For 2012 the Maya had prophesied the end of the world: On December 21st their calendar should end and with it our civilization. Fortunately, this prediction did not come true, but the Mayan sites have not lost any of their attraction.
The Mayan calendar is already old, but it is also very precise and based on exact astronomical observations. What is certain is that on December 21st, 2012 an unusual and rare planetary constellation actually occurred: on this day the Sun took the center of the Milky Way, which only happens about every 26,000 years.
But who was this people that produced such excellent mathematicians and astronomers? The Mayan sites in Central America tell chapters from the eventful history of this superior culture. Some of them have been excellently restored, others are still hiding deep in the jungle waiting to be rediscovered. The empire of the Maya, who came from the highlands of Guatemala, was very large. It stretched from what is now Mexico (Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas), Guatemala, Belize to the west of Honduras and El Salvador.
The Mayan society went through different stages of development: In the pre-classical period (1,500 BC to 250 AD) the Olmecs (probably the ancestors of the Maya) founded the first kingdoms. They erected simple sacred sites on platforms or hills to stand out from the people. The first sciences emerged – such as mathematics, astronomy, hieroglyphics, calendar studies. Artistic techniques also developed, such as weaving, wood and stone working and pottery. The royalty gained more and more importance and was seen as a link to ancestors and Gods. And different social classes developed.
The Maya culture experienced its heyday in its classical period (250 to 900 AD). New kingdoms and powerful city-states such as Tikal, Calakmul, Palenque and Copán emerged. The development in science and handicraft was further advanced. New techniques and procedures were used to build temples and other buildings up to 70 meters hight.
Thus, the building material was extracted from quarries, mortar was used as a binding agent and stucco as protection for the buildings, banisters, stairs, columns were inserted and the buildings were decorated with sculptures, wall paintings and mosaics. But already in the ninth century AD the inhabitants left the city-states in the central lowlands. The exact reasons have not been clarified to this day. This could have been caused by famines due to overpopulation, war or the loss of the faith of the authorities.
In the post-classical period (900 to 1492 AD) many people settled in the northern lowlands. Thus city-states such as Uxmal and Chichen Itzá gained more and more power and influence. After the conquest of Chichen Itzá by Mayapan at the beginning of the 15th century, the Yucatán Peninsula disintegrated into smaller tribal areas. From 1492 onwards, the Spaniards gradually subjugated the entire Mayan land. Although almost all Maya had already been subjugated by the middle of the 16th century, the Itza Maya continued to fight against the conquerors until 1697, but were then also defeated.
If you would like to take a closer look at the exciting history of the Maya, you should visit some of their sites, which lie dormant in the forests of Central America.