Friday, 9 December 2016

How the ancient Maya brought sharks to the jungle

Antiquity

The peoples of Classic Maya civilization were obsessed with sharks. Images of shark-like monsters appear in Maya cities throughout the regions known today as Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala—even deep in the continent's interior, where people never saw the ocean. Now one archaeologist has suggested these mythic symbols may have been based on real experiences Mayans had with sharks, as well as a brisk trade in shark jaws and giant shark tooth fossils.

Shark teeth have been found in some of the earliest Maya sites in the interior, going back to 100 CE. Some are perforated, as if they were worn as jewelry. Others seem to have been attached to weapons or used in bloodletting rituals. Sea monsters with shark-like features appear on pottery and the walls of ceremonial buildings. An ancient Maya creation story features the Maize God defeating a shark in battle and sometimes being born from the creature's toothy jaws.

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