Part One, The First People
Sometime around 11,000BC there were people walking around the land we call Belize. These people were referred to as Paleo Indians (Old Indians). They were the descendants of those original people who came over from Eurasia via the Bering Straits, the land bridge that was formed between Russia and Alaska, over 40,000 years ago. They were strictly large game hunters such as Giant Sloths, Cave bears and Mammoths, all extinct, and all whose remains we have encountered over the Belizean landscape.
Around 7,000BC, via cultural change and archaeological changes in physical evidence found all over Belize, archaeologists refer to the culture evolved from the Paleo Indian era as the archaic people. The most compelling evidence of these people’s cultural evolution is their hunting tools, especially their Lowe or Fish Tail spear points made of stone. These people were hunting smaller prey hence their hunting tools were more sophisticated in their design.
Important to note for both Paleo Indian and Archaic people, is that there is no evidence that they were living in built houses as we could imagine and there is also no evidence of any organized agriculture.
Sometime around 3,500BC corn was “created” in Mexico. This magical grain created in a celestial cave and in the powerful underworld, numerically represented by the number NINE in Mesoamerica, was the gift of the Mesoamerican’s to the world. Farming changed the culture on the American mainland, as it did throughout the world.
The people living on the Belizean landscape now are called by Anthropologists, Proto Maya. These are the people that will become the Ancient Maya who the world is fascinated with, especially in this particular year, 2012, when the Maya calendar resigns itself to its beginning after December 21st.
Mesoamerica is that area on the American mainland referencing the Southern part of Mexico, including the Gulf Coast and the Yucatan; the entire area of Belize, Guatemala and the North Eastern portion of Honduras and El Salvador. This is the area within which Cultural Revolution the country of Belize will eventually become a sovereign state. Inside this haven rich with wildlife, pristine rivers, lakes and streams, and formidable forests many cultures will come to the fore including, among many, the Olmec who are considered the ‘cultura madre’ (Mother culture) of all Mesoamerican cultures, the Zapotecs who are credited with the original writing process, the Mixtecs, and of course, the Maya who evolved from the original Paleo Indians and Archaic people.
Next, part 2, The Ancient Maya read on…
The Ancient Maya, in the beginning…
In the beginning, the sky was touching the water. There was no space, not even a speck of dust floated. The sky was touching the water.
Mythology has been one of the most spectacular and wide spread phenomenons for every ancient culture in any part of the world one would travel. The ancient Maya were no different and theirs, they used in art, architecture, religion and political management systems. Below is how the story of creation goes:
In the beginning the sky was touching the water. There was no movement, not even a speck of dust – just water and sky; Hunab Ku, the corporeal god awoke from a deep sleep and decided to create beings that would live to praise him and the other deities he himself had created. Itzamna, the magician, the creator god, the husband of Ixchel, the moon goddess, was the god placed in charge of one of the most amazing feats in mythological history: to remove the sky from the water.
Itzamna asked Hunab Ku for permission to create four other gods that we know as cardinal points, to him, Bacabs. These Bacabs or cardinal points had one job only – to lift the sky. Itzamna commanded them through the sky and into and under the water he guided them to their immortal positions at the corners of the flat square earth that was on the back of a turtle or an alternative crocodile, which would eventually float on a primordial sea. The command to these Bacabs once they were rooted to the corner of the earth under water was to lift the sky (every ancient civilization has someone or some gods lifting something).
Once the sky was lifted and space was created, the water of the primordial sea receded to its original position after the pressure of the weight of the sky was removed from it. Interestingly, the first land formations to protrude from below the surface of the sea were mountains – sacred mountains.
Interestingly, the Maya built their cities in the same shape and forms of their mythology. Their temples and palace stairs were built truly deep for the average height of the people of this civilization. This make them quite a dramatic and energy-consuming climb to the top…they aren’t stairways; they were pathways, designed to aid ones climb up the mountain, not the building that we see. The plaza floors act as the primordial sea from which the sky was removed and the temples and palaces were the holy, sacred mountains that reached up to the sky…
The Maya cosmology was designed as a tripartite world: the sky, the middle world and the underworld. The underworld was represented by the number nine. This was the place of fright, Xibalba, Metnal, the place of the grotesque and importantly, the creation place, where both water and corn were created. Later man was created from the same corn, from the underworld. The sky was represented by the number 13. Interestingly, thirteen gods of the sky; 13 astrological signs and impressively we are presently in the sign of Pisces astrologically and on the 21st of December, the winter solstice, the “god” that will manage the sky will be Aquarius. Interestingly this date represents the end of a cycle of 5,125 years. What is fascinating about this calendar round is that it started on August 11th, 3114BCE at this time there was not a Maya civilization as we know them on earth. The Maya people evolved from group archaeologists call the Proto Maya. Maya civilization starts in 1500BCE, the start of the Pre Classic or Formative period which lasts 1800 years and gives way to the Classic period which starts at 300AD to 900AD. Everything in Maya history after 900AD is referred to as the Post Classic period.
All this so far started with the sky touching the water…