By Peter Tase
Caribbean News Now contributor
MILWAUKEE, USA -- The zenith of Mayan culture was during the classical period (250-900 A.D.) until the post classical period that marked the decline of their influence, and lasted for three centuries before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in the region.
The thousand year-old culture of the Mayas has brought to life many accomplishments, not only in crafting the most precise calendar of the time, but also in the areas of linguistics, ethnographic culture and culinary arts, the traces of which are found to this day.
According to Guatemalan anthropologist Alvaro Pop, “The Mayan Calendar is not only a way to keep track of hours and days, but a model studying the movement of stars and how that cycle influences human life. While looking at the stars, Mayan communities developed the idea that ‘there is nothing that is not influenced by the stars, including ocean tides and child birth,’ a concept that depicts the impressive astronomical knowledge that the Mayas have left behind.”
For Costa Rican anthropologist, Ana Cecilia Arias, “Since the early times before Christ, the Mayas had achieved considerable cultural development, which enabled them to conduct certain mathematical calculations that allowed them to determine the orbit of Venus."
Astronomy guided the Mayans in a way that enabled them to understand the stars’ influence in botany and agriculture and, as a result, they swiftly improved agricultural production and farming knowledge. Additionally, the Mayans have made tremendous contributions to architecture, mathematics, graphic land surveys, textile art, cuisine; all these are still being inherited through the centuries in the central American culture and society, from Mexico and Guatemala to El Salvador and Honduras.
Mayan communities were using corn maize 3,000 years ago, which continues to be an important component of culinary culture in the region. They were the first to cultivate cocoa and other exotic plants. The use of exotic colours and designs of traditional dresses in Guatemala are also an important aspect inherited from the Mayan life thousands of years ago.
“The colour used in traditional clothing fabrics is the expression of life more explosive and beautiful that nowhere to be found on the continent and the world,” Alvaro Pop said.
Ana Cecilia Arias noted, “Great architectural monuments of the region, such as colonial churches, archeological sites in Chichen Itza, Tikal, Copan and Tazumal, are imbued with the same knowledge of physics and engineering and are important destinations to archeological tourism. Above all, there is a large population that, in addition to preserving their ancestors’ genetic heritage, still keeps alive much of the cultural tradition, even though they are surrounded by societies that don’t appreciate their own past.”