Maya is a group of Indian peoples who created a civilization in Central America with a fairly developed art, architecture, writing (Maya books were mostly destroyed by the Spanish conquerors, but some of them, in particular the Dresden Codex and Chilam Balam, of our days). Maya created an original system of farming, and quite successfully developed some sciences (for example, astronomy).


The beginning of the formation of civilization is the period from 2000 to BC. e. before 250 AD. it reached its peak in 250-900 years. n. e. (it was then that most of the cities were erected and populated). But, since the IX century, the Mayan civilization began to decline – the population was declining, people were leaving cities, water supply and communication systems were becoming unusable, etc.

Today, the Mayan heritage attracts the attention of many scholars, and UNESCO has declared their World Heritage sites (Tikal, Kirigua, Copan, Palenque, Chichen Itzu, Uxmal and Hoya de Seren) their cities.

Maya is an exclusively landed people, living in seclusion and traveling a little.

Wrong opinion. Firstly, the Maya Indians were good seafarers (unlike the Incas, Aztecs and other peoples of America, which were practically not engaged in navigation). Most often their canoes (which could sometimes accommodate up to 40 passengers) cruised off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico or in the waters of the Caribbean Sea, which is very dangerous for seafarers. Such canoes (2,5 m wide, containing a considerable amount of goods (copper, cocoa, swords with silicon and obsidian blades, fabrics) that could be exchanged for the crystal and the feathers of green parrots in addition to 25 oarsmen) Christopher Columbus met on July 30, 1502 to Guanaj (one of the eastern islands of Islas de la Bahia), located 35 kilometers from the mainland. Secondly, they traveled a lot and overland. The system of sacbebo (ceremonial roads) was recognized as the best in America at that time. In addition, according to custom, the traveler was under the protection of the gods, and could travel freely even through the territory of hostile tribes, because for damaging a merchant or a pilgrim, an immediate death was expected.

Maya often brought bloody human sacrifices.

Some researchers claim that to indoctrinate the gods, the Maya Indians actually used sacrifices. And people at the same time experienced incredible torments – for example, when a living person was torn out of the heart, skin was ripped off from him, thrown into a sacred karst well (cenote), left to freeze in ice caves or was eaten alive. Others believe that the victim did not experience any torment, as she was under the influence of narcotic substances. In addition, there is an opinion that the Mayans seldom brought bloody human sacrifices, unlike the Aztecs, the Olmecs, and so on.

Maya wrote books.

There is no consensus among researchers on this score. Some believe that the Mayas were only the keepers of books, unknown to anyone created, but neither to reproduce nor to read hundreds of volumes neatly stacked in the book depositories that existed in all the cities of Yucatan, at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards were already incapable. Others believe that the Maya not only could read ancient manuscripts containing information from various branches of science and narrating about historical events, cataclysms (hurricanes, floods, earthquakes), life of leaders and commoners for at least 800 years, but also continued to make new ones folios. Maya books, whose height was 20-23 cm, width – about 10 cm, and the total length of the pages – 320 m, represented a number of white glossy paper sheets made from bast fibers of ficus tree. These sheets were folded “accordion” and covered with hieroglyphics columns. Wrote brushes, and used not only black, but also blue, green, yellow, brown and different shades of red.Then the sheets were placed between two beautifully painted boards, and carefully fastened. There are references to the fact that in Peten (Tayasal) as early as 1679 they made such books. And, finally, there is a third version – the first books appeared in the Maya Indians around 889 AD.

The books were only in Maya, the rest of the American Indians did not make records of this kind.

Books and scattered records of various content were from the Aztecs, Totonaks, Mixtecs, and so on. However, the Maya seems to have started the chronicles first and issued it in the form of books, and continued to produce literary monuments for 800 years.

Maya paper was used only for making books.

This is not true. Paper from the bark, called huun, was so strong and elastic that it was used not only for creating books, drawing building plans and drawing drawings that would later be engraved on the stelae, but also for the manufacture of certain types of clothing in those times when Indian weaving was still unknown. And even after the Maya learned to weave more durable and comfortable materials from cotton and flax, the vestments of the priests were often made of paper.

Maya had its own calendar – Tsolkin.

Actually, the Maya had 3 calendars. The first is the Haab, a “civil” solar calendar that divided the year by 18 months into 20 days (they were numbered from 0 to 19). At the end of each year there was a period of 5 “unlucky” or “empty” days (wyeb). The second is the sacred calendar of the Maya Tsolkin or Tsolkin, according to which the year was divided into 260 days. And the same calendar used Toltecs and Aztecs. And the third calendar, called the “long account”, counted time (from days (kins), years (tuna – 360 days) to the so-called Alautuns (64,000,000 tones or 63,123,287 years 245 days)) from “the beginning of time “(the date corresponding to 31 111 BC).


