After all, the Mayans are considered as the most supreme and advanced of all the pre-Hispanic civilizations. Encompassing present-day Southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, the Maya built some of the most amazing cities and centers of learning ever known in the New World. The Aztecs and the Incas were definitely up there in terms of accomplishments, but the Maya surpassed them all.
Aside from their spectacular tightly constructed and architecturally-sound pyramids, the Maya were renowned for their knowledge in mathematics and astrology. The Arabs had invented the concept of zero in the Old World, but the Maya too had the very same number as well. They were well-versed in math, and their pyramids were built to precise scientific calculations that matched the alignment of the stars, the sun, and phases of the moon.
Unlike other Native Americans of their time, the Mayans had a writing system in the form of pictographs, which were similar to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Their artwork and sculptures are among the most valued of the ancient New World civilizations. Their calendar is so precise and accurate, that it can still be used today; that is pretty mind-blowing!
By the time the Spaniards arrived in the area in the 1500s, the Mayans had abandoned and disappeared from their cities. No one knows exactly why, or just what happened. Was there a massive disease, warring factions, or perhaps a premonition of the coming conquering white men from Europe? The Mayans did not die out, for their descendants are still around today, but their organized glory days were gone by the time the conquistadores from Spain arrived.
Much of their amazing art and other sacred texts were lost to the conservative and Catholic-obsessed Spanish invaders. One of these texts luckily escaped fiery destruction: the Popol Vuh, which is one of the few surviving gems on Mayan culture and religion as is the Chilam Balam. To this day, archaeologists are still trying to completely decipher their writing system.
One thing is certain though, the extraordinarily precise/accurate Mayan calendar ends in the year 2012. Why? Did the Maya foresee a great cataclysm befalling humanity? Many are predicting it as the end of times as we know it. Regardless, the Maya are still alive and well, and although greatly disadvantaged and mistreated by subsequent invading cultures and the Western way of life, they can forever be proud of their great achievements and contributions to world heritage.
I don't think Mel Gibson got it completely right in his movie, but it sure was a fascinating film to watch anyway.