In fifth grade (ish) I did a school project on the Maya. (Yes, Maya, at least according to “Dr Dave” resident anthropologist on board and even more convincingly our Maya tour guides, so I’d take it on good authority). I was fascinated by their piercing/blood letting rituals (male nipples, genitalia and what not), their calendar and astronomy, their ritual of human sacrifice and their ritual of flattening their foreheads and crossing babies eyes on purpose (a sign of nobility and beauty). As such, I’ve always wanted to check some of their ruins and temples out and today was the day.
We took an excursion from the cruise (the included one, which we would recommend because it is only four hours vs all day and because it was, well, already paid for) to the ruins of Altun Ha near Belize City.
Altun Ha is believed to have been occupied from 900 BC to 1,000 AD. Altun Ha translates to Rockstone Water.
Here are some of the things we learned:
- The Maya believed in the circle of life and would bury their dead with maize in their mouths to offer the dead food in the afterlife.
- The Maya believed that there were nine levels of the underworld through which you had to pass before ascending to their heaven. If a man died first the woman was sacrificed to travel with him. If she died first, however, he would remarry and she was on her own to fend off whatever she came across in the underworld.
- Newer historians have debunked previous beliefs that the Maya were relatively peaceful. Recent history has taught us that the Maya were not. They withstood the Spanish conquerors for more than 150 years at least in part because they fought them from afar and didn’t catch their diseases from being too close.
- The Maya also would schedule wars between themselves when Venus was in the night skies.
- Only four books survived the Spanish burning their books (one of these four is in San Diego, CA at the Museum of Man) so there is a lot we still do not know.
- They would sharpen their teeth and embedded their teeth with jade and would wear amazing headdresses with feathers of parrots.
- The Maya still exist in Belize. We didn’t know that. We thought that they were gone. There are still Maya speaking Mayan, going to the temples to worship and practicing their rituals (we were told no more human sacrifice but didn’t stick around to try to find out either).
First cruise, first excursion, five stars!
For more interesting tips on the Maya check out this site about their rituals http://www.ancientfacts.net/6-unusual-facts-about-the-ancient-mayan-rituals/.
For more on Altun Ha check out this site on Wikipedia.