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July 7, 2022 53 mins

After inspiration from Chuck's recent trip to the Yucatan, the fellas dive into the Maya Civilization. 

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hey, everybody chuck here. Before we get going with the show,
I want to plug a little podcast appearance that I
made especially for uh the old movie crushers. I was
on a movie podcast called it Too Scary, Didn't Watch,
and it is a lot of fun. And the basis
of the episode basically is three very very funny women
who one of them likes to watch horror movies and

(00:23):
the other two hate to watch horror movies. So one
of them watches them and then tells the other two
about it, and it's really a lot of fun. It's
become one of my favorite podcasts that I listened to,
and I reached out to them and they were kind
enough to have me on as a guest, so you
get to hear me uh completely recap the horror movie

(00:46):
or kind of edge of your seat thriller slash horror
movie Don't Breathe. And I had a really great time
on the show. They're wonderful, they're funny, and we had
a lot of a lot of laughs. So check out
and just you know, subscribe as what I say, listen
to Too Scary, Didn't Watch, and check out my episode

(01:08):
on the movie Don't Breathe, which just came out a
couple of weeks ago. Alright, on with the show Welcome
to Stuff you should know, a production of I Heart Radio. Hey,
and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh, and there's Chuck

(01:28):
and Jerry's here too. Um, and that makes this stuff
you should know, the anthropology edition. That's right. And I
would argue our one to three maybe four Maya adjacent podcast. Well,

(01:49):
we did the mind calendar. Yeah, the world ending in.
I mean I think we did that back then, right,
is right around that. That's the benefits of having a
show run this line. I think we did that in
That's what I mean, but leading up to Yeah, not
after the fact, because that would be very us uh.

(02:09):
And then of course we did our our episode where
we traveled to Guatemala. It's sort of like our two
part travel diary where Jerry spoke and um, you know,
Guatemala is partially where the Mayan people lived and live.
So maybe we should just start out by since I
said lived and live, dispelling some myths. Well, hold on,

(02:32):
we did another one last December. I believe did climate
cause the fall of the Maya civilization? All right, so
this is the fifth one, easily maybe I'm not sure
I lost count since you were talking. Well, I was
inspired because, as you know, I just recently took a
trip to Kintana Rue in Mexico, and uh that saw

(02:56):
some Mayan temples, and so there's a couple of episodes
coming out of that rip because it was just one
of those inspiring trips where you're you know, when you
go someplace where your your endorphins are firing in your
brain is doing things that usually doesn't do. Those are
the best trips, you know, you come back. I wanted
to eat different foods and talk about different things, and

(03:16):
I love those trips wearing cats. I didn't get any clothes,
but we did get Ruby a couple of really pretty
traditional Mexican dresses. Oh that's cute. Does she like them?
She loves them because they are colorful and have flowers
embroidered and stuff. Yeah. So. Um. There are a lot
of different groups that lived over the millennia in UM

(03:39):
Mexico and Central America. UM, but the Maya stand out
in particular for a number of reasons. Um. They had
one of the most developed alphabets um or systems of
writing ever in the ancient history of Central America. Or Mesoamerica. Yeah,
they came up with zero independently, almost almost almost a

(04:04):
thousand years before it was introduced to Europe. Not not
the europe didn't come up with themselves like it was introduced,
but they the Mayans figured it out independently. They also
had some really top notch calendars, which we talked about
in that one episode UM and that we're based on
um really advanced astronomical observations. So they were. And then

(04:27):
not to mention, they also have the romance of having
like lost civilizations, like entire cities swallowed up by the
jungle and lost for a thousand or more years. Those
are that's like so Mayan, you know, so um. For
all those reasons and more, they definitely kind of just
stand out in a field of pretty interesting cultures. Uh,

(04:49):
if I may say so, Yeah, I think that's why
we keep going back to them. They just fascinate me
the more I read about them. And uh, at some
point I've heard it's a decent movie, but it's not
the most accurate. But I was reminded today of the
Mel Gibson directed film Apocalypto. Man, it's almost a snuff film, dude.

(05:10):
I saw the one human sacrifice scene, and I'm like,
it's awful. It's super realistic. Yeah, it's way too stantographic. Director.
Oh yeah, he's like, yeah, he's super obsessed with violence.
It's crazy. Have you seen we were heroes? No? But
what I thought he did, Haxall Ridge, I don't know

(05:32):
if you did or not. I know he definitely did.
We were heroes about the early early day. We were heroes?
Is that what it was called. Yeah, it was the
early days of Vietnam and it's like brains blowing out
onto the camera lens in front of the Ridge was
supposed to be really violent too. It's just occurred to me.
I don't know if I've seen any Mel Gibson directed film. Uh,
we were heroes. No, we were soldiers. One of the two.

