Where was the Mayan Empire located?
15 Amazing Facts about the Mayan Civilization in Belize
With fabulous pyramids and amazing stone cities built in the heart of the jungle, the Maya civilization flourished for hundreds of years before European explorers reached the Western Hemisphere. Some of the most amazing Maya ruins and formerly “lost” cities can be found throughout Belize.
Here are 15 amazing facts about the ancient Maya:
- Both men and women loved their beauty treatments – Although strange by modern standards, Mayan men and women went to great lengths to sharpen their teeth, flatten the foreheads, and drill holes in their teeth to add jade “bling”.
- They experimented with powerful drugs – Whether it was by licking certain tropical frogs, or by ingesting powerful local plants, the Maya consumed hallucinogenics as part of their religious ceremonies.
- They practiced free market economics – Few civilizations matched the Mayan traders for their widespread network of buying and selling clothing, toys, food, gold, copper, and jade across much of Central America.
- They relied on the “Three Sisters” – The Mayan diet was based around a balanced consumption of maize (corn), beans, and squash. By rotating the planting of these three key crops, they kept their fields fertile.
- Human sacrifice was important – Today, we make sacrifices on a metaphorical level, but the ancient Maya regularly executed captured prisoners in order to appease their gods.
- Shamans were respected – Whereas today we visit a doctor or psychologist when we have problems, the ancient Maya would consult a shaman, a man or woman who was well-versed in the healing properties of local plants.
- They loved astrology – Mayan priests were specially trained to interpret auguries and signs, receiving celestial messages from the gods that could help them predict famines, eclipses, and weather patterns.
- They loved “the game” – Nobody knows what the Maya called it, but there is clear archeological evidence that the Maya were huge fans of a ball game played in a court, with some similarities to modern basketball. In Mayan ball games, however, the losing team was often sacrificed to the gods.
- Saunas were popular – Called “temezcal”, the Maya used saunas as part of an elite purification ritual.
- They were fantastic astronomers – The Maya made detailed and elaborate charts of the heavens, and used their precise calculations to devise a very accurate calendar.
- Math and writing were important – The Maya were one of just a handful of civilizations to independently create their own writing system. They also invented their own unique brand of mathematics, built around base 20, unlike modern arithmetic which uses base 10.
- They used caves as gateways to the gods – Caves were sacred portals to the underworld for the Maya, and priests and shamans would explore deep within caves to communicate with the gods.
- They constructed huge pyramids – Western explorers were shocked to discover huge pyramids built by the Maya that resembled those in Egypt, leading to questions that are still being answered today.
- Nobody knows why their civilization disappeared – Long before Columbus set sail from Spain, the Maya civilization had collapsed, leaving many gorgeous stone cities and monuments but few answers.
- They had a sacred tree of life – The core tenet of the Mayan faith was that the world was constructed of a sacred tree, known as Ceiba today, or “Yaaxche” in the Mayan tongue. Heaven, the earth, and the underworld were represented by the branches, trunk, and roots of the celestial tree.
To see the wonders of the Maya civilization, you’ll need to come to Belize and explore their fantastic legacy for yourself!
Cahal Pech Village Resort
Located just minutes away by foot from the famous Mayan Royal Palace of Cahal Pech, the resort at Cahal Pech is the place to stay when exploring ancient Mayan ruins in Belize. Visitors will enjoy the panoramic view from atop an ancient Maya hill in San Ignacio, with easy access to other historic Mayan ruins like the famous Tikal site just across the border in Guatemala.
For more information about accomodations, or to schedule one of our guided tours of the area, please do not hesitate to contact us.
> See also: The best Mayan Ruins to visit in BelizeThe Ancient Maya Civilization by