K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo
Yax K'uk' Mo' (pronounced `Yash Kook Mo') was the founder and first king of the dynasty that ruled the Maya city of Copan (in modern day Honduras) for 350 years. Known formally by his royal name, K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo', he reigned for eleven...
The Popol Vuh is the story of creation according to the Quiche Maya of the region known today as Guatemala. Translated as `The Council Book', The Book of the People' or, literally, `The Book of the Mat', the work has been referred to as "The...
The Mayan Pantheon: The Many Gods of the Maya
The pantheon of the Maya is a vast collection of deities who were worshipped throughout the region which, today, comprises Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas in Mexico and southward through Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador...
Xibalba (Shee-bal-ba) was the name the K'iche Maya gave to the underworld. For the Yucatec Maya the underworld was known as Metnal. The name Xibalba translates as 'Place of Fright', which indicates the terror the place had in the Maya imagination...
Maya religious beliefs are formed on the notion that virtually everything in the world contains k'uh, or sacredness. K'uh and k'uhul, similar terms which are used to explain the spirituality of all inanimate and animate things, describe the...
The Maya hieroglyphic writing system was a sophisticated combination of pictographs directly representing objects and ideograms (glyphs) expressing more abstract concepts such as actions, ideas and syllabic sounds. Maya writing has survived...
Located in the foothills of the Chiapas altiplano of modern Mexico, Palenque was an important Maya city which flourished between c. 600 and 750 CE. The name Palenque derives from the Spanish, meaning 'fortified place', but the original Maya...
Maya Religion: The Light That Came From Beside The Sea
The Mayan religious text, the Popol Vuh (known by many names, among them, The Light That Came From Beside The Sea) is the Quiche Maya story of creation translated into Spanish in the early 18th century CE by the missionary...
Ancient Maya government was formed on the basis that rulers were thought to have been god-like, which to some might suggest one unified state. However, the consensus amongst anthropologists supports that each major Maya city remained its...
Copán (in modern Honduras) is located on the floodplain of the river of the same name. It was the most southerly of the Classic Maya centres and, at an altitude of 600 metres, the highest. Copán reached the height of its power...
The Maya are an indigenous people of Mexico and Central America who have continuously inhabited the lands comprising modern-day Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas in Mexico and southward through Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador...
The Classic Maya Collapse
The Mesoamerican Terminal Classic period (c. 800-925) saw one of the most dramatic civilization collapses in history. Within a century or so the flourishing Classic Maya civilization fell into a permanent decline when once-great cities were...
Dogs and Their Collars in Ancient Mesoamerica
Dogs were an integral aspect of the lives of the people of Mesoamerica regardless of their location or culture and, throughout the region, were recognized as liminal beings belonging not only to the natural world and that of humans but to...
Pakal the Great & Xibalba
A reproduction of the sarcophagus lid of the Maya ruler of Palenque, King Pakal the Great, also known as K'inich Janaab' Pacal (23 March 603 CE - 31 March 683 CE). In this detail the king is falling into the terrible jaws of the Maya underworld...
Jade Death Mask of Kinich Janaab Pacal
The jade death mask of Maya king Kinich Janaab Pacal, c. 683 CE, Palenque. (National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City)
The Maya Calendar and the End of the World: Why the one does not substantiate the other
The Popol Vuh recounts the story of twins who journeyed to Xibalba. For the Maya, their round of adventures serves as a metaphor for timeless, repeating cycles and for the regeneration of earth and all living things. – Gene S. Stuart, Mayanist...
K'inich Janaab' Pacal otherwise known as Lord Pacal and Pacal the Great, 603-683 CE and Mayan king of Palenque. (National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City)
Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque
The Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque, Mexico. The pyramid was completed c. 682 CE and used as the tomb of the Maya king Kinich Janaab Pacal (r. 615-683 CE).
The Lost Gods: The Maya (Planet Knowledge)
We trace the rise and fall of the great civilizations: the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Maya, the Inca and the Celts. In this episode its the turn of the Maya. Find out about this ancient civilisation the customs, buildings, gods...
