Who developed Maya
Ever since researchers in the 18th and 19th centuries uncovered the Mayan temple complexes overgrown by the jungle, attempts have been made to track down the ancient high culture. Its monumental structures, such as the step pyramids up to 65 meters high, are deeply impressive, but not the only indications that the Mayan culture was very well developed. For example, the Maya were the only people in America before Columbus to have a complete script, and they were also very good at mathematics. Researchers assume that they built observatories to better study the celestial bodies. This is supported by the fact that the Maya had developed various calendars, of which the “Haab” is the most famous because it assigns 365 days to a year.
The Mayan religious ideas were very complex and were determined by different gods. They believed that every thing including the elements in the cosmos has a soul. Despite the strong common culture, the Maya did not form a unified empire, but lived essentially scattered across the Yucatán in small, politically independent states. The different peoples can be roughly divided into high and lowland Maya. Although they also differed in their languages, for example, they agreed with one another in mythological ideas.
For a long time, the Maya were thought to be a peaceful culture that preferred art and astronomy to attacks on their neighbors. When their characters had been deciphered in the 20th century, however, the transfiguring view was corrected. The downside of the Maya culture was the ubiquitous sacrificial cult, which also claimed numerous lives. The ritual killing usually ended the agony that the victim had previously suffered through torture. The sacrificial death was socially highly regarded and some people therefore chose it voluntarily. Mostly, however, prisoners were sacrificed who were "procured" on campaigns against other Maya peoples. Maya, who faced the fate of sacrifice, offered some consolation: almost every other dying man faced the descent into the dreaded underworld Xibalba ("place of fear") after death, where they were tormented by dark figures for any length of time. In the Maya's imagination, this torture was spared human sacrifice.
One of the riddles of the Maya is the decline of their high culture. What is certain is that they stopped erecting magnificent buildings around 900 AD and left their gigantic cities for the time. There are some theories about what might have happened then. Was a drought to blame for the extinction of classical Mayan culture, the overexploitation of natural resources, a war or a popular uprising? A particularly large number of descendants of the high civilized Maya live in Guatemala today.
The cult of the jaguar
As the king of the beasts of Central and South America, the majestic jaguar gained great importance in the imagination of the Indians who shared their habitat with it. The face of the big cat was carved in stone, kings adorned themselves with their fur and jaguars were loved to be sacrificed as highly valued animals. In the Mayan imagination, for example, a jaguar-shaped god rules the underworld. The Aztecs, who settled in Central America around the 13th century, also revered the jaguar. The jaguar warriors, elite fighters of the strong Aztec military who dressed in the fur of the big cat, are particularly well-known. These warriors were highly regarded in the strict hierarchical society of the Aztecs.
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