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5 Interesting Facts About the Mayan Civilization

Long before Mexico's Riviera Maya became the tropical vacation paradise it is today, it was home to one of the world's greatest ancient civilizations: The Mayans. The Mayan culture reached from Mexico into Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and lasted for over 3,500 years. In fact, descendants of the Maya are still living in the region and some of the Mayan languages are still spoken. The most visible legacy of the Maya are the stunning Mayan ruins that dot the Yucatan Peninsula. But the Mayan civilization consists of much more than just ancient cities; the civilization is full of mysteries and amazing facts that you may not know. For example:

No. 1: While writing in Mesoamerica didn't originate with the Mayans, they did fully develop it. The writing system, using glyphs bearing some resemblance to Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, first appeared around 200-300 BC and was used until European settlers found their way to the region.

No. 2: The Mayans were great artists. Mayan art is considered by some academics as the most beautiful and sophisticated art of the Pre-Columbian Americas. At its height, comparisons have been drawn to the art of Europe's Classical civilizations, like the Greek and Roman, giving name to the Mayans? Classic Era. Many great examples of Mayan art have survived in the form of pottery and ceramics.

No. 3: While some examples of art and writing have survived, the Mayan's most visible legacy is their architecture. The Mayans created some of the most stunning structures of the ancient Americas. Stunning stepped pyramids still exist today and are popular tourist attractions. Stunning sites such as Chichen Itza, Tulum, Coba and others give visitors the chance to see the glory of the Mayan civilization up close.

No. 4: The Mayans regularly rebuilt their buildings and temples. Experts have debated whether the practice was tied to the Mayan Long Count Calendar or to changes in rulers. Whatever the reason, the Mayan practice of rebuilding on top of old structures provides archeologists with great resources for learning more about this ancient civilization.

No. 5: The Mayans were adept in astronomy and their calendar is based on a sophisticated understanding of the night skies. Many Mayan sites also are oriented according to the position of stars and constellations. The Mayan civilization was one of the most advanced and sophisticated cultures of the ancient world.

Any visit to the Riviera Maya region should include a Mayan tour to one or more of the archeological sites that stand as a testament to the greatness of the Mayan civilization. Add adventure to your historical tour by experiencing the Tulum Xtreme tour.

Sources: Wikipedia, About.com/archaeology, History.com