(05:56):
It's Thanks for Soldiers. We were soldiers. Um meet me
in St. Louis. I think that's the name of it.
Super violent. But some of the myths we can dispel.
First of all, I kind of teased one out that, um,
the Maya are still around. That it's not like, you know,
people talk about the fall of the Mayan civilization. It's

(06:18):
not like a meteor came down and did the dinosaur
treatment on them. There are still Maya today, and you know,
some would argue that their civilization civilization didn't really collapse
so much as just became sort of a uh, suburban
sprawl in a way. Yeah. I mean a lot of
them speak some of these ancient languages and tongues that

(06:39):
have been around for a very long time. They carry
on a lot of the ancient traditions that were passed down.
So yeah, it's definitely inaccurate to say that the Mayan
civilization just went away, just disappeared. It just dispersed instead,
that's right. Uh. It is also incorrect to just say
the Maya were this one sort of unified historic people

(07:03):
that we can talk about as being one thing. Um,
we're talking about a lot of different like dozens and
dozens of cities and city states, um that you know,
they had a lot in common. Sure, and they did
trade with each other and did some of the same things,
but they also were at war with each other almost constantly, um,

(07:24):
between themselves. And you you can't just and we're talking
about hundreds and hundreds of years like they're definite. They're different,
very specific periods of Mayan culture and depending on when
you're talking about some cities may be bigger than others,
others maybe um not not quite as large yet. So
you can't really just say I believe Libya helped us

(07:48):
with this when I think she got from a website
called Mexicolore with an E they said just saying the
Maya is trying to invent a name for like the
Free to the Italian, the Spanish and the Romanian people
all is one. It's just there. They were not just
one people, know, and they didn't see themselves as one people.
They probably saw themselves as members or citizens of their

(08:10):
particular city state. But the reason that we today and
researchers and archaeologists who you know, investigated the Maya to
begin with, considered them one group is for two reasons. One,
they inhabited a really specific um geographical location covered southern Mexico, Guatemala,
parts of Honduras, Sal Salvador, UH and Belize Peninsula specifically

(08:36):
yeah um so and like in that area, not kind
of spread out like that was the Maya's area UM.
And Then number two, even though they consider themselves separate
um and and not like members of the same whole
group that inhabited the area. They exchanged, Like you said,
they traded, they exchanged ideas, um, scientific breakthroughs art um.

(09:00):
So their their culture to those of us on the outside,
looks like one homogeneous, cohesive culture, when really it was
a bunch of different cultures influencing one another and creating
kind of this meticulture that we consider the Maya today. Right, UM.
If you know, I talked about the different periods that
we can talk about. The first one was the pre

(09:21):
Classic period. Uh. And we'll talk a little bit about
each of these, but the Classic period is going to
be most of the focus. That's sort of the golden
age of the Maya. Uh. But in the pre Classic period,
this is where they started to um get involved in agriculture.
They started to um cultivate through burning land. Uh. And

(09:43):
you know, as we covered in the episode on UM,
you know how they went away. I believe we talked
about burning crops as being you know, a lot of
people think that was significantly bad for them in the
long run, um over a population to be sure, and
eventual uh food shortage when they had food surplus for
so long. But they started out as always with the

(10:06):
three sisters growing those beans and maize and squash, and
then the Middle Pre Classic we're talking about a thousand
to three hundred, they started spreading out a little bit
in that territory, the same territory that would eventually be
like the classic most robust Mayan cultures UM. And they

(10:29):
also at that time, in the Middle Pre Classic, about
twenty three years ago, that's when they started to build
like architecture, not the stuff that you would see in
the classical period, but it was like the beginning of it,
literally the foundation, because they actually started they built um
new structures over old structures. But this is kind of
where it was born. Yeah, and all this if it

(10:52):
sounds like it's happening very organically, is because it did.
Um Lvia is you know, points out that these these
city centers, in these city states, it wasn't some and
we we know now more than we ever had before.
We got a lot of stuff wrong over the years,
um science and archaeology, but we were pretty squared away
at least, you know, we're up to date on the

(11:14):
latest uh like truths about the Maya. But they think
they used to think they were so organized they would
plan out these cities, but they really sort of grew
organically because they were good at what they did and
they could really farm the heck out of the land
and support a lot of people. So it just sort
of happened organically. I mean, they clearly were a culture
that knew a good idea when they saw it. So

(11:36):
like an elevated highway, um causeway, it's wide and can
afford a bunch of traffic between one city state to another.
That's just a good idea. So if you build one that,
there's the other city states can say what other city
states can we link to? And before you know it,
basically every city state and I think there were four
great ones in total at the height of the Maya

(11:57):
classical period, are connected by ways. So of course today
it looks like, surely this was planned, some great centralized
government planned this out and they must have been amazing. No,
there's another way to do. It's almost like an emergent
property of a hive mind. A bunch of people no
good idea when they see it, and they put it
to use, and over time it just builds up and

(12:18):
up and up and becomes so complex that it looks
to people that come later like it couldn't have possibly
happened organically even though it did. That's right. Uh. And
we've talked a little bit before about the size of
these I guess, I mean people have called them empires
for these civilizations. Um, there were about forty cities in total.

(12:38):
I mean you said for within that there were all
these smaller cities each of these And they're not sure
so that the number ends up being a bit of
a swing. But five thousand and fifty thousand people and
total maybe up to fifteen million people. Uh. They've done
studies that found I believe it was like double the uh,

(13:00):
double the size of medieval England at the time. Uh
and and farley more densely populated than medieval England, like
legitimate cities. Yeah, did I say four. I meant to
say forty. Oh did you say for No? I think
you said I said for no. No No, No, you did
say four. But I thought you just meant there were
four main areas. There were at least forty great cities.

