X-Message-Number: 16664
Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2001 09:30:34 -0700
From: Lee Corbin <>
Subject: Mayan Civilization

There are a number of historical inaccuracies just written in
the thread "Future Generations will think us Barbaric?" that
should be cleaned up:

1.  > We know that Maya civilization was one of the most
    > advanced in math, astronomy, and construction.
    > Europeans at that time could not even construct a
    > simple hut - kidding, they could

No, Europeans on the average were about 3,000 years ahead
of Meso-American and South American civilizations, if you
go by the indicators selected by Jared Diamond in Guns,
Steel, and Germs, namely 
                                           Appearance in E.H.
Villages          6,000   years ahead           9000 BC
Plants            5,000   years ahead           8500 BC
Animals           4,000   years ahead           8000 BC
Pottery           3,500   years ahead           7000 BC
Chiefdoms         4,000   years ahead           5500 BC
Metals            5,000   years ahead           4000 BC
States            3,000   years ahead           3500 BC
Writing           2,000   years ahead           3200 BC

(Interestingly, the Western civilizations appear to be 
closing the gap over time!!!)

2.   >Maya were eventually extinct with the help of who else, but
     >Europeans :o) I can relate to that. Was this stupid?

Wrong again.  The Mayan civilization had completely extinguished
itself by the fifteenth century---probably, it is thought, from
internal warfare and ecological exhaustion.  Moreover, the people,
of course, are themselves alive even today---by no means extinct.

Presumably, the writer is referring to the Aztec civilization.
As ritual torture and human sacrifice were an integral component
of Aztec religion, and practiced on a truly massive scale, the
Spanish, for all their brutality as seen from our perspective,
didn't arrive a moment too soon.  Essentially, Cortez fought a
war of liberation, freeing a large number of other groups from
Aztec oppression---that's why they flocked to his banner.  (Of
course, as with all wars of liberation, the native peoples thus
"liberated" soon found they had a new master almost as bad as
the old, and infinitely more powerful.)

Besides which, without the patient Spanish scribes writing
everything down, later peoples would be as ignorant of the
Meso-American atrocities as we are of European and Asian ones
at the corresponding early dates.  Very likely, those of us of
European or Asian ancestry had forebearers of equally malignant
dispostion, but the facts are shrouded in the mists of time.

Lee Corbin

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