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15 Lesser Known Facts about the Ancient Mayans

By Andrew Alpin, 28 October 2017

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8Mayans loved playing ball with heads!!

Like the Aztecs, the Mayans invented a Mesoamerican ballgame that was played for almost 3000 years. Today a similar ball game is called Ulama and is played by the indigenous population where the only difference is that an actual ball is used rather than decapitated heads. Yes!! A Mayan ball game called PITZ would end in sacrifice and decapitation where possibly the losers were chosen for the gory ordeal.

Late Mayan ballgame art has featured severed heads and it has been assumed that the heads of players were used as balls. The largest Mayan ball court in Mesoamerica is in Chichen Itza and measures 83 meters long by 30 meters wide.

Mayans loved playing ball with heads!!

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7Astronnomers

The Mayans were staunch and meticulous astronomers who made detailed recordings of the movement of celestial bodies like the sun, moon and various planets. Contrary to belief that astronomy helped the planting season, it was instead studied by the priests to understand time cycles for better comprehension in order to predict the future. Events like eclipses and movements of planets like Venus and stars were analyzed against past events which served as an assumption that such events may again occur in the future given that the same astronomical conditions were present for that time.

Isn’t it safe to say that modern astronomical prediction is very much similar? And that the Mayans were on the right track at the time.

The Mayans were staunch astronomers

6City Facts

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The Mayans constructed large cities although only ruins remain till today which are still very interesting to visit. Among the cities of Pre Columbian America, it was the city of Mirador that was the largest. It was discovered only in 1926 and was found to be constructed around 3 Pyramids the largest being La Danta whose peak was taller than Egypt’s largest pyramid Khufu.

Mirador flourished between 6th century to the 1st century BC and peaked with a population of around 250,000 people.

The Mayan city, Mirador

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5The Mayans last and largest kingdom

Tayasal, the island city was the last independent kingdom of the Mayans that existed right up to 1697. Spanish catholic priests visited the city in 1696 to preach to the King Canek who was the last Itza king of the Mayans. The kingdom was finally conquered by the Spanish on March 13, 1697, by a force led by Martin de Ursua, the then governor of Yucatan.

Today much of the land and its monuments are owned by a private family while the monuments itself is cared for by the government.

Tayasal, the island city

Image Source: www.smithsonianmag.com

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