(13:24):
That was what I was trying to say. I think
he said for But yeah, we'll go. One of the
things that made the city so striking, though, Chuck, was, um,
the elaborate architecture, you know, and because it was all
made from well not all of it, but a lot
of it was made from cut limestone blocks, which, by
the way, they used harder stones to cut the limestone

(13:45):
because in the area that the maya Um occupied there's
no metals that are easily accessible. Um. There are also
no draft animals, so they did everything with like stones basically,
and with human labor, not with animal labor. So um,
what they did is all the more impressive when you
realize that because they built these huge temples in huge

(14:07):
pyramids that are just amazingly well designed and well built,
so so much so that they still survive today. But
then on top of it, when you start to investigate
the way that they're oriented, you're like, oh, my goodness,
each of these staircases is completely in line with each
of the four cardinal directions. How do they do that? Um?
Or if you stand on this one temple at Cheetz

(14:27):
and itsa and you look at the other three temples,
depending on whether it's a salstice or equinox, the other
temples are in line with the rising sun. How did
they do that? So yeah, So, in addition to just
the visual amazement that you get, UM, the kind of
intellectual amazement of how they were designed and implanned is
even more impressive. Yeah, and you can stand on these

(14:48):
things because they're still there. Uh. A lot of the
civilization has gone now. But you know, if you go
down to the Ukndam Peninsula and you visit to Loom
or someplace like that, I highly encourage you to take
one of those doors and go see these temples. Uh
or well, we're not exactly sure what they were. We
think that they're temples. Uh. Sometimes they are called palaces,

(15:09):
but it's pretty clear from like the size of the
rooms that they weren't for the hierarchy. You know, it
was a very um, very hierarchical society. But they don't
think like that the kings lived in these temples that
are still, these pyramids that are standing. It was probably
for ceremonies. Uh. This may have been where I guess

(15:30):
we have to talk some about the ritual sacrifice. This
is where a lot of that took place as well. Yeah,
particularly the temples and the pyramids. Um, but they they Yeah,
we should talk about sacrifice at some point in time.
Will pepper it in? Okay, But the something you talked
about I want to kind of flesh out a little
more is the hierarchical society. So again, there wasn't some

(15:55):
one great central government that organized all these city states.
In some of the city states, not all, there was
a strong centralized government, a leader of priestly class, a
divine king or something who ruled over that city state
with an iron fist and by divine right um and
could say I'm going to kill your kid um, to

(16:16):
sacrifice them for a bountiful harvest, for more rain or
something like that. It was that that level of control,
that level of hierarchy, and it was really rigid. But
again to kind of underscore how each of these cities
was kind of independent in its own kind of thing.
Not all of them had a hierarchical structure like that. Yeah,
And I think I think that's one reason they were.

(16:39):
It seemed like I saw a couple of like documentary documentary, documentary,
video high I am new to Earth, I'm new to YouTube. Uh.
It seemed like they were always at war with one another.
And I think that, Um, I think that was just

(17:00):
sort of the nature of the hierarchy of these places,
Like I feel like these it just seems like these
kings were always at war with another king over something. Yeah,
and apparently the first the first researchers who started to
investigate the Maya. I think it started in eighteen thirties,
the eighteen thirties when Westerners, when Europeans first started to well,

(17:22):
I don't want to say that because the Spanish war
aware of them. When say Western Europeans, this includes Spain, say, um,
you are new to Earth to northern Europeans. How about
the English? The English first stumbled upon you know, Mayan
cities um. From from from that point on, for a
very long time, researchers just assumed that the mines were

(17:45):
this really advanced, intelligent, peaceful culture. Um. And it wasn't
until later that we started to find more and more
things like fortresses and battlements, um, defensive walls. Were like, oh,
actually there was a lot of warfare. And then as
we got to know more and more and cracked their language, UM,

(18:08):
we're like, oh wow, this is a deeply violent group
of of cultures that that really killed a lot of
one another in some really brutal ways too. Right, But
we did mention they also traded with one another. So
what wasn't like there was just a guarantee that their
closest neighbor they were going to do battle with. Um.
They traded all kinds of things. They traded. Uh, it's

(18:31):
an area very rich in jade apparently, obsidian UM. Obviously
things that are a little more commonplace like salt, uh
and and seeds and grains and things like that they
would trade. But copper and jade and obsidian were sort
of the money things that you would trade. And they traded,
like you said at the beginning, they traded ideas and

(18:53):
cultural ideas, and they traded art with one another. They
had a lot of influence, and this was in one
of the documentary videos that I saw on online. Uh,
the Olmec civilization was somewhat was the civilization that they
um really really borrowed from or not borrowed from. But
we're influenced by I guess yeah. The Old Mec I

(19:14):
was reading are considered one of six pristine civilizations, meaning
they just grew up out of whole cloth. Um. They
weren't influenced by other civilizations or other groups six, including
I think the Um, like Sumerians, they think, maybe the Egyptians.
I can't remember a few others UM, but the Old Yeah,

(19:36):
the Old Mecher considered pristine civilization. That's pretty cool. Um,
So I say we take a break and come back
and talk about the religion and the science of the Maya.
What do you think about that, Chuck, let's do it.