The Mayan pyramids were built by another, more highly developed civilization.

There are very heated debates on this issue in the scientific community. Some believe that the pyramids and all the things found on the territory of the temple complexes were made by skilled Maya craftsmen (although this took a long time, perhaps several centuries). Others argue that some finds (for example, an obsidian disk of ideally round shape, jade tubes whose walls were not more than 1 mm thick, spirally wound cylinders of stone, etc.) could not be produced without special tools and technologies that Maya Indians judging by other archaeological finds) were not known. Another proof of the existence of a technically advanced civilization, researchers consider small gold figures-amulets, which were part of the vestments of priests and strikingly reminiscent of modern aircraft.

Maya left their cities because of war or epidemic.

Scientists have not reached a consensus on this issue. Some believe that the Maya cities were abandoned due to climate change. In favor of this theory are the results of recent studies of the so-called. “bajo” or lakes located in limestone rocks (it is near such lakes that most of the abandoned Mayan cities are located) and filled with water only for 4 months a year (note that there are no other sources of water in the district). It turned out that in ancient times bajos were small lakes with clear water. But climate change in the period from 400 BC. up to 250 AD. (caused, in particular, deforestation around cities) led to the fact that the lake began to dry out periodically.

Other researchers explain the departure of Maya from the occupied places by unknown diseases. However, many scientists refute this theory, pointing to the lack of a large number of human remains, indicating the extinction of a whole people, as well as any written or oral references to the epidemic.Instead, experts suggest other hypotheses: the disappearance of civilization as a result of military action or destructive cataclysms (for example, a tsunami of unprecedented force that swept through the territory inhabited by the Maya Indians). To confirm their theory, they refer to books mentioning the “worldwide flood” and the results of the study of some cities (for example, Teotihuacan), which were literally buried under a layer of clay.

Their opponents argue that the war (which is quite common in Maya due to constant internecine strife and clashes with neighboring tribes) could hardly have caused the disappearance of a whole nation, and the withdrawal consisted simply in the relocation of people from the northern regions to the southern ones. This view is contrasted with the theory that there was no resettlement, since both northern and southern cities existed simultaneously. And the Indians left them because of the decline in culture, typical for many countries in the world. After all, only certain segments of the population lived in cities, the bulk of the people lived in huts built next to cultivated fields, in forests, etc. According to the researchers, when the population of cities (who lived and was enriched due to taxes, which were taxed by farmers) for economic reasons was left without means of subsistence, it simply left the “megacities” and returned to simple rural life.

The Maya people completely disappeared.

This is not true. The Mayan civilization, which has experienced periods of prosperity and deep decline, has really sunk into oblivion, but the people (at least 6 million) in Central America live in our days. In Guatemala, for example, Maya is about half the country’s population, in Belize – 10%, but most of all they live in the south of Mexico. Maya can also be found in El Salvador and Honduras.

Maya Indians were tall.

“High People” spoke of the Mayans of Maya the second Bishop of Yucatán, the Spaniard Diego de Landa Calderón. However, it should be noted that at that time the average European growth was about 152 cm (although there were people whose growth was 180 cm and above). And the average height of the Mayan is about 156 cm, which in combination with a strong body created the impression of a tall and powerful opponent.

Beautiful Mayans considered cross-eyed people with a flat head.

This is indeed so. The first sign of beauty was strabismus (many deities, for example, Itzamna, the God of heaven, were depicted with oblique eyes). Careful mothers, wishing to impart “beauty and divinity” to children’s eyes, tied a ball of clay or resin to their hair in such a way that it was placed in front of the child’s eyes.


The shape of the head also had to correspond to certain canons. According to legends, the first owners of land (which became the property of Maya from 2000 BC) were tribes of people with “long heads”. Maya were brachycephalos (or brachycephalos, in translation from Greek – “short-headed”). However, neither of these forms of the head was considered an ideal. According to the views of the Maya, in order to look beautiful and noble, a person should have a flat head. In order to give the skull exactly this form, immediately after the birth of the child was placed in a specially equipped cradle, where the head was fixed in a special way. Particularly zealous in the family of the head of state maya halač никаinika (“real man”, “legal man”), whose position was inherited. And if in common people the shape of the head was dictated not only by aesthetic but also by purely practical considerations (it is convenient to carry weights on the head of this form, which is very actual in conditions of the absence of pack animals), then the form of the skull of the hulach winnik was only an attempt to bring it as close to the appearance of the deities . After all, it was the gods, according to the legends, who had flat heads, and taught Maya the method of flattening skulls.

