December 06, 2006

Was Maya civilization that bad?

Mayans excited, unsure on 'Apocalypto'"Apocalypto" ... portrays Mayan civilization at a low moment, just before the Spaniards arrived, when declining, quarreling Mayan groups were focused more on war and human sacrifice than on the calendars and writing system of the civilization's bloody but brilliant classical period.

Outsiders' views of the Maya have long been subject to changing intellectual fashions. Until the 1950s, academics often depicted the ancient Mayas as an idyllic, peaceful culture devoted to astronomy and mathematics. Evidence has since emerged that, even at their height, the Mayas fought bloody and sometimes apocalyptic wars among themselves, lending somewhat more credence to Gibson's approach.

Warrior-kings and priests directed periodic wars among the ancient Maya aimed at capturing slaves or prisoners for labor or human sacrifice. Entire cities were destroyed by the wars, and whole forests cut down to build the temples.

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