(20:01):
So you mentioned religion and science, we'll talk about that now.
Previous to the break, you mentioned the priestly class. From
what I saw, the priestly class was basically the highest

(20:25):
class under the ruling class. Uh. And and I guess
in a lot of older civilizations that's sort of the case,
is the religious leaders were I had so much influence
and we're just under the king and had a lot
of influence on the king as well. But there was
that priestly class who organized these ceremonies in these rituals.

(20:46):
They were the ones who developed the mathematical system and
the astronomy that we talked about, and they were able
to accomplish some pretty amazing things. Uh, not only with
math in their alphabet, but with astronomy. They were able
to accurately predict solar eclipses. And this is in I mean,
I guess depending on which period you're talking about, like

(21:08):
thousands of years ago. Well, I think we've entered the
Classic period, which I think was from the second century
to the ninth or tenth century CE. Okay, so that's
when most of the astronomy and the math and sort
of sciences were advanced. Yeah, but yes, but again for comparison,
at this time, England is in smack in the middle
of the dark ages um, while the my priestly class

(21:31):
are predicting solar eclipses and can accurately tracks Venus is
transit around the Sun. Um. So they use this information,
this astronomical information, their ability to use math um, they're
they're like extensive calendars. They use that for those rituals
and for those um those like the to basically reinforce

(21:54):
their priestliness like what we would recognize as mathematicians and
astronomers today. Imagine if if you know, an astronomer said,
you know, this comment is going to pass by Earth
in two days. It's going to be amazing, and also
the Sun God will be driving it like a chariot,
so everybody don't leave your house that day, Like you're

(22:16):
you're really on the money on one part of that, right,
But I mean that that's kind of like what they're
priestly class did they were right, but the interpretation was
wildly different from you know what we interpret things as today. Yeah. Um,
they had a solar calendar. And again we did a
whole episode on the Mayan calendar, but it was very
advanced for the time. Uh. They had eighteen months on

(22:36):
their calendar, twenty days per month, with a five day
unlucky period each month, which is pretty funny. No, I
think that was every year there was a five day
unlucky period. It was once a year, not once a month.
I think so, I think so. I think I didn't
do the math, Chuck, I'm no Mayan priestly class guy. Uh.
And then they also had an overlapping calendar or two

(23:00):
d in sixty day sacred calendar. This had thirteen cycles
in twenty named days. And as we all know, in
twelve it was the Mind's never said that the world
was going to end in twelve. This was just internet
hokum basically because their calendar was ending. Yeah. It wasn't
like made up entirely from scratch like the old Mixed Civilization.

(23:22):
It was based on like a misinterpretation, a misreading, uh,
an exaggeration like in twelve the mind long count calendar
like reset. It was a thing, and to the Maya
that may have included some sort of apocalyptic thing, but um,
it wasn't like the end of the world. It was

(23:42):
like a resetting of the world order as we understand it,
and that got turned into The World Is Ending starring
John Cusack. Should we talk about the creation story? I
think we should. It's pretty cool. Uh. There were a
couple of sacred texts that's survived. As we'll see later,
a lot of their written history was burned by Christian

(24:05):
missionaries who said, you don't need that stuff anymore. You're
gonna be like us, very sadly, but there are some
texts and cotuses that survived. In a couple of them,
the Popo Vu and the chill Um Bollum had these
creation stories wherein there was a god of wind and
sky called Hurricane Hurricane, and there was a ciba tree

(24:30):
planted on the earth to create space between the earth
and sky for people and animals and plants and things
to grow. And humans came third after the plants and animals.
But in the text it said that they were made
out of mud. It's soundfamiliar, uh, And they could speak
but could not think or move, which sounds like a

(24:53):
lot of modern day Americans. Yeah, all they could say
is please kill me. Uh. So the god said, oh,
that's not good, so they destroyed them with water. Then
they tried again, created a man from wood and woman
from reeds, and they were sort of like functional humans evidently,
but were immortal and didn't have souls. So the god said, well,

(25:13):
that's no good. Yeah, that that'll do if you're made
of well I guess I thought if they were made
of mud that would do, but I guess wooden reeds
boiling water would in their minds, that would kill them.
It sounds more tortuous, but it didn't kill all of
them because some people survive some of the reed and
would people turned into monkeys also very interesting in terms

(25:36):
of like evolutionary theory. Uh. And then finally they got
it right in their minds. They created what we think
of modern humans in their creation story from maize dough
and their own blood. But then the gods thought, hey,
there a little too scary smart, So they might threaten
us one day, but we won't destroy them. We will

(25:59):
just cloud their minds in their eyes and make them
not as smart. And that's their creation story. Yeah, it's
pretty interesting. Yeah. Um. They they had a pantheon of
gods um, much like the Greeks had um that were
dedicated to like a sky god or rain god. Um.
There were like more than one creator god um. It

(26:21):
depends on what period of the Maya civilization you're talking about,
which one was more important than another. One might be
a little more important to one city state than another. Um.
So they kind of just jockeyed in and out of importance.
But they were still generally the same pantheon. And again,
in addition to art and um and like other ideas,

(26:44):
their religion was traded amongst themselves and with outside groups
as well. That's right, Like they would trade God's right. Yeah,
like I'll trade you a rookie shawl for eight eight
tops cucko khan. Uh. This part this next are really
sort of gets me going intellectually, is when we talk
about their system of agriculture. Uh. They were great, great farmers. Um.

