Human sacrifice, jungles, towering temples… this is the stuff of myth and legend. The Maya civilisation originated in central America and lives on through Maya communities and decedents today. In Mexico and Central America, almost 5 million people speak over 70 Maya languages.
The Maya lived and still live in Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras. From 1800 BC to AD 900 the Maya people flourished in the lush jungle cities of central America. The Maya had fantastic pottery, agricultural and architectural skills which can still be seen today. The ruins left behind are impressive symbols of the power and breadth of the Maya empire.
Hidden within the jungle in Guatemala, Tikal is one of the most impressive Mayan sites in the world. The UNESCO world heritage site dates back to the 6ths century BC. Tikal means Place of Voices.
Climb up the hundreds of steps for the most impressive views over the site. Peaks of temples pop out of the lush vegetation and tall jungle trees. Jaguars, monkeys and toucans inhabit the forest which has over 200 tree species and 300 species of bird. There were 33 rulers over nearly 600 years during Tikal’s occupation. At the site, you will come across palaces, temples, residences, ball-game courts, roads and more. Ulama was a popular Mayan ball game which involved throwing a ball into a hoop, pretty much ancient basketball.
Human sacrifice took place here, remains of sacrifice stones and temples still lie in the same places they did thousands of years ago.
Maya placed funerary offerings with the dead such as sacred objects made from jade, shell and obsidian. Their temples resembled sacred mountains, which is why they are so high. The excellent preservation means you can still see the detailed stone carvings of the gods on the temples. Caves were connected to the underworld and allowed the living to communicate with the dead. Sometimes bodies were places in the cavities of the caves.
Most Mayan cities were abandoned by A.D. 900.
The Maya believed the Cosmos was composed of three levels, the upper (the heavens), the middle, (the sacred mountain/world we live in) and the lower (the underworld). The Ceiba Tree was sacred to the Maya and they believed that the branches supported the heavens and the roots connected the world of the living to the dead.