A tomb is an enclosed space for the repository of the remains of the dead. Traditionally tombs have been located in caves, underground, or in structures designed specifically for the purpose of containing the remains of deceased human beings and...
Ghosts in the Ancient World
To the people of the ancient world, there was no doubt that the soul of a human being survived bodily death. Whatever an individual's personal views were on the subject, culturally they were brought up with the understanding that the dead...
Uxmal, in north-west Yucatán, Mexico, was an important Maya city which flourished between the 6th and 10th centuries CE. The city, following an extensive restoration programme, is the best preserved of all Maya sites, and it possesses...
Seven Macaw or Vucub-Caquix
A replica of an architectural decoration from the Mayan ballcourt of Copan. It represents the god Seven Macaw (Vucub-Caquix) who was killed by the Hero Twins in Book II of the Popol Vuh. (Museum of Mayan Sculpture, Copan, Honduras)
The Ball Game of Mesoamerica
The sport known simply as the Ball Game was played by all the major Mesoamerican civilizations and the impressive stone courts became a feature of many cities. More than just a game, it could have a religious significance and featured in...
National Geographic Live! - Palenque and the Ancient Maya World
Archaeologists and National Geographic grantees George and David Stuart offer keen insights into the art and culture of the Mayans.
Maya architecture is best characterized by the soaring pyramid temples and ornate palaces which were built in all Maya centres across Mesoamerica from El Tajin in the north to Copan in the south. The Maya civilization was formed of independent...
Ball Court, Copan
The ball court of the Mayan city of Copan. The game was popular across Mesoamerica and the objective was to put a rubber ball through a hoop placed on the side walls.
The Palace building of Palenque. With the northern half and tower dating to c. 721 CE, the structure is one of the most complex in Maya architecture and its square tower is unique in Mesoamerican sites.
Mictlantecuhtli (pron. Mict-lan-te-cuht-li) or 'Lord of the Land of the Dead' was the Aztec god of death and worshipped across Mesoamerica. He ruled the underworld (Mictlán) with his wife Mictecacíhuatl. The god was the ruler of the 10th...
Kinich Ahau at Kohunlich
This is the face of the sun god Kinich Ahau in The Temple of the Masks at Kohunlich. The masks all face west so that the setting sun illuminates them. It was thought that Kinich Ahau traveled down into and through the underworld at night...
Religion in the Ancient World
Religion (from the Latin Religio, meaning 'restraint,' or Relegere, according to Cicero, meaning 'to repeat, to read again,' or, most likely, Religionem, 'to show respect for what is sacred') is an organized system of beliefs and practices...
Tikal, located in the north of the Petén region of Guatemala, was a major Maya city which flourished between 300 and 850 CE. The city, known to the Maya themselves as Mutul, is one of the grandest in Mesoamerica. Amongst the first...
K'inich Yax K'uk Mo
An incense burner thought to depict K'inich Yax K'uk Mo, the first Maya ruler of Copan. (Archaeological Museum of Copan, Honduras)
Dogs in the Ancient World
Dogs have been a part of the history of human beings since before the written word. The ancient temple of Gobekli-Tepe in Turkey, dated to at least 12,000 years BCE, has provided archaeologists with evidence of domesticated...
Kukulcan (pron. Koo-kool-kan) is the name of a feathered serpent god in the mythology and religion of Mesoamerica, in particular, the Yucatec Maya. He is also identified as the feathered serpent god Quetzalcóatl by the Toltecs and Aztecs...
There are records of ghouls and ghost stories dating from very early times, right back to the beginning of literature and with oral traditions going even further back in time. What we find absolutely amazing is that the fascination for...
Burial of the dead is the act of placing the corpse of a dead person in a tomb constructed for that purpose or in a grave dug into the earth. In cultures such as Mesopotamia, tombs and graves were cut into the ground in the expectation...
Mosaics are designs and images created using small pieces (tessrae) of stone or other materials which have been used to decorate floors, walls, ceilings, and precious objects since before written records began. Like pottery, mosaics...
