Lost Civilizations of the World

This past spring break I went on vacation to Cancun, México. The water was crystal clear, the sun was blazing, and the guac was pretty good. But one thing that I loved the most was visiting one of the historic ancient Mayan Ruins. There are several different ones, but I visited the Tulum ruins. 

During the time when this city was alive and thriving, people called it Zama, meaning ‘place of the dawning sun’. This was the name because you could see the sun rising and setting since it was right next to the ocean. They believed they were the first ones to discover this.

Legend has it that at the main temple seen here below, in the middle was where the weekly sacrifices happened. Sacrifices were a way of worshipping their gods to show their loyalty. They were also done when there was a famine, drought, or sickness. Exotic animals like cheetahs were killed, along with many civilians. One typical ceremony involved cutting off the top of a person’s head and carving out a hole in the center. In this center, incense would be lit as a way of purifying the community. Pretty gruesome.

Mayan culture and language are still around this area today. I had the honor of meeting with a local Mayan man who only spoke Mayan, so a translator had to be used to understand everything he was teaching us about the culture. As of today, there are no sacrifices that go on but the traditions of burning incense and saying prayer still exist. 

After leaving this extraordinary historical site, we were brought into a part of the jungle that included billions of years old underwater caves known as cenotes that used to be used as sacrificial offerings. This means that bodies were thrown into these caves that I was about to swim in. A little freaky, but worth the site! Before entering we had to take part in a tradition. This tradition was a candle lit ceremony asking for ‘permission’ from the ancestors to step into their land. This is something taken very seriously in their culture. They say if this is not done, the spirits of the ancestors will come to haunt you with bad dreams. During this ritual, a specific native incense must be lit while performing the prayer. The man leading this prayer spoke and signaled us to repeat certain things back. This was our way of thanking the ancestors for letting us enter their sacred land.

 I feel lucky to have experienced something like this. If you’re interested in history and adventure this is something I would definitely recommend.