Well known for developing its own written language, the Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization. Mayans had their own architecture, mathematical and astronomical systems. And yet, the civilization was wiped out 2,000 years ago. They have a very rich and intriguing history. Here are 10 surprising facts about the Mayans that you might not have known before.
#1. The civilization still exists
All Mayans aren’t lost! Some portion of the civilizations still exists. There are around seven million Mayans living in their home regions. While most of them have adopted the modern cultures, some still stick to their traditional roots and speak any of the Mayan language as their primary language.
#2. Naming the Children
Mayan children were named on the basis of calendar. Each day in that calendar had a different name for both boys and girls. Any new born child had to be named accordingly.
#3. Beauty Standards
Beauty has always been important and Mayans were no different. However, their ideas of ‘beautiful’ were quite different. A long head was considered attractive. So they would press a board on a baby’s head to create a flat forehead. This was very prevalent amongst upper classes. Furthermore, cross-eyed look was considered more beautiful for women. A long nose was another feature Mayans loved. Some would even attach clay extensions to make their noses seem larger.
Ancient Mayans performed blood sacrifices for both religious and medical reasons. Blood was considered a powerful offering to the Mayan deities. It was also a good source of nourishment. Several methods were prevalent for the sacrificial ritual. Removal of a beating heart or decapitation were the most popular ones. However, only high status individuals were offered as sacrifices, other ones were kept for labour.
#5. They used painkillers
Those weren’t your regular painkillers. Mayans often used hallucinogenic drugs for their religious rituals to induce hallucinations. However, these drugs weren’t just limited to religious rituals, Mayans also used them as painkillers.
Similar to today’s saunas, Mayans had their sweat baths which were considered essential elements of purification. They were made of stone walls and a ceiling with a small opening to allow steam to escape.
#7. Excellent Medical Practices
You must have heard the word ‘shaman’! But did you know that shamans were not just known for their sorcery, but they also had vast medical knowledge. Mayans had an amazing blend of body, religion, science and ritual in their medical practices. Only a selected few could practise these and these men were called shamans. They were known to act as a medium between physical and spirit world.
#8. Precious Teeth
Mayans had a bright smile, quite literally! They would insert precious gemstones into their teeth as it was considered fashionable for people of all classes. This was done by drilling a hole in the teeth with a hand-held drill and inserting the gemstone in it and allowing it to set in via a natural glue.
Mayan artwork and architecture is still considered to be one of the most sophisticated. They built massive temples, sculptures and stone pyramids.
#10. An unsolved Mystery
Nobody knows for sure what exactly caused the collapse of Mayan civilization after the 9th century. Various causes have been suggested as overpopulation, peasant revolt, foreign invasion, draught, epidemic, environmental disaster and collapse of key trade routes.