Over the course of doing research regarding the theory that the Mayans predicted the end of the world, we’ve become pretty interested in the Mayan culture. They were a pretty clever group of people. And then they basically disappeared.
Here’s some of the cool stuff we learned:
They pretty much ruled. The ancient Mayans were considered a Mesoamerican society (in other words, the area of Mexico/Central America before the Spanish got involved there). They hung out in the area around the Yucatan Peninsula, modern-day Guatemala, as well as parts of Belize and some of Mexico. Basically, they were just all over that area. In the height of their time, there may have been around 2 million Mayans spread out over a bunch of city-states with their own dialects, buildings, and rulers.
They were smart. They started out, like many other societies, as an agricultural group. However, over time (and with the help of the Olmecs, a more sophisticated culture), they developed well beyond their humble roots. They formed a significant mythology to create a religious culture that remained incredibly important to them as a society. They derived a writing style of hieroglyphs and a number system, which was modified from thoseOlmecs. They even made their own paper (some of which has survived)! These things enabled them to advance even more as a people. It’s amazing what a written language and the concept of numbers can do to propel a society into prehistoric stardom. Seriously. They even understood that you need the number zero. It seems so self-evident, but this was big stuff back then. Concepts like these helped them build things like irrigation systems and sophisticated architecture like pyramids.
They made a bunch of people believe the world was going to end. Of course, with all this math and writing going on, they developed something else, too—a calendar (insert ominous music here). Their Long Form calendar set off a pretty epic panic about the end of times back in 2012.
They pretty much disappeared.Nobody’s really sure WHAT happened to the Mayans. They were the hottest thing going for a long time, and then somewhere between the 8th and 9th century, they jumped the shark and fizzled out. Scientists have guesses, but they aren’t entirely sure. Their slash and burn style of farming may have rendered the land inhospitable to crops and killed off their food source, leaving them either to die or move on. Some believe there was an unusually dry cycle, which may have caused some of the cities to collapse and caused an unsustainable influx to cities that actually had water. Or, the scarcity may have created wars where they fought each other for water and food (or for any other reason, honestly. These were people who believed in human sacrifices, after all) and wiped themselves out. There are theories that aliens were actually the ones who gave them the capabilities they had, and then took them all away. That one is obviously the least likely and has no basis in science whatsoever. It is kind of cool to think about, though. Much better than them all starving to death or killing each other until there was nobody left.
We hope you enjoyed this little history lesson!