Mayan civilization originated on the fertile Yucatan peninsula of Mexico around 2600 BC. It grew and flourished for over 3000 years. Rising out of the sprawling jungles of Belize, Guatemala and the Yucatan, Mayan culture was highly progressive. Its people were advanced thinkers and skilled craftsmen even though they lacked essential necessities such as beasts of burden, metal tools and the wheel. Architecture was one of the strong points of the Mayan civilization and their highly stylized cities were laid out in perfect alignment with the stars and the solar system based on the Mayan civilization’s early understanding of astronomy and mathematics. Their architectural flair included massive stone temples and pyramids, underground reservoirs, storage buildings, observatories and great ceremonial courtyards; all built with finely crafted ceremonial architecture.
Mayan Civilization: Teotihuacán, City of the GodsOne of the largest cities in Mesoamerica was Teotihuacán. Built by the Toltecs, it thrived as one of the primary cultural centers for over a thousand years. According to legend, the Toltecs were descendants of the Mayan civilization. Their ceremonial art depicts only two gods. These were the Earth Goddess and the Rain/Sky God. It was commonly believed that the Toltec’s communicated directly with the gods in the sun, the moon and the stars. Thus Teotihuacán means City of the Gods. At its peak in the 6th century it was home to nearly two hundred thousand people, but it sat abandoned barely a century later.
The Great Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán towers 210 feet tall and 650 feet square at its base. Its dimensional parity with the Great Pyramid at Khufu on Egypt’s Giza Plateau is uncanny; less than six feet difference in their base diameters which has bred considerable speculation and unending comparisons. It was built over a sacred natural cave. The Mesoamericans believed caves were gateways to the spiritual underworld called Xibalba by the Maya. One little known fact about some of the pyramids is that portions of them were lined with layers of mica on the inside where it could not be seen. Enormous effort was expended to bring delicate sheets of mica two thousand miles from Brazil by hand. Why was this necessary? One of the great mysteries is the characteristic of mica that makes it an ideal insulator for electronic components. This eventually gave rise to speculation regarding pyramids and space travelers.
Most of the ancient Mayan cities and pyramids of Central America had been discovered by the late 20th century by explorers looking for Mayan civilization. Many, like Teotihuacán are now tourist attractions, but active archaeological site development and excavation continues to this day as archaeologists seek to uncover the secrets of the ancients. Linguists have made extraordinary progress in translating Mayan and Toltec hieroglyphics and logograms, and a broad understanding of the Mayan civilization and culture now exists.