We last discussed the fact that the Maya had amassed the history of their civilization their books. We will now talk about what happened to these books.
The Maya and their predecessors like the Olmec and Teotihuacán also had a long history of gathering and preserving knowledge, going back more than a couple of thousand years before they first came into contact with Europeans in the early 1500s. In addition to being the keepers of knowledge passed down from their ancestors and predecessors, they shared information with other indigenous North American civilizations occupied the region we call Mesoamerica (central Mexico to Central America) such as the Aztec, Toltec, Zapotec, etc.
The Maya, like the Aztecs, created tens of thousands of books that today we call codices. Each codex was a work of art, manufactured from excellent paper obtained from the bark of a fig tree and processed into good paper. Their paper was of better quality and lasted longer than the papyrus developed in Egypt and favored by the Romans. Their scribes created books that could be read much the same as our own books are read today.
We don’t know how many of these books were made, but we do know that European priests soon after the conquest destroyed all that they could find, many thousands of them. Unfortunately, the ones the Maya were able to hid were put into caves and perished over the centuries in the wet climate.
Incredibly, of the perhaps tens of thousands of books written, only three codices (and a fragment of a fourth) exist today.
Unfortunately for the indigenous civilizations of Mesoamerica, they would have fared better had they been more advanced in weaponry than astronomy and literature.
This burning of the written record of the Maya, Aztec and other Mesoamerica cultures was the destruction of the entire history and science of a great civilization. It has been compared to the accidental destruction of the Ancient Library of Alexandria by Julius Caesar two thousand years ago.
Just as the Alexandria Library was the storehouse of much of the knowledge of the ancient Mediterranean world—the products of the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and others—the destruction of the books of the Mesoamerica civilizations was the lost of a vast and irreplaceable record of thousands of years of science and history.
The destruction of the Mesoamerican books was an even greater blow than that of the Alexandria library because in the case of the latter, the records kept by Mediterranean civilizations like the Greeks and Romans survived independently of the library because there was no concerted effort by an enemy to totally wipe out all traces of the cultures that created them. The equivalent to what the Spanish did to the Maya would have been for the conquering Romans to have destroyed all Greek culture and history, including its temples like the Parthenon, and have used the Sphinx and great pyramids for building materials after the conquest of Egypt.
What type of historical and scientific information would the Maya have recorded in the thousands of codices? Because the Maya are so similar to other ancient cultures that we are familiar with, we can assume that they recorded a wide range of information, including historical, religious, astronomical, legends, wars, the lives of royalty—in other words, just about everything of importance that happened, including information about the 2012 phenomena.
We can also infer that they recorded the tales that came down to them from the earliest time human beings were on the American continent, a history going back 25,000 years. These process would be no different than other ancient civilizations recorded their “prehistory” occurrences that had an historical basis but were passed down over the eons by campfire storytellers such as those that preserved Homer’s tales of the Greeks before the stories were put into writing.
While the Maya’s history and science recorded history in books did not survive the almost total European annihilation of their culture, some record of a 2012 nature did survive and we will discuss that in our next blog.
In regard to the question of whether a written record was left of a potential 2012 event, we’ll discover that the answer is yes.
My friend and co-author, Junius Podrug, contributed this blog.