Posted by: Dirk | October 10, 2007

El mundo perdido

This is the first entry since my journey to Yucatan. I visited Maya temples in Chichén Itza, Palenque and Tikal. During the reign of the Mayan city states (roughly 500 to 1000 A.D.) the peninsula was inhibited by up to 15 million people. Today there are only a few descendents left, mostly living in huts in the jungle. The story of the fall of the Mayan empire is covered in Jared Diamond’s excellent book Collapse (chapter 5). The National Geographic (10/2007) provides magnificent pictures of Mayan sites and art. However, one story that the guide at Tikal told the crowd is not taken up.

When the Spanish arrived, the Mayan city states were already long abandoned. The remaining people mistook the arriving Spanish on their boats for gods. Why was that? One of their legends speaks of white gods, which arrived by boats covered with dragon and snake symbols from the east. These gods fought the gods of the underworld and then sailed away, promising to return and bring peace. Except for the dragons and snakes, the Spanish fitted that description. The Maltese crosses on their sail were not so bad either, since they also have some meaning in the Maya culture.

So, was that legend completely made up by some ancient Maya priests or did some white men in boats arrive at Central America longbefore Christopher Columbus did? The Chinese had dragons and snakes as symbols, and the Vikings too. Maybe Charles Hapgood was right. He believes that comprehensive world maps existed before the Ice Age (!). His book is named Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings.

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