Visiting the Spirits of Chichen Itza
Joshua J. Mark goes looking for adventure while visiting the Maya site of Chichen Itza in Mexico and finds sprites, spirits and iguanas amongst the ruins. He tells of his journey to this magical ancient site that has become a symbol of the...
Chaccoben (pronounced chac-CHO-bin) is a Maya site dated to c. 700 CE located in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Once a large and significant urban religious center, the city was abandoned c. 900-950 CE at about the same time as the other...
Temple I, Tikal
Temple I, Tikal, Gautemala. The temple was used as the tomb of Maya ruler Jasaw Chan K'awiil (r. 682-734 CE). The structure is 50 metres high and the steps climbing to the top are set at an angle of over 70 degrees.
Maya Urn with Jaguar Figure & Skulls
A polychrome urn with a jaguar figure and skulls. Classic Maya, 600-900 CE, Guatemala. (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore)
Mythology (from the Greek mythos for story-of-the-people, and logos for word or speech, so the spoken story of a people) is the study and interpretation of often sacred tales or fables of a culture known as myths or the collection...
European Colonization of the Americas
The European colonization of the Americas was the process by which European settlers populated the regions of North, Central, South America, and the islands of the Caribbean. It is also recognized as the direct cause for the cultures of the...
Lost Kingdoms of the Maya
The Maya of Mexico and Central America have continuously inhabited the lands comprising modern-day Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas in Mexico and southward through Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. The...
The Hidden Life of the Ancient Maya
The Hidden Life of the Ancient Maya by Clare Gibson is a very comprehensive and easy to read volume which covers key aspects of the Maya Civilization. Beautiful photographs of Mayan art and architecture accompany the text which provides...
Maya Food & Agriculture
For the Maya, reliable food production was so important to their well-being that they closely linked the agricultural cycle to astronomy and religion. Important rituals and ceremonies were held in honour of specialised workers...
Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of The Mayan Book of The Dawn of Life and The Glories of Gods and Kings
The Popol Vuh is a religious text of the Maya people. Written down between 1701 and 1703 by the Spanish priest Francisco Ximenez, from much older source material, the book tells the story of the creation of the world, of human beings, and...
The Red Handprints of Cozumel & Tulum
The Maya sites of San Gervasio (on the island of Cozumel) and Tulum (on the mainland of Mexico in Quintana Roo) are often overlooked for the better-known Chichen Itza or other spectacular ruins further inland but both these locations have...
Early Explorers of the Maya Civilization: From Aguilar to Waldek
Although John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood are consistently credited with the `discovery' of the Maya Civilization, there were many who preceded them who sparked their interest in making their famous travels through Mesoamerica...
Twelve Menacing & Protective Mythological Figures
The term mythology comes from the Greek words mythos (“story of the people”) and logos (“word”) and so is defined as the spoken (later written) story of a culture. Modern scholars have divided myths into different...
The Khmer empire was a powerful state in South East Asia, formed by people of the same name, lasting from 802 CE to 1431 CE. At its peak, the empire covered much of what today is Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and southern Vietnam. By the 7th...
Baekje (Paekche) was one of the Three Kingdoms which ruled over ancient Korea from the 1st century BCE to the 7th century CE. Controlling territory in the south-western part of the peninsula the kingdom was in constant rivalry with the other...
Interview: Buddhism in Korea
In this interview, James Blake Wiener, Co-Founder and Communications Director at Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), speaks to Emeritus Professor James H. Grayson, Professor of Korean Studies at the University of Sheffield, about the historical...
A limestone statue depicting Vishnu Hayagriva, the horse-headed avatar of the Hindu god. Sambor Prei Kuk, Cambodia. 10th century CE. (Musée Guimet, Paris)
Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, Vols. I and II (Cosimo Classics)
The names of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood are forever linked to the Maya and Mayan studies as the two great explorers who documented the ruins from Copan in the south to Chichen Itza in the north. The stories told by Stephens...