When it comes to ancient civilizations and their impact on society, there are quite a few that people could name off the top of their heads. For example, the Greeks are an easy one, as well as the Egyptians. That being said, there’s one civilization that is also in the list for amusing reasons. Due to the whole 2012 debacle where people thought it was the end of the world, the Mayan civilization stuck into pop culture as a whole. It got so strange that some memes joked around that the Mayans would resurrect and invade in 2012!
Jokes aside, the Mayans were an ancient civilization from Mexico and Central America. While the culture was mostly lost to time, they still have some descendants today who can even speak the language! In that way, the Mayans are still alive and kicking, though not in the same capacity. If you’re looking for a little crash course in world history and want to learn about the achievements and inventions of the Mayans, you’ve come to the right place!
How about let’s start things off with something fun? You likely won’t find anyone outside the most remote tribes in the world that aren’t at least somewhat aware of the allure of chocolate. Chocolate has been a part of our culture for a very long time, and you actually have the Mayans to thank for that! Similar to our own cultures, the Mayans absolutely loved the stuff, and made their own cocoa drink.
That said, it would taste very different from the hot cocoa you might enjoy during a cold night. After all, the Mayans don’t have the same kind of chocolate as we do — they had the cocoa beans and they made it their own way. Even so, they loved it so much that they saw it as a form of food that even the gods enjoyed.
The Famous Mayan Calendar
We would be remiss to talk about the achievements and inventions of the Mayans and not mention perhaps their most famous invention (outside of chocolate). The Mayan calendar was the reason why people were so paranoid in 2012, which is kind of odd in retrospect. Heck, it was odd even in 2012. The Mayans would probably think it was odd if you went back in time and told them.
What might come as a surprise to the people of today was just how sophisticated the Mayan calendar actually was. It used three systems — the Long Count, the Civil, and the Divine calendars — to go through the cycles, and the cycle completes when the Earth finishes its orbit around the Sun.
Now, anyone that looked at the sophistication of the Mayan calendar would probably think that the Mayans had to have known a great deal about astronomy to craft such a clever device. Of course, you’d be right. The Mayans knew a great deal about the stars, which is amazing considering many civilizations struggled to unlock its secrets. When it came to astronomical predictions and studies, the Mayans were second to none as far as ancient civilizations went.
It’s probably the reason why people took the whole 2012 debacle so seriously. The Mayans were almost unnaturally good at predicting anything that had to do with astronomy that there was cause for concern. In any case, the Mayans were incredible when it came to astronomy, and we could learn a thing or two from them!
Surprising Mayan Medicine
When you think about the level of technology of ancient civilizations, it’s understandable to assume that they might not have had access to decent medical treatments. However, you’d be surprised at how good the Mayans were in the field of medicine despite the lack of tech. It’s similar to how good they were in astronomy; the Mayans had a habit of making the most out of every situation.
Did you know that the Mayan witch-doctors were so good at medicine they created their own prosthetics out of jade? Did you know that when they performed cuts for surgery, they used obsidian? It created such a clean cut that it promoted healing! The Mayans were undoubtedly amazing, and their advancements in medicine cannot be understated.
Ball Court Stadiums
Does it come as a surprise just how closely the Mayan civilization resembles our own? They had great medicine, they knew a surprising amount about astronomy, and they even enjoyed chocolate! That said, another achievement that resembles our own culture involves the use of ball court stadiums. So long as humanity bands together to create cities and civilizations, they’re always going to look for different forms of entertainment.
In the case of the Mayans, they absolutely loved ball games, much the same way they loved chocolate. There was a ball court in just about every Mayan city, and it was a pastime for most Mayans to play ball games, especially during their religious celebrations. The Mayans were surprisingly progressive despite the lack of tech.
We aren’t done making comparisons between the Mayan civilization and modern society just yet! So far, we’ve talked about astronomy, chocolate, medicine, calendars, and ball courts. It probably wouldn’t surprise you at this point to know that the Mayans had a surprisingly effective system of mathematics. One of the most interesting parts concerning Mayan mathematics is their version of the number zero.
Whenever a civilization considers zero as a part of the system, it already showcases just how progressive and advanced the civilization has become. As a matter of fact, their use of zero makes their mathematical systems pretty close to our own. It’s honestly mind boggling how much the Mayans managed to achieve during their time as one of the largest civilizations on the planet. Perhaps this advanced system of mathematics is why their predictions in astronomy were so accurate.
General Laws and Guidelines
Did you know that the Maya Empire also had a justice system? At this point, are you even surprised that they have so many advanced systems and guidelines in place? Whenever someone broke the law, the Mayans would take them to court where the punishment was handed out. Particularly brutal punishments were saved for homicides, which was why it was such a rare crime back in the day.
It’s so odd that the concept of crime and punishment even existed during those days, but the Mayans were an exceptional people. They had laws and guidelines in place, and when it was broken the criminal would face the consequences. Sometimes their possessions would go to the victim, or the victim’s family.
It comes as no surprise that there’s no way one could possibly build a civilization without an effective means of agriculture. The Mesopotamians did it despite the lack of fertile land, and the Egyptians somehow managed to find a way to do it by using the water of the Nile. In the case of the Mayans, they were equally clever when it came to agriculture, and one of their favored crops was the cassava.
This at least answers the question of how they were able to build an empire when they lacked many of the resources to get the job done. Cassava is an energy-rich root vegetable, and it allowed the Mayan civilization to thrive. Of course, their irrigation tactics — among other agricultural techniques — helped the empire realize its full potential.
Mayan Literature and Writing
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to understand the Mayan writing system is to consider the hieroglyphs of the ancient Egyptians. Considering how popular the ancient Egyptian culture is, most people have a basic understanding of how hieroglyphics works. The Mayan used a similar system, employing about 700 symbols to help with literature and writing.
The most incredible part of the Mayan writing system is how, thousands of years later, the descendants of the Mayans still understand at least 80% of the writing system of the bygone era. Such a thing is unprecedented, when you consider just how old the Mayan civilization was.
Mayan Art and Architecture
You’ve probably already surmised based on the other pictures that the Mayans were not only a progressive civilization, but they also had some excellent art pieces. The Mayans were an extremely creative and passionate people, and you can see it in the way they handled medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and even their own writing system.
Such is the reason why they have so many breathtaking pieces of art. In many ways, their writing system is also an art piece, similar to the work of the Egyptians. There was also something oddly ominous about the way the Mayans expressed themselves with art, allowing us to deep dive into their culture simply by looking at their old masterworks.