The Enigma of Mesoamerica

161 The Enigma of MesoamericaWhen it comes to Mexico and Central America, the first thought that comes into our mind is the Columbian period and in particular, the Spanish conquest. But old-age and ancient civilizations existed on the New Continent before the Age of Discoveries and the settlement of the Europeans there. For sure, a central role played The Lonely Geniuses of Mankind whose merits to the world civilization were endless.

The Maya excelled at numerous activities in various fields. They were excellent farmers who cultivated maize, beans, cassava (manioc) and squashes. As to chili peppers, they were the first to grow them and later these “hot” peppers were brought to Europe by Spanish conquistadors and other explorers. From there their distribution continued to Asia owing to Portuguese sailors and merchants and became inseparable part of Asian cuisine. Apart from this, Maya people developed advanced farming methods in terms of irrigation systems and terracing.

The Maya also fully developed a writing system that was the only one in pre-Columbus Americas. They wrote and kept their hieroglyphic signs in books (codices) made from tree bark paper. Their language was difficult to decode for a long time and it was done and to some extent only in the 20th century.

They were great mathematicians with deep astronomical knowledge. Their 365-day calendar was developed on the basis of the observations of sun, stars and planets. They were observers of celestial bodies and even their multi-level, tripod, pyramid-edifices were aligned with movements mainly of Venus and the sun at the equinoxes. Unfortunately, nowadays we can only visit the incredible ruins of the Maya Empire which was at its zenith between 250–900 A.D.. Fortunately, these impressive architectural works and symbolic artwork are open to public and we can admire them throughout the whole peninsula of Yucatán (Mexico) and modern-day Guatemala as well as in Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. And here is a short tour in the lands of Maya people whose disappearance is covered in a great mystery and nobody knows and can prove firmly the exact reason why the Mayans disappeared, whether a natural disaster or epidemics caused their ruination or social processes, or invasions lead to their dramatic end.

Tikal is one of the largest Mayan archeological sites and is thought to be one of the Mayan capital cities. It is situated near the city of Flores in Northern Guatemala. Tikal National Park has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. There are about 4000 ancient structures in the area, and only few have been excavated so far.

Chichen Itza (Mexico) is another capital city of the pre-Columbian Mayan civilizations. It is situated west of Cancun in Mexico. It was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and is the most visited archeological site in Mexico with more than 1 million tourists annually. Kukulcán pyramid is one of the most popular and well preserved temples of the Mayan times.

Palenque (again in Mexico) is situated in the Southern Mexican state of Chiapas and is surrounded by a thick jungle. It is far behind the previous two sites in terms of size but it possesses the most spectacular Mayan art and architecture.

Copán (Honduras) is another archeological site of the Mayan civilization. It is located in Honduras near the border with Guatemala. It is known to have been the capital city of a major Mayan Classic Period Kingdom. The archeological site is renowned for its series of “stelae” which are portrait and very detailed stone sculptures.

Xunantunich (Belize) (or it means “Stone Woman” in the Maya language) is another fascinating archeological site. It is located atop a ridge in western Belize. The complex is renowned for its stone structure “El Castillo” or ‘”The Castle” that is an enormous stone temple with a grand staircase leading up to it. Namely there lots of visitors say they have seen the ghost of an old woman that lives in the complex.

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