The size and shape of the nose also mattered – the long hooked nose was considered ideal.During the ceremonies, the Maya leaders not only decorated themselves with tattoos, ornaments and lush clothes, but also paid much attention to changing the shape of their nose, using the putty.

For love, Maya was rarely married.

The fact is that even knowing the power of romantic love, Maya still preferred to create families traditionally, i.e. through the matchmaker (ah atanzahob). The Indians were very superstitious with regard to marriage, fearing the desecration of the union (involving innumerable disasters not only for a couple, but for the whole family of the husband and wife) more than life with an unloved spouse. Therefore, according to tradition, a man considered it beneath his dignity to independently look for his wife, charging this difficult case to the matchmaker (who, as an intermediary, could protect the marriage from desecration). Sometimes parents (fathers) agreed that their newly-born children at the age of marriage (for men – 18 years, for women – 14 years) will create a family. This decision determined their further relationship – before the marriage, by agreement, the families communicated with each other as relatives.

Before marriage, the Maya Indians did not enter sexual intercourse.

Wrong opinion. Both men and women were not required to keep their virginity before the wedding. For example, young men, according to custom, painted their bodies with black paint before marriage, gathered in a special house open on all sides, where they entertained, played various games, and also could satisfy their fleshly passion by using the services of guatepol (women who provide sexual services for a fee).

There is almost no sexuality in Mayan art.

This point of view was expressed by Aldous Huxley, and considered it the reason for this low level of nervous excitability and the lack of sexual fantasy in Indians. But to be convinced of the inconsistency of this hypothesis, it is enough to visit Uxmal (a city in one of the Yucatan regions called Pouk), where the facades of the buildings are decorated with sculptural images of naked men, executed in a very realistic manner, and in the region many phallic characters.

Maya had several names.

This is indeed so. Maya had 4 names: Naal Kaba (the name given after the marriage and consisting of the surnames of the father and mother’s maiden name), patronymic, koko kaba (nickname) and paal kaba (personal name given at birth). It was the personal name that was most significant, only close people knew it, and rarely used it, since it was thought that the name would wear out from frequent use, and it would lose its force. And the power of the name played a very important role, for example, in the healing of certain diseases, giving strength to the patient and the effectiveness – manipulation of the healer. The choice of the name was not accidental. First, the mother of the child was always checked against the horoscope (taking into account not the time of birth, but the time of conception), choosing the best day for the naming ceremony. Secondly, the names were created according to a certain scheme. The paal kaba of men had a prefix Ah- (Ah-Kukum – “Perot”, Ah-Balam – “Jaguar”), female – Ish-, and the nal kaba had the prefix of Nah-.


Pottery from the Maya is an exclusively male occupation.

In many countries of the world (in Ancient Greece, Egypt, America), pottery became a man’s occupation only after the potter’s wheel was invented. Before that, only women were engaged in making and painting ceramic ware. And not only in Maya. For a long time, pottery was an exclusively female occupation in Africa, Melanesia, Peru, etc.

During the game of the ball, the losing team was sacrificed.

Some researchers fully agree with this point of view, others believe that since death was for the Maya Indians the quickest way to see the deceased ancestors and see the living gods, the winning team was killed. In addition to this “award” there were other prizes for winning.For example, a person who hit the ball in a ring could pick up the clothes and decorations of all the spectators who were present at the playground. It should be noted that getting into the ring was not so easy. Firstly, the ring itself, which had the form of a millstone, decorated with various images and placed vertically (and not horizontally, as in basketball) was suspended at a height of 11 m. Secondly, in order to guide the ball, the player could only use the hips, shoulders or elbows (but not the hands).

Maya prisoners became captives captured during the hostilities.

Yes, it is. In addition, slavery was a punishment for theft (unless the thief’s relatives had agreed to pay the cost of the stolen goods), the first to be committed (for theft again, the punishment was death). Also, in some cases, tribes that were subordinate to Maya could send not only goods but also slaves in the form of tribute. That’s how it got to Maya Malinche (Malineli Tenepatl, whom the Spaniards called Donja Marina), who later became interpreter and concubine of Cortez. She was sold into slavery by a mother who married again and felt that her daughter did not have to live next to her and her young husband.

The Maya Indians treated the slaves well.

Despite the fact that slaves were often prisoners of war or criminals, they treated them calmly and amicably, in some cases equating them even to family members. However, it should be remembered that, firstly, the slaves performed the heaviest and dirty work, secondly – when it was time to make sacrifices to the gods, it was the slaves that were killed first.

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