(27:11):
You know, some say too great and that they over farmed.
I guess that would make them that great farmers because
I don't know about over farming, but they were really
good at making things grow and and depending on where
you were, which mind culture you were talking about. Uh,
that was it could be very very dry if you
weren't near water, if you were inland, and they have,
you know, rainy season in your dry season. They have

(27:33):
to contend with that dry season, and they did so
by building these huge underwater cisterns that would collect enough
water to basically last them about half of a year. Yeah. So,
like every built structure was engineered so that anytime it
rained during the rainy season, that water got channeled right

(27:54):
into that underground cistern. And it wasn't just carved out
of limestone, chuck. I mean it was they carved it
out of a bedrock and then covered it up, but
they also covered it with stucco so that it would
be waterproof and could hold enough water to keep everybody
going for the rest of the year. So cool. They
had um aqueducts in one of the city's Uh. I

(28:16):
would pronounce that pelink polink polink. Okay, you say that
as if you know for sure I've heard the word before. Polink. Plus,
it's fun. It's more fun to say than polink. That
sounds like a Internet challenge from you know, several years ago. Yeah,

(28:40):
it's really I don't know. I've never done an Internet challenge.
I always think it's funny when they pop up. So
the Polink challenge went away. But the Polink A they
had a system of aqueducts and they actually I mean,
in my mind, I don't know what the Chinese were doing.
It seems like they invented everything. But in my mind,
they created water pressure. They're the first people I heard

(29:02):
of to create water pressure, right, using like a drop
in elevation and a narrow conduit for yeah, and then
little kids would just dance and play in front of it. No,
that wastes the water. Um. There's also like great use
of filtration to which is amazing if you think about it.
But two cal Um they use zeolite and quartz zeolites

(29:24):
kind of like a clay like silicate um and quarts
as courts um. The thing is is neither one of
those are found at too cal Um. They're found kind
of far away, So they were purposefully put in their
water reservoirs. Uh. And the reason why that's so impressive
is because zeolite and quarts are used today to filter

(29:46):
microbes out of water. Yeah, and they figured it out.
They think probably they just realized that the natural aquifer
around the zeolite cory tasted better, was clearer, that kind
of thing. So they just quarried the zeolite and moved
it over to their own reservoir. It's possible it's a
pretty good gas. We just don't know for sure how

(30:06):
they got the idea. We just know they didn't. Yeah,
I mean a lot of it seems like just brilliant innovation,
and a lot of it seems like just good common sense. Yeah,
it really does. They knew a good idea when they
saw one, that's right. They also had irrigation canals. Uh,
they had tiered agriculture fields that were cut into the hills,
so it would prevent erosion, it would prevent flooding, and

(30:29):
water would just sort of drained down like a beautiful
champagne fountain. Yeah. I mean, that's terraced farming, and that's
been like invented multiple times by different cultures independently. It's
just again a really good idea, wonderful idea. They also invented,
or at least employed, raised beds for farming. Uh So

(30:49):
if they're you know, they wanted to keep things a
little dryer, they would build a raised beds and then
you could still have wildlife underneath aquatic wildlife. Yeah, I
think they were actually doing aquaculture too. They were raising
the fish and the turtles, and that the swampy area
next to that, next to the raised beds. Wonderful idea.
So they also did what you mentioned before, slash and

(31:09):
burns called milpa. It's where you take a section of rainforest, cut,
cut it down, leave the vegetation in the trees in place,
and burn them there, and then the resulting ash covers
the dirt and you plant directly into the ashy dirt.
You don't till the soil, and it's really really good
at fertilizing um an area without any kind of inputs,

(31:32):
certainly no fossil fuel based industrial inputs, and it keeps
the land going for about two to three years. But
then after that it gets depleted, which means that you
have to take that plot of land and leave it
fallow for about fifteen years. So if you do some
pretty quick back of the envelope math, you have to
have a tremendous amount of land to to cycle through

(31:55):
so that you can leave each spot fallow for about
fifteen years. They need a lot of land or very
low population. And that's one of the reasons why some
people say must have we must have covered it in
our episode from back in December. But some people say
that's what led to the clin of the Maya. They
over farmed, they over slashed and burned. Their population got

(32:16):
too big to support through slash and burn agriculture because
it just requires too much land because of the fallow
period you have to have. Was that December, I believe so.
I mean, the years are running together these days. Crazy.
I would have guessed that was seven years ago. I'm
pretty sure it was December. Another thing that they did

(32:39):
was sports ball. Yeah. I don't know what it is, Chuck,
but talking about this particular game is always annoyed me.
I don't know. I don't know, but I've always hated
this game because we talked about it before we have Yeah,
and plus, I mean it's a big anytime you talk
about the Maya, you can't not talk about it. You know,

(33:00):
why would it annoy you? I don't know, anno easy
that they did it. It's just an annoying game. I
feel like, Okay, well, they had a ball game, uh
called either poc to poc or pocket talk. And you know,
it's sort of like, I'm of the belief that most
of these sports games are pretty similar soccer, hockey, basketball,

(33:24):
American football. They they're all sort of the same, which
is they sort of simulate war, like here's our side,
here's your side. We're gonna try and go on your
side and do something, and you're gonna try and come
to our side and do something, and we're both going
to try and prevent one another from doing that thing,
whether it's putting a puck in a net or a
soccer ball in a net, or a basketball in a hoop,

