One of the oldest, most intriguing cultures in history is the Maya. This incredible civilization reigned for about 4,000 years, a quite impressive run at the time. The Mayans created art, practiced medicine, built pyramids, and even invented ball games. But a civilization this ancient also comes with a hefty package of misconceptions. Here are the most common ones.
They said the world would end in 2012
Not at all. In the early 2,000s, it was quite trendy to talk about the Mayan prediction that the world would end on December 21st, 2012. People were genuinely concerned that the world was going to end that year, and the prediction spread fear and anxiety across the globe.
So, what was the root of the confusion? The Mayan’s impressive calendar simply “recycles” every 8,000 years, and one cycle just happened to end in 2012.
They worshiped the sun
Inaccurate — Kinich Ahau the sung god is only one of the 165 known gods they worshipped. Before the monotheistic religions, it was common practice to worship many gods, each representing various emotions and acts such as love, anger, lust, war, and more. The gods that Mayans believed in would act much like humans, they would eat, drink, fight, debate, and more.
One very cool thing about the Mayan gods was that they were completely mutable, meaning that they could change almost anything about themselves including their gender, age, appearance, and more.
They sacrificed themselves to a higher power
Well, technically yes but very rarely. Most sacrifices were actually of foreigners. It was deeply important to the Mayans to keep their gods happy by offering them the blood of the living.
Although human sacrifice was regarded as a virtue, the Mayans had a strong preference towards disposing of those who were not part of their civilization. So, an enemy king was considered their most revered of prizes. Sacrifices were done in various ways and body painting was an important part of the preparation process for the ritual.
They were homogenous
Not in the slightest. A lot of people believe that because the Mayans were a single nation, they spoke one official language. Well, when it comes to historical backgrounds, the Mayan empire was actually made up of a large number of small groups of people, each of which had their own dialect. These dialects eventually evolved into their own fully developed languages, making the total amount of languages spoken in the Mayan territories range from 21 to 70 different languages.
All of these languages descend from one original meta-language called the Proto-Mayan language, a younger version of the spoken languages that dates back more than five thousand years ago. A little like Europe, with the meta language of Latin gradually developing into languages like English and German.
They’re all gone
Wrong. Many think that the Mayans were destroyed back when the Spanish came along. The fact remains that there are still over six million people alive today, who can perfectly speak one or more of the many Mayan languages, and are direct descendants of the original Mayan empire. They have preserved much of the Mayan culture and tradition, minus the human sacrifice rituals.
They mostly live in southern Mexico and northern Central America. They are said to be divided into various tribes such as the Yucatecs, Tzeltal, and Tzotzil.