AO Magazine - Jul/Aug 2020
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The ancient Maya created one of the most famous civilizations in the world. Even today, people are still astounded by their monumental city structures at sites like Uxmal, Tikal, and Chichén Itzá. We trek through these awe-inspiring Mesoamerican locations where elite priests and powerful royals managed their people and lands.
The Maya had advanced knowledge of math, astronomy, and agricultural techniques, and in this issue we look at how they applied their skills so cleverly to life. They also developed their own writing system and used the hieroglyphs to tell their factual and mythological stories on decorated temple walls, pottery, and monuments. This special July-August issue reveals some of the rich religious beliefs held by the ancient Maya to explain how humanity arrived here and what happens in the Underworld when our days are done.
This issue provides insight on some of the darker ancient Maya traditions, such as bloodletting and human sacrifice. Thankfully, those practices have been cast aside by later generations, but other, more peaceful actions, such as creating foamy chocolate drinks and caring for stingless bees, are still cherished by their descendants today.
It seems the ancient Maya people had everything going for them…but then their civilization suddenly stopped. They abandoned their most precious city centers and stopped writing about their rulers. Why the ancient Maya civilization fell is one of the greatest archaeological mysteries. So, of course we explore the most popular, science-backed beliefs about what led to their dramatic end.
While the people have left us, their stories and influence remains. Whether it is through genetic ties, curiosity, a visit to the amazing sites, or by incorporating their tasty crops into our own kitchens (tomatoes, chilies, chocolate…the list goes on), everyone has felt the impact of the ancient Maya!