Cool Travel Zone

Cancun’s History: All about Mayan Civilizations

By: Brian Jenkins

One of the Caribbean’s premier vacation destinations – Cancun, Mexico – is a city full of pristine beaches, waterfront resorts, and vivid nightlife. It is also a city rich with history. With its roots in ancient Mayan civilization, your vacation to Cancun is much more than just “fun in the sun”. Certainly, a big part of it is about catching some waves and enjoying the dance clubs, but you can also enjoy the rich history of this area and learn about the Mayan civilizations that existed there long ago.

Mexico was once home to two great Native American empires. In Central Mexico, you’ll find remnants of an extensive Aztec civilization. Along the borders of Guatemala and Belize, and covering the southern Mexico Yucatan Peninsula (where Cancun is located), you’ll find an area once occupied by the Mayans. Most scholars believe that both groups stemmed from the same people that once crossed the Bering Strait thousands of years ago. The earliest evidence of civilization in Mexico appears to be from 5000-1500 BC.

Mayan history can loosely be characterized into three time periods: Pre-Classic, Classic, and Post-Classic. During the Pre-Classic time period, there were only sparse Mayan settlements in the area that is known today as Cancun. The same is true of the Classic time period. It wasn’t until the Post-Classic period that the Mayans migrated more to the northern Yucatan Peninsula, after a collapse of Mayan power in the 8th century. The reason for this turn of the civilization is still not highly understood by scholars, although some scholars believe that over-hunting, disease, nutrient exhaustion in the soil, and climate changes led to its demise.

During the Post-Classic time period, there was no central government and a number of wars were waged between different Mayan groups. By the time the Spanish arrived, the Mayans were just a shadow of the civilization they had once been.

This area of Mexico was first discovered in the early 1500s by accident, when a group of sailors washed ashore after a shipwreck. War and disease ravaged the Mayans, and by the mid 1800s, their numbers had dwindled to less than 10,000. Those living in Cancun were most susceptible, and today, most descendants come from Mayan cities located more deeply in the jungle. Much of what we would have known about Mayan culture was lost, as the conquerors from Spain killed all Mayan religious leaders and burned all the books they found. The Mayans attempted to overthrow the European settlers, and a number of their battles were a success. In the end, however, those from Europe were eventually victorious.

Despite their trials and tribulations, the Mayan civilization in what is now known as Cancun, along with the rest of the peninsula, is rich in spectacular culture and art, architecture, writing, astronomy, religion, and urban design. People the world over are still studying Mayan civilization in fascination.

When you’re in Cancun, you may want to visit some of the ancient temples that are still standing. These locations just south of the city house amazing works of art, and tours through the temples can be a highlight of your Mexican vacation. These deteriorating national treasures were once surrounded by Mayan cities built with elaborate palaces, observatories for understanding astronomy, ball courts that acted as small sports stadiums and ceremonial platforms that were places of sacrifices.

Some of the most famous Mayan locations on the Yucatan Peninsula are the following places:

  • Uxmal
  • Tikal (in Guatemala)
  • Chichen Itza
  • Tulum
  • Altun Ha (in Belize)

The closest site to Cancun is Chichen Itza, which also hosts the best-restored Mayan temple. This site also has historical significance to the Toltec people, a group of ancient people who moved into the area after a 9th century invasion. The Mayans then re-settled in the area around the year 1000, after it was abandoned in the 10th century. Therefore, the temple at Chichen Itza has been influenced by both groups of people.

Today, there are still many Mayan descendants living in and around Cancun. In fact, those of Mayan descent run many of the tour companies and hotels in the area. Some of these people still speak the ancient language of Maya, and many still make traditional Mayan crafts and food. There is no shortage of Mayan cultural influences in Cancun, and on your next vacation, you should consider exploration of some of the beautiful Mayan sites still around today.

— About —

By: Brian JenkinsBrian Jenkins is a freelance writer who writes about topics pertaining to vacations and the travel industry such as Cancun Vacation Packages

Source: Cool Travel ZoneYour Source For Great Vacation, Travel and Cruise Articles!

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