Mayan Trade

Mayans were such good traders that they were nicknamed “the Phoenicians of Middle America.” They usually traded in hollowed-out jungle trees going down rivers and coastal waters. The boats had one row of rowers on each side and in their middle had room for merchandise. The canoe’s ends were pointed to move easily through the water. The traders went as far as Northern Mexico and the most southern point in central America and their main product was salt. Ek Chuaj, the god of trading, was an underworld god who looked like a traveller with a basket. 

Sacred Cenote

The sacred cenote is a sinkhole filled with water, which the Mayans believed to be an entrance to the underworld. It is just north of the main temples in Chichen Itza, a city that was thriving in the 1000s AD. Its people were a curious mix of Toltecs and Itza Maya. You would have to walk 300m down a track from the main temples to reach the sacred cenote. At the cenote, Mayans occasionally made a human sacrifice though much more regularly they threw precious objects in the water. For a long time, people thought that the Mayans drowned the victims because this is what a conquistador wrote.  However, an archaeological study of the all the skeletons showed that they were already killed before going into the cenote. What do you think?

The Maya Mystery

The end of the classical Maya period [The Terminal Classic] is a mystery that has been puzzled over for decades. Why did the Mayans suddenly abandon and let the jungle grow over the walls and temples?

In the 900s (AD) there was a short and a very severe drought. The erection of defensive walls indicates that the drought was followed by an increase of warfare, even to the point that people dismantled temples and used their stones for the walls. The drought and wars are the most probably explanations for the end of the classical Mayan cities. However, Mayan territories had suffered from many droughts, even one that was recorded by Mayan scholars to last from 300 BC to 200 BC, so we don’t know exactly how and why the abandonment happened. 

The Mayans stayed in the area, however, and lived in cities until the coming of the Conquistadores. Today, about 5 million still live in El Salvador, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and southern Mexico.