Where the Maya Fit In

With all the history of the Mesoamerican region pretty well mapped out one might think this should be rather simple to explain. But there are still so many questions about the ancient Maya and their culture that even consulting the present Maya cannot answer.

We do know that they followed a lot of the same cultural characteristics of the Olmec culture that (possibly) preceded them but were they borrowing from the Olmec, or did both of them borrow from a third source, or – as believed by the present Maya – the Olmec borrowed from them as they were far older?

There are a few inscriptions that historians have uncovered that they term proto-Olmec but until enough are found to begin actual work at translation, they are nothing more than a curiosity. Perhaps though, someday, enough will be found to help fill in the blanks.

Yet for all the declaimers among some historical circles attempting to move the credit for a lot of the discoveries to one or another of the cultures in Mesoamerica, it remains that the first and only truly literate culture we have found is the Maya.

Many historians point to Teotihuacan and claim that the Toltecs were the “great” civilization of ancient Mexico but I have yet to see any evidence that the historically known Toltecs had anything to do with the site of Teotihuacan. That ancient city seems to be outside the current scheme of Mesoamerican history and the inhabitants were not kind enough to leave us written evidences of themselves.

The classic Maya alone seem to come down to us as the only completely cohesive culture, almost as if (and this is extremely hypothetical) they were trying to make sure their message got through. Now that’s rather a New Age thought, I know, but it could very well be.

And the widely believed notion that the Maya simply abandoned their cities is now thought to be an erroneous conclusion. Many of the Maya cities continued, some merging with Toltec invaders, others continuing for centuries holding out against the Spaniards. The cities that were abandoned, were simply vacated by the inhabitants as they melted back into the forests from which they came.

Again, one wonders if this could be to make sure their message continued?

But, then, what exactly was their message?

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