This episode starts off with some interesting claims about the Mayans. According to Nimoy their teeth do not decay, their hearts beat only about 50 beats a minute and their skulls are unlike any other humans. Is this legitimate? I looked around the web and couldn't find anywhere else where these caims had been made.
Why did their civilization flourish and then disappear? I have been long intrigued by Mayan culture. I even got to see some Mayan ruins myself in 2012. Nimoy takes us to the Biblical story of Genesis and how that story tells of the creation of life on Earth.
In a weird 70's type of vibe we see a baby growing. Then we have a reenactment of early humans who lived simply. Nimoy points out how civilization developed slowly in most cases. He is setting us up to understand that the Mayans were different. These folks built elaborate ceremonial complexes much earlier than any other civilization. Scholar and Poet "Alurista" believes the Mayans were special.
Alurista claims the Mayans were studying astronomy, mathematics, and alchemy. Although he doesn't offer a lot of proof of this, he does show they knew what day of the week a day would fall on millions of years into the future. Nimoy tells us of Giles Healey who made an interesting discovery in 1947. Healey stumbled onto Bonampak, ancient Mayan murals that proved to be a gold mine of information. These amazing murals showed Mayan ceremonial life.
These murals tell of a grand processional and music as part of an elaborate ceremony. The murals show a raid, prisoners, and human sacrifice. The commanding figure is the priest who is preoccupied with studying the stars. They believed that history repeats itself, and so recording the past was key to understanding the future. They even knew about the wheel, but made no practical use of it.
They built elaborate roads that connected cities. One such road ends at Uxmal. Nimoy contends it can be seen as a colossal monument to the snake. Back to Alurista who gets very spiritual with us. He talks about how nothing moves in a straight line and related things. He says this is why they worshipped the snake. The snake God was named Kulkulkan and the Maya believed he was a white skinned and bearded deity. According to folklore, he was the one who provided the Mayans with advanced understandings of math and astronomy. At Chichen Itza, the Mayan priests read the future in the patterns of the stars as learned from Kulkulkan.
Kulkulkan built the temple at Chichen Itza with 364 steps and the top representing the 365th day of the year. Legend has it that Kulkulkan understood the power of the snake. He translated this power into the building of Chichen Itza. Twice a year, on the Fall and Spring Equinox, at 5pm the sunlight reveals a snake slithering down the side of the temple (This video shows the phenomenon at the 2:15 mark). According to legend, Kulkulkan disappeared. They also played the first known team sport in human history with permanent consequences. Winning was rare because of the difficulty of the task. If a team won, the spectators had to give up all possessions to the winners. The losers were put to death. So it was better to end in a draw. Apparently the priests all left the temples mysteriously and the game stopped being played in the same way.
When the Spanish arrived they were mystified by the amazing structures they found and wondered how the people they encountered had accomplished such feats. These conqusitadores were soon followed by missionaries who sought to convert the Mayans to Catholocism. Alurista tells us of how Mayan books and texts were destroyed by the Monks who came to convert the Mayans. The Monks believed the snake cult represented Satan. Much of the Mayan culture was lost with this destruction.
Nimoy tells us of scholar speculation that the Mayan may have been decimated by disease, or perhaps most left due to earthquakes in the area. We are told of the earthquake that hit Guatemala City in 1976 and was one of the worst disasters in the Western Hemisphere.
Nimoy spends some time exploring the possibility of crop failures or other natural disasters as possibly having led to the decline of the Mayan culture. Alurista even goes so far as to suggest that psychic energy played an important role in the Mayan culture, and their inability to continue to control with this energy may have led to their downfall. Alurista contends that the Mayans left the Yucatan peninsula and made their way to Egypt and into the Red Sea where they started another civilization. He even claims that when Christ was crucified, his last words were Mayan and meant, "At last, I sink in the dawn of your presence." This is truly a controversial claim and and he offers no proof.
Little remains of the Ancient Mayan culture and knowledge today. They started their calendar on August 12, 3113 BC and said their time on Earth would last 5,200 years. hey predicted that on December 21, 2012 a cataclysmic earthquake would destroy their civilization. New men of knowledge would then appear to fight the forces of evil.
"If the Mayan men of knowledge were right, in just 35 years we may learn the answers to some of the ancient Mayan mysteries."
Looks like they were wrong. Sure there was a bit of hype among "New Age" thinkers and people into the Ancient Mayans that the end of the world was coming in 2012, but nothing happened.
This was an ok episode. I have long known the Mayan were mysterious and I do find them interesting, but there wasn't much creepiness here. Maybe viewing this before 2012 might have provided a little more creepiness? Also, this Alurista guy seems like a nut to me and provided nothing but wild speculation. The superior knowledge of the Ancient Mayan is truly fascinating and I have to wonder what happened to them, but I don't find it creepy and I suspect they met their end the way many others have. So it was ok, just not the kind of topic I expect to find with this show.
You can watch this episode "Mayan Mysteries" below.