(33:45):
or a football in an the end zone. And this
may or may not take place during a ten cent
beer night too. But they had a game all long
window way of saying, they had sort of the proto
version of this game where they have been able to
sort of reconstruct how it might have been played, except
they did not use these a little rubber ball that

(34:08):
they used by mixing latex with juice from a morning
glory vine to make it bounce here, and they wore
padding like you would in football American football. That's news
to me. I didn't realize that they were padding. Does
that annoy you. It's okay, I'm neutral. Uh. And then
the key here with this game, though, it makes it
so different is uh, they didn't use their hands or

(34:30):
their feet. They would use their mainly their hips, I think,
but their elbows in their knees as well to move
this ball until you, uh, in a very kidd itch
like move, quidditch like move, throw it through two stone rings.
You almost just got us torn to pieces. I'm really glad,
I think yourself. Yeah, maybe it's them. It's quidditch, right, Yeah,

(34:52):
so it's close quidditch. So maybe it's the use of
the hips. It just seems really painful and that they
should have been like this really hurts. Let's try our
hands or our feet instead. It seems intuitive to use
hand and feet. Yeah, and not hips. There's no other
game in the history of games as far as I know,
and I know a lot about games um that used

(35:14):
the hips. Um, but it's twister they did, or maybe golf.
It's all in the hips. M. I've been playing on
golf again lately, Oh you have. Yeah, I got back
into it after like a twenty year layoff. Oh that's right,
that's right. Yeah, are you still loving it. I'm having fun.
That's a lot of fun. Good way to spend some

(35:35):
time with friends. That's what tiger Wood says, and he
also says must dominate. All right, let's take a break
and let's come back and talk about the supposed fall
of the civilization right after this. Okay, So we talked

(36:13):
about all these different periods, um and the end of
the ninth century is typically considered the end of the
Maya classical period, what you referred to earlier as the
Golden Age of the Maya, and for a lot of
people that equates with the fall of the Maya civilization.
That was it. That's when their cities were abandoned and

(36:34):
reclaimed by the jungle. That's when their ideas and thoughts
and languages and culture were lost. And that was that
was when the Maya became a loss civilization. And like
we said at the outset, that's just not true. I mean,
the Maya is still around today. But in addition to
being more of a dispersal than a fall um, that

(36:54):
didn't happen all at once to all of the Maya
city depending on where you were the Maya territory. Some
of those cities not only kept on going just fine.
New ones were developed, like way after this this supposed
fall of the Maya civilization. Yeah, which that's really interesting
to me. In fact, we get Maya, I don't think

(37:16):
we said from Maya Pan, which was one of the
last ones, and that was founded in twelve sixty three.
So this was after the supposed you know, fall of
the Mayans and the classic period um one of them.
In fact, the last one to fall, which is in
modern i Guatemala today, was almost in the eighteenth century.
It was in six when the Spanish finally took the

(37:40):
final um Mayan city basically, and we mentioned the Spanish
because they were, uh, they were the big reason why
things stopped. It wasn't. I mean, there was a dispersal
for sure, But when the Spanish came and the Christian
missionaries came is when things got really ugly. And they
basically said, we're going to squash your culture, We're going

(38:03):
to take away your language, we're going to burn your
written history, and you're going to be like us now right,
you're gonna be Roman Catholic and you're gonna like it um.
And as we learned in Guatemala, um the modern Maya
uh and the Maya. From this colonial period, UM got
into syncretism, which is where they took their original traditional

(38:27):
religion and meshed it with the forced upon them Roman Catholicism,
so that they associated saints with specific deities like Um, Mashamo,
the the may A deity who helped me quit smoking. Yeah,
good old Mashamo. Yeah, he was associated with St. Simon,
and you would go to him and say, I have

(38:48):
this vice I need to I need to get rid of.
Please help me Mashamo. You give him a cigarette and
some I think maniac root wine or liquor, and uh
light a candle and he would take care of you.
I forgot all about Mashamo. Oh how could you? That
was one of the Yeah, that was a long time ago.
And uh we obviously shout out our friends at co ED, Uh,

(39:12):
the charity organization that we've been working with for years
who got us down there to begin with. So just
go check out their their work and uh sponsor a kid,
give them a access to books and education. Yep, co
ED you see dot org right, Yeah, go check them out. Um.
So you said that the Spanish missionaries, the Franciscans in particular, um,

(39:35):
were the ones who came in after the leading tip
of the spear, the conquistadors who would come in slaughter
a bunch of people, subjugate them, and then the Franciscans
would come in and rebuild them in the European style
and voiced you know, um, the Spanish language on them,
Roman Catholicism on them, um. And that the Maya kind

(39:56):
of adapted with syncretism, right. But one of the big
ways you you get rid of somebody's culture getting rid
of their writing. And I think you said it earlier,
but the Franciscans burned almost all almost every book as
far as we know, except four of those codices were burned,
destroyed by Spanish missionaries in the colonial period when they

(40:19):
were trying to subjugate and convert the Maya um. Which
is extraordinarily sad because it just makes you wonder how
much history and and cosmological thought was just totally lost
forever through that. Yeah. I mean they wrote a lot
of books, uh. And those codices were made from fig
tree bark and they were folded accordion style, and you

