connecting them.  The Mayans were astronomers, tracking the passage of the sun, moon, and stars.  They predicted lunar eclipses and calculated the length of a year to 365.2422 days.  The Mayans developed 2 calendars - a solar calendar and a ritual calendar.  Not only are their hieroglyphics carved on and out of stone, but also recorded on tree bark “ books” or codices, only four of which have been discovered, the rest probably destroyed by the Spanish.  

Between 250-900 CE, the great Mayan civilization flourished.  Tikal had a population between 50-100,000 in a 50 square mile area.   Between 800-1200 CE this great civilization was in decline and then disappeared. Invaders from the north or possibly years of drought or overpopulation took their toil on the large cities and the inhabitants dispersed to live in smaller, rural villages.  

Today, we wander among the ruins and imagine the scope of these once great cities as we climb the stairs of temples and palaces.  Gazing upon the ball courts, we wonder if the winner or loser really was  sacrificed to the gods.  We look at the carvings of monkey gods and jaguars and hear the tales of the Hero Twins and the creation of the Maya and of the Sun and Moon. 

We marvel at the complex calendar systems that once guided the Mayans daily and religious life while enjoying a meal similar to one they may have eaten - corn, beans, chili, jicama, sweet potatoes and chocolate.  Their legacy is not forgotten.

The site provides an entertaining, yet education video summary of the Mayan civilization and its accomplishments.

© Phyllis Nethercot 2014