Mayan RuinsAfter a few years of working without taking a single day off, you and your buddies are finally taking a much-needed vacation to the Americas. After reading about the Chacchoben Ruins on the Costa Maya website, you’ve all decided to visit a couple of Maya landmarks. Before your trip, why not brush up on your knowledge of the Maya?

Who Were the Maya?

Mesoamerica was home to numerous indigenous civilizations such as the Aztecs, the Incas, and the Maya. Overlapping timelines and shared cultural practices make differentiating them confusing but the Maya stood out in some ways.

The Aztecs and the Incas were famously wiped out by the Spanish. The Maya civilization, on the other hand, declined for unknown reasons. Mesoamerican civilizations also had the habit of conquering their neighbors but the Maya managed to retain their independence. If you want to know more about the Maya, read on.

Is the Chocolate Sweet?

1. They Did Not Predict the Apocalypse

To the relief of many (and the disappointment of others), the end of days did not occur on December 21, 2012. The reason for this confusion is because the Maya have a long-count calendar, one that lasts 5,125 years. Think of that day as December 31, 1999 and the succeeding years as the new millennium.

2. They’re Still Here

Despite the decline of the Maya civilization, the Maya haven’t disappeared. Guatemala, the center of their civilization, is home to 14 million Maya. Southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula are also home to numerous predominantly Maya regions. Better still, they’ve managed to retain most of their culture and traditions despite European conquest and influence.

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3. Hot Chocolate

The world usually associates chocolate with sweet. However, for Mesoamericans, it’s usually bitter and spicy. Instead of mixing honey with their chocolate, the Maya added cornmeal, chili, and other spices to the drink. Considered a drink of the gods, only the elite could consume this drink.

4. Zero

Like other Mesoamerican civilizations, the Maya were excellent mathematicians and builders. While the rest of the world adopted the concept of zero from the Babylonians, the Maya came up with it on their own. In fact, their long-count calendar is reliant on this concept.

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