(40:42):
can there's some of that stuff that's that's carved into
monuments that you can still see, uh, some of us
painted on walls and pottery that you can still see
that survived. But just those four, uh survived and these
were basically post just after the end of the Classic period. It.
So there is good stuff in there about you know,

(41:02):
prophecies and medicine and their history and astronomy and science
or religious rituals and stuff like that. But again, like
you said, I mean, like who knows how much we
would understand if if they hadn't have just torched everything.
Well so, and then the surviving stuff, um, the surviving
writing and the hieroglyphics that mayan Um system of writing
that was so developed, Um, it wasn't cracked until uh,

(41:27):
not that many years ago, I think the twenty one century.
And there's a really great nova Um episode on PBS
called Cracking the Maya Code. And it's just almost like
this thriller where like a group of like linguists got
together and um figured out you know what it meant
without a Rosetta stone, nothing like that. They just had

(41:47):
to make conclusions and assumptions, and um, they finally figured
it out. But um, one of the other things that
happened to one of the remaining kind of bits of
written information was on the hieroglyphics stairway at Copon. Another
great city, one of the temples Chuck was a pyramid

(42:09):
and it had the staircase and the staircase was made
of limestone blocks with hieroglyphics carved into it that told
the story. But unfortunately, the first archaeologists who excavated it
back in disassembled the staircase to examine it, and when
they put it back together again, I guess they realized
that they hadn't noted where it was originally, so they

(42:30):
put it out of order. So whatever it was trying
to say is lost to history forever thanks to archaeologists.
And they said, it says there's a lady who knows
all that glitters is gold, and as she winds on
down the road, and they're like, no, no, it's all
out of order. There's something about a bustle in your
headgerow that doesn't make any sense. It still doesn't make sense. Uh.

(42:55):
The um colonial period that came much much later, the
agenous languages were um discourages. One way to say it
kind of squashed is another way. Uh. And then finally
in the nineteen seventies and eighties, there was a revival
of the Maya and Guatemala to basically say, you know,

(43:15):
our language is important, our cultural rights as indigenous people
are important, and they made some concessions. They're they're not
officially believe Guatemala still has not accepted any of the
indigenous languages as official co languages like it does with Spanish,
but uh, they are acknowledged, they're part of the national

(43:38):
identity and Guatemala and I believe that you can receive
public services in your native language, in indigenous tongue, even
though they're not official languages. They still guarantee that. Yeah,
that's really something. And that also actually comes after a genocide.
There was a genocide against the Maya by the Guatemalan army,
which presumed that the typical indig and it's Maya in

(44:01):
Guatemala supported the guerrillas in the late seventies early eighties,
and something like two hundred thousand Maya indigenous Maya were killed,
uh in nineteen between nineteen eight and ninety three, and
another one and a half million um just disappeared and
are presumed to have been killed. And they keep finding
like mass graves that that definitely underscore the fact that

(44:24):
they were killed. So almost two million people were killed
in three years in tiny little Guatemala um. So so
much so that like there was a substantial hit to
the Maya population in that country. Um, but they managed
to hang on and stay around and maintain links to
their you know traditions still. Yeah, I mean, if you

(44:46):
go there today, you will see uh traditional mind people. Sometimes.
Uh the women might be wearing to the traditional clothing,
which is beautiful. Uh. Eat some of that food, is
my advice. Sit down with some of them, have a
conversation if you can. I guess we should finish up

(45:07):
with a little bit about human sacrifice instead of that
lovely note. Ye. So there's a great article in the
Economists called who did the Maya Sacrifice? And there was
another one in Reuters called Ancient Maya Sacrifice Boys not
Virgin Girls colon study. But there was this you know

(45:27):
notion that I mean, sacrifice happened in numerous ways. There
was blood letting. Sometimes. There was the ball game that
we spoke of. A lot of times they would play
the game against another city state and someone in that
city state would die if they lost and be sacrificed. Uh.
Sometimes they would sacrifice children like you spoke of. They

(45:51):
would uh throw them in the sootes which are the
swam in them when I was in Mexico, and it's
an amazing experience, but UM, to know that that kind
of thing happened there is a little sobering, to say
the least. But the underground, you know, pools uh in
these caves and uh, there's no way getting around it.
You know, they sacrifice people, and so they you know,

(46:13):
they definitely did it with uh when at war, they
would a lot of times sacrifice someone from another city
state to sort of appease the gods and not their own.
But they thought, maybe we can find out, um, who
these people were. And there's a lot of gobbady cookie
science that we won't get into and how they did it.
But they looked at their at these uh at teeth

(46:37):
and from examining the teeth in the isotopic ratios, they're
able to basically determine where people came from depending on
uh the enamel of their teeth. And what they ended
up finding out was what they called it was anywhere
and everywhere where Who these people were. There were half
of them were locals, about a quarter were from some

(46:58):
distance others from hundreds of kilometers away, and they were, uh,
you know, there were children, there were boys, there were girls,
there were adults. It was sort of all over the map.
So I think they were hoping for sort of like
a tidy little answer there and they did not get one. No,
But didn't they say that it was ultimately mostly younger boys,

(47:20):
like teenage boys. Well that was that was the Reuters study,
and that was um when they would specifically, I think,
throw children in the sontes to call for rain. I
think they used to think that those were, uh, they
sacrificed virgin girls. And what they found out that was
because I think they had ja jewelry and things like that.

