In anticipation of our forthcoming cruise to Cuba & Maya Mexico, departing in December 2017, we talked to Guest lecturer Dr Diane Davies a Maya archaeologist and honorary research associate of the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Diane will be lecturing on board Aegean Odyssey and is excited to share her passion for Maya culture.

Chichen Itza is the 2nd most visited archeological site of Mexico today

Chichen Itza is the 2nd most visited archaeological site of Mexico

I am very excited to share with you my passion for the Maya culture, both ancient and modern. You will be fascinated to learn that the Maya built spectacular temples, pyramids and palaces without the use of metal tools, the wheel and domesticated beasts of burden. They were the only civilization in the Americas to develop a fully-fledged writing system. Their precise observations of the movements of the sun, moon and stars combined with their advanced mathematical concepts, produced calendars, eclipse tables and a level of astronomical knowledge beyond that of their contemporaries in Europe.  They played a ballgame that was like no other, and most importantly, for me anyway, is that we have the ancient Maya to thank for the wonder of chocolate!

This wall of skulls at Chichen Itza

This wall of skulls at Chichen Itza

Unfortunately, there are many misunderstandings about the Maya, so it will be my pleasure to enlighten you on the fact and fiction concerning this great culture.  One you may have heard of is that the ancient Maya predicted that the world would end on 21 December 2012. This idea came from an erroneous understanding of their calendars, one of which has cycles lasting 5128 years, but continued for millions of years.

The Maya were only 1 of 2 cultures who developed the number zero and therefore were able to calculate extremely large numbers unlike for example, the ancient Greeks and Romans. They could then carry out elaborate calculations needed to make astronomical predictions.  The precision of their observations and their astronomical record keeping were astonishingly accurate.  They paid close attention to the lunar cycle, and were interested in tracking solar and lunar eclipses. Venus was particularly important and when appeared in the sky it was seen as an omen for war – hence the term star wars, which you may be familiar with!

Moon lunar cycle in night sky.

Moon lunar cycle in night sky.

Did you know that the Maya played the earliest team sport in the world?  It was a form of ballgame with two teams playing with a rubber ball, although it could not be hit with the head, hands or feet, but only with the elbows, hips and knees!

Many of these great achievements you will see when visiting the sites of Kohunlich, Chichén Itzá and Uxmal, such as pyramids, palaces and ballcourts, including the largest ballcourt in Central America. You will also have a chance to see the descendants of the ancient Maya living today in this area. The Maya women traditionally wear a dress, called a huipil made of cotton with beautiful designs, which was also worn by ancient Maya women. It will be my pleasure to introduce you to all of this as you gain a new appreciation for this amazing culture on board Aegean Odyssey in December 2017.

The House of the Pigeons at Uxmal

The House of the Pigeons at Uxmal

For more information about the Maya please see my website www.mayaarchaeologist.co.uk

 

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Join Dr Diane Davies on board Aegean Odyssey as we visit Cuba & Maya Mexico, departing in December 2017