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Mel Gibson's Apocalypto

Mayan culture Apocalypto Mel GibsonWe like Mel Gibson's film productions because he carries realism all the way to language. His film, The Passion of Christ, was spoken entirely in the language of Jesus Christ, Aramaic. Now his new film, about the fall of the Maya Empire, is spoken entirely in Yucatec Mayan. If you wish to pick up all the subtleties of the film, you might want to learn Yucatec before seeing the film—well, at least learn something about it. This page will provide you a library of the best links on the Web to help you do that. (Click the movie logo above for the Apocalypto website.)

Mayan templeThe original Maya culture reflected several remarkable parallels with ancient Egyptian culture: (1) Both nations built large pyramids, (2) both nations (the only two known) used hieroglyphics as a writing system, and (3) both nations had advanced systems of astronomy. Curiosity about these similarities led the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl to make two attempts to cross the Atlantic between North Africa and South America in boats made of reeds. In 1970 he succeeded in proving that such a voyage is possible. Heyerdahl denied that he was attempting to prove the two cultures related but many took his voyages to be just that.
Mayan glyphLike Latin, whose dialects (accents) over time turned into the Romance languages (French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and others), the original Mayan language has become a host of modern Indian languages spoken in Central America. Click here for an listing of all the languages that have developed from Old Mayan.
Toad The Mayas • In preparation for Mel Gibson's film, Apocalypto, you might want to read an historical overview of the Mayas (the Mayan people). Wikipedia also has a reliable history of the rise and fall of the Mayan civilization.
Toad Mayan Language • If you are interested in the language, you should begin with the best Yucatecan Mayan grammar on the Web, A Grammar of the Yucatecan Mayan Language by David & Alejandra Bolles. It will tell you everything a Mayan knows about his or her language; probably more than you want to know. But it is the best and it includes an anthology of Mayan literature that will tell you much more about these mysterious but fascinating people
Toad Mayan Heiroglyphs • As mentioned above, the Mayas distinguished themselves linguistically by developing a writing system similar to that of the Ancient Egyptians based on heiroglyphs "holy carvings". John Montgomery's Dictionary of Maya Hieroglyphs is the largest and best collection of these glyphs. Click the reference beneath them for the definitions and actual (sound-file) pronunciations. A remarkable collection, indeed. While you are on the FAMSI website, stroll about; there are many more Mayan treats to be enjoyed there.
Toad Mayan Architecture • The archtecture of the Mayas approached that of the Ancient Egyptians: they built pyramids that were not quite as tall as the Egyptian pyramids but were much more decorative. But don't forget the temples, markets, and other buildings of the Mayas. The ThinkQuest Mayan Architecture site is replete with myriad slideshows of plus an in-depth description of Mayan architectural style.
Toad Mayan Clothing • The Florida Museum of Natural History has a beautiful display, Images of the Maya, that explores the dress of the Mayan people. It gives you a host of drawings and photographs plus an explanation of the symbolism used in Mayan clothing.
Toad Mayan glyph Mayan Calendar • Mayas did not break up time the way we do, yet they maintained a very elaborate calendar system that was integrated with their entire culture. Click here for an in-depth examination of the Mayan Calendar that includes the temporal significance of the glyphs in the Mayan calendar.