(47:41):
But they said no, they found out that they were
in fact mostly young boys, right, And they would throw
them in the semeotes because those were considered portals to
the underworld and they were sacrificing not just for rain,
but also just to keep things going. Like they they
believed that the gods were nourished by human blood, and
by sacrificing humans, the sun would come up, crops would grow,

(48:05):
night would come and turn into day again. Um, like
the world would just keep functioning as a as a
matter of nourishing the gods with human blood. Yeah. I mean,
it's definitely something to keep in mind when you go
to tour and swim in a soote. It's a you
should always sort of respectfully think about that kind of stuff.
I think. And don't look down. Don't look down, you're

(48:27):
down already. Don't look up. That's where the bats are.
Did you go scuba diving in it? No? Uh, we
went on a great tour and ended up being just
the three of us and this one other woman is
very nice lady from Dallas. Uh, And we were the
only ones down there, and our guide was this awesome dude,
and uh, you know, you just it's like caving. You
go deeper and deeper and deeper about in knee deep

(48:50):
in water this cool, beautiful, perfectly clear water with blind
fish all around you. Uh. And then you get to
the sort of the swimming hole part. Uh. There are
others not taste down there that you can scuba dive
in and zip line in and the inner tube and
there's tons and tons of people, but this one was
way off the beaten path and very quiet and very

(49:11):
private and uh, more of a historical educational type of
tour was great. Yeah, a little in fact that may
invented the zip line so that they could zip line
in the scene note taste. But he gave us these
um waterproof flashlights. You know, it's our way around. And
I was floating. He gave us about thirty minutes just
to sort of swim and float in this one main

(49:31):
swimming cavern. Uh. And it's they electrified it down there.
They had these colored lights. It was really spectacular. But
I was laying there and I was floating, and I
saw these big sort of look like portals. There's these
little indentations in the ceiling above me, and I was like, oh,
I wonder what's in those? And it turned on the
light and it was like twenty bats just hovered and

(49:53):
sort of shaking and shivering together. Uh. And yet there
is no more natural instinct than to get out from
under that hole. Like a bat's gonna just fall on you. Like, no,
they fly, he kind of. But your instinct is like
every time one of us walked under one was like, oh,
I don't want to be under that, right. Yeah, it's
very cool though, Yeah, ah, you got anything else? I

(50:16):
got nothing else? Well, Chuck's got anything else. I don't
have anything else, and since uh that's the case, it's
time for a listener mail. I'm gonna call this our
second kidney donation email. We did one in our last
episode we just recorded, and this one is from a
kidney donor and it's pretty great. Uh. He discovered our

(50:39):
podcast six years ago and said, about seven years ago,
I had the opportunity to sign up to donate my
kidney to a stranger. I was fortunate enough to be
a universal donor. Our blood type was a match, and
the ride started. It took blood work every two weeks
for four months to get cleared. I met the recipient
and his family. They had two young kids, so it

(51:00):
made my decision that much easier and I would do
it again in a heartbeat. Some interesting facts the remaining
the remaining kidney can grow up to larger to make
up for the missing friend. I don't think we said that. No,
I didn't know that. I was also curious at the
time how they decided which one to take. They scoop
out the one that has the longest yurager because it

(51:22):
makes for an easier transplant. Uh. Here's another one. One
part was not mentioned is the six inch incision at
the waistline where the surgeon reaches in almost elbow deep
to grab the kidney. Isn't that something? Yes, he very

(51:43):
very clean arms. He said he made the mistake to
watch a video surgery video after he had it done. Yeah,
it's probably, he said, Now that I'm a living donor,
I'll be at the top of the waiting list of
ever needing a kidney. I'm not sure if this is
the case everywhere, but would help others, uh, if it
would help others that are on the fence about it
to know that. Uh. And our seven year transplant anniversaries

(52:06):
in May, so I had to write in and give
kudos for the great episode. And that is from Shane
Green and Candy and New Hampshire and Shane. We usually
don't do shout outs, but I think the rule now
is if you'd give a kidney, then you get some
shout outs. Because Shane wrote back after I said he
was going to be on listener mail and said, UH,

(52:28):
please shout out the Dartmouth Hitchcock Transplant team. Please shout
out Donate Life, which helped pay for Shane's bills while
he was out for five weeks. UH, and most importantly
my family that backed me up, my lovely wife Bree
and my daughter. Maybe we are all listeners and our
anniversary is coming up soon. So as from Shane Green,

(52:50):
he sent a picture of him and Big Mo, his
transplant friend. He was six ft six that's why they
call him Big Mo. And it's just a great story.
It's amazing you did that, Shane. Yeah, Shane, way to go.
You definitely get shouts out any time for that, just
right in next time you're like, I'm in the move
for a shout out. Yeah. If you want to add

(53:13):
a nice cheese steak the other day, right exactly. Um,
if you want to be in touch with us, like
Shane didn't let us know something amazing you did, we
might give you a shout out to who knows? You
can send us an email to Stuff podcast at iHeart
radio dot com. Stuff you Should Know is a production
of I Heart Radio. For more podcasts my heart Radio,

(53:35):
visit the i heart Radio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever
you listen to your favorite shows.

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