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5 fascinating stories about the ancient Mayan civilization

Even if you only know a little about the Mayans, you can tell they were very interesting people. At least as far back as ancient Egypt, their pyramids are made of building blocks.

Galactic night starry sky over ancient Mayan city of Palenque. © Soft_Light/Istock

They were good at math and knew more about astronomy than European scientists in the 1800s. They were also the first native tribe on the American continent to get a written language. Aside from that, many people don’t know much about the Mayan culture, but that should all change after reading this article.

They viewed human sacrifice as a tremendous honor and relief

Human sacrifices in Maya. ©

When the first Spanish explorers met the Mayans, they found a group of very friendly people. Since the Spaniards liked to add gory details to their paintings of local life, like a man with his guts cut out falling to his death from the top of a pyramid, the Mayans could always blame the Aztecs and say, It was them, not us.

In recent years, archeological digs have shown a different side of the story. The early Ma people made the human sacrifice, which was considered a favor. The Mayans thought that to get to paradise; you had to go through a terrible underworld and thirteen more levels before you reached eternal happiness.

The journey was so hard that not every soul could reach the endpoint. The only people who could skip this epic quest were people who were sacrificed, women who died giving birth, people who died in the war, people who killed themselves, or people who died while playing ball.

If you were chosen to be a sacrifice, you would be a messenger for the gods. Astronomers and mathematicians utilized calendars to determine when sacrifices were to be made and which messenger was the most effective. Because of this, most sacrifices would have happened within the tribe.

They were probably seafarers

Tulum is the only Mayan archeology site on the coast. It is south of Cancun, Mexico on the Caribbean Sea. © CampPhoto/Istock

It’s frustrating to figure out all the mysteries about the Mayans. Even though most scientists agree that native tribes moved to America over a land span between Alaska and Russia over the last ice age, some still insist that the Mayans came from Asia and Africa across the water. Using the Codex as evidence, they say that the underwater cities show that the Mayans used to be sailors.

Another strange thing was that the Olmec culture was still around when the Mayans started to become a civilization. Dual civilizations are not uncommon, and it’s possible that the Mayans learned a lot from the Olmec, such as how to make chocolate drinks, play ball, make sculptures, and honor animal gods.

What’s surprising is that there’s no sign of where the Olmec came from or how they went away. They built the first pyramids in Mesoamerica and left some huge stone heads behind. Some people thought the Olmec people must have been giants because of how big their buildings were, but the details that made them look real started the overseas debate.

The Olmec are shown to have full lips, short, wide noses, and eyes with heavy lids. People who believe that people moved during the time of the Bible say that this shows that the Olmecs came from Africa. The Olmecs seemed to appear out of nowhere around 1500 BCE, and they were busy for 1300 years before they stopped living.

Some of the oldest Mayan artifacts are more than 7,000 years old. If they came from Asia, it happened long before Moses split the Red Sea. But you know what happens when you talk to one burning bush: all of a sudden, everyone is interested only in you.

They didn’t have spaceports, but they had an observatory

The upper part of the tower of “El Caracol, Chichen Itza” observatory, in Mexico. © Wikimedia Commons

So far, there hasn’t been any strong scientific proof that the Mayans had flying machines, managed space traffic, or even drove cars. They did, however, have a sophisticated system of paved roads and an advanced understanding of how celestial bodies move.

The building with a dome on top called El Caracol on the Yucatan Peninsula may be the most amazing proof of its connection to the heavens. Most people know El Caracol as the observatory. The 48-foot tower had many windows, so the equinoxes and summer solstice could be seen.

Its position seems to help Venus get around. The bright planet Venus was very important to the Mayans, and it is thought that the Tzolkin calendar, which has a rotating sequence of days and months that matches Venus’ orbit, used it to plan events, holidays, plant crops, and get ready for war.

A reason for the Mayan-alien connection

El Caracol, the Observatory, is a unique structure at pre-Columbian Maya civilization site of Chichen Itza. El Caracol, which means ‘snail’ in Spanish, is so named due to the spiral staircase inside the tower. © Daniel Mennerich/flickr

One of the most popular conspiracy theories among people who want to find out about aliens is that they have been here before and left advanced knowledge with ancient people. Erich von Daniken, a Swiss high school dropout, led the way in the late 1960s. He made millions of dollars by writing books about spacemen who manipulated humans in some way to bring them up from their animal instincts to a higher level of consciousness.

Scientists aren’t sure why the Egyptians improved their living standards around the same time pyramids became popular in architecture. They also don’t know how to explain why some designs in the landscape, like the Nazca lines in Peru, are so big that you can only see them from the air.

Daniken said this was because the ancient Mayans had flying machines, and those busy aliens had given them the technology to fly in space and all over the earth. Drawings on the pyramids, which he uses as proof, look suspiciously like men in bubble helmets floating around with their feet off the ground and an oxygen tube above them.

They could have come from Atlantis

Illustration of underwater ruins of the lost city of Atlantis based on the legends. © Shutterstock

Mayans are just as mysterious and romantic as the ancient Egyptians because of how great their history was. So, getting an accurate picture of Mayan history can be hard. Most of the written Mayan history was lost when superstitious Spanish conquistadors thought the strange symbols were signs of witchcraft and destroyed most of it.

Only the Madrid, Dresden, and Paris Codices, named for the cities where they were moved, were saved when the Mayans tried to get rid of all their books. As historians worked hard to translate one of the codex scripts, they came across a list of ancient ruins destroyed by earthquakes, floods, and fires.

These cities were not on the North American continent. Instead, they were vaguely described as being in the ocean. One way to read the passages was that the Mayans came from an area that is now underwater. This would make them the descendants of Atlantis.