Many ancient civilizations have influenced and inspired people in the 21st century. The Greeks and Romans continue to fascinate the West today. But of all the world’s civilizations, none have intrigued people more than the Mayans, whose culture, astronomy, language, and mysterious disappearance all continue to captivate people. In 2012 especially, there was a renewed focus on the Mayans, whose advanced calendar led many to speculate the world would end on the same date the Mayan calendar ends. The focus on the “doomsday” scenario, however, overshadowed the Mayans’ true contribution to astronomy, language, sports, and art.
Unlike most of the world’s sacred books – the Quran, the Bible or the I-Ching for example – nobody knows the universal name, if there ever was one, for the Maya’s collection of myths. Instead, the title that has been passed down, the “Popol Vuh”, appears to be the specific title given to a particular copy of these tales. Its meaning, roughly translated as the Council Book, refers to the special role of this text: it was the shared property of the council of lords that ruled the Quiché kingdom and was apparently regularly consulted by that body for advice to guide their rule.