May 14, 2012

Mayan Pyramids Facts Part 3

Mayan Pyramids Part Three
The Toltecs have been described as brilliant architects, carpenters, mechanics and highly skilled agriculturists. They built their massive pyramids, palaces and houses of stone and mortar and used the temascal, or steam bath. They counted their years and used the sacred almanac of 260 days.

Ancient Egyptian Pyramids
The history and remains of the Toltecs is as tenuous as their sociology and religion. .One history, written by Ixtlilxochitl, begins with the creation of the world and the four suns, or eras, through which life has survived. The first era, the Water Sun, began when the supreme god, Tloque Nahuaque, created the world. Then, after 1,716 years, or thirty-three 52-year cycles, it was destroyed by lightning and floods. The second era, the Sun of the Earth, saw the world populated by giants, called Quinametzin, who almost disappeared when earthquakes obliterated the earth. The Wind Sun came third, and the Olmecs, human tribes, lived on earth. The Olmecs destroyed the surviving giants, founded Cholula, and migrated as far as Tabasco. A spectacular individual, called Quetzalcoatl by some, Huemac by others, appeared in this era, bringing ethics and civilization. When the populace did not appear to benefit from his teachings, Quetzalcoatl returned to the east from whence he had come, prophesying as he went the destruction of the world by great winds and the conversion of humankind into monkeys. All of this, according to the narrative, came to pass. The fourth age, the present one, is called the Sun of Fire, and will end in a general conflagration. Such is the story of the Toltecs as set forth by Ixtlilxochitl.

The Toltec culture was highly cosmopolitan and although short-lived, established the structure of the tribute empire which the Aztecs later adopted. Its 'influence spread from one end of Meso-America to the other and is still particularly strong in Yucatan.

Because the Toltecs, like the peoples of other civilizations, built upon structures and, in turn, had their own structures built over by successive cultures, it is difficult to ascertain which pyramids and other edifices belong to which period. It is generally assumed that most of the Mexican pyramids were built by the Teotihuacanos or possibly by the people of a much earlier civilization.

The last and greatest of the Mayan civilizations was that of the Aztecs which, archaeologists believe, had its probable source at Cholula, in the State of Puebla, where exists the largest structure in the world, in terms of cubic content.

As the archaeologists see it, Cholula was originally occupied by some unknown preclassic people who later fell under the domination of the Teotihuacan civilization. At this time the inhabitants built a large ceremonial precinct, a maze of pyramidal temples, platforms and stairs, constructed of rubble and covered with plaster. Eventually some newcomers, possibly with the aid of the resident population, performed the stupendous task of converting the precinct into a single great platform, traditionally in honor of Quetzalcoatl. This mammoth construction entailed filling in every building and courtyard with adobe bricks. On the top they erected altars and quarters for the ceremonial clergy. In one of the altars, Altar de los Craneos, two people were buried with a mortuary offering of pottery vessels which resemble those used by the Aztecs. It is therefore assumed by archaeologists that in Puebla very possibly lies the source and inspiration of the Aztec civilization.

The Aztec civilization was brought to its greatest height by the Tenochcas, the Mexico City Aztecs, around A.D. 1400. Yet, according to authorities, the Tenochcas did not originate the civilization, or contribute much to it beyond the introduction of a sacrifice cult.

Like the people of all the great ancient civilizations, the Aztecs had a highly sophisticated knowledge of astronomy. The discovery of the Great Calendar Stone, built by Axayacatl, an Aztec chief, in 1479 A.D., convinced archaeologists that the Aztec knowledge of the science was even more refined than that of other civilizations. Based on an extremely involved mathematical and astronomical system, the Calendar Stone was incomprehensible until the discovery of the calendaric texts which not only led to an understanding of the meaning of the stone, but which aided in the deciphering of the Aztec hieroglyphics.

The Great Calendar Stone weighs over 20 tons, is 13 feet in diameter and was hewn from one monolithic block of stone. In the center of the face of the Stone is the Sun God. Tonatiuh, flanked by four ornamental frames listing the four previous ages of the world. Summed, these represent the date of our present era. The central element is encircled by the names of the twenty days of the Aztec month. These in turn are ringed with a band of glyphs denoting jade or turquoise, symbolizing the heavens. This band is surrounded by the signs of the stars penetrated by the sun’s rays in an emblematic design. Two immense fire serpents, symbolizing Year and Time, circle the exterior of the stone and meet, face-to-face at the base.

The Great Calendar Stone should be an enormous aid to anthropologists and historians in the reconstruction of the chronological history of Meso-America. However, there are numerous opinions as to how the dates on the Stone should be correlated with Christian dates. Several calculations have been designed to reconcile the Aztec calendar with the Christian calendar, but each one involves an error of some 260 years in the expression of Aztec dating in Christian terms. This discrepancy has naturally led to many divergent interpretations of Meso-American chronology.

The source of a civilization as well as its disappearance, is always a mystery for archaeologists, anthropologists and historians, who rarely have access to historical records only fragments of pottery and other artifacts from which they can construct vague theories. It is to be hoped that there will be further discoveries in Meso-America which, like the Great Calendar Stone and the calandaric texts, will shed light on the beliefs, and even the actions and motivations, of the people who built them. Certainly, until such discoveries are made, the mystery of the Meso-American pyramids will remain.

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