I got distracted last night during what was without a doubt one of the better games of the year in Bengals – Broncos. For you see, while the game is great, the commercials are long and the flags are many. So I flipped, and ended up watching a documentary on the Mayans on the breaks.
It was on some C-grade network I’ve never heard of called AWE, and it was a Japanese production. According to the Internets, it was called Secret Civilizations: Incan and Mayan Worlds Royal Dynasties: Deep in the Jungle. Which is quite the mouthful, and in any case, I only saw the Mayan portion.
It truly grabbed my interest to the point that at times I was actually annoyed that I had to flip back to the game. It certainly didn’t help that most of the middle 75% of the game it was just straight 3 and outs for both teams. But I still didn’t catch the whole documentary, just parts.
My travel to Mayan lands was a brief one day trip to Coba from Cancun where I attended a wedding. But my fascination with Mayan culture both on-site and last night is that it just doesn’t make sense.
Ponder the Mayans for a moment:
1) Established a complex city-state based system that mirrored the period and technological development of other advanced cultures; but built this civilization literally out of the floor of a jungle
2) They didn’t let the jungle destroy them and prospered for 2000 years; but then essentially almost completely faded from existence until the Spanish put the final stake in them
3) Achieved some of the world’s most advanced discoveries in astronomy, mathematics, writing, and agriculture; but decided not to use the wheel
4) Practiced some of mankind’s more disciplined humane tactics of warfare and dispute resolution; but also had a penchant for human sacrifice that involved flesh and organ removal on a live subject
Given how far the Mayans advanced, you could certainly talk yourself into the game of, “Why didn’t the Mayans conquer the Spanish?” A post that answers this question would take a long, long time. But, I think, in short it comes down to:
a) It’s just really, really freaking hard for humans to live and prosper forever in the middle of the jungle
b) When a critical component of your religious and political culture involves live human sacrifice, it speaks to a deeper malaise that likely caused all kinds of other problems we can only dream of
c) It’s just really, really freaking hard for humans to live and prosper forever in the middle of the jungle
I didn’t take any pictures in Coba because I had it in my head that this would be my single, one day journey where I put away the lens, and just looked around with mine own eyes. My only memory of that day is forever inside my brain. I’m content with it.
When in Cancun, just about any tour company has day trips to Coba available. It’ll take you a few hours early van ride, you visit multiple sights, and you’re back just before dinner. You’ll not regret it.
You can climb the pyramid in Coba and get a full view to the horizon of the surrounding jungle. And you’ll bask at just how vast that jungle is. And how miraculous the Mayans were that they built such things in such a place. The Mayans don’t make sense, but they were quite the culture with what they did, and it’s inspiring.