Belize Noh Mul Maya Temple destroyed by (ignorant? lazy? greedy?) construction workers

Horrible news out of north Belize, here is the article — with photos — by Brad Lendon on CNN: “Ancient Mayan pyramid destroyed for road fill”

(CNN) — A Mayan pyramid that has stood for 2,300 years in Belize has been reduced to rubble, apparently to make fill for roads.

Local media in the Central American country of 334,000 people report the temple at the Noh Mul site in northern Belize was largely torn down by backhoes and bulldozers last week. MORE

A Night on Sky Temple: Honoring the Maya Long Count in Belize

CARACOL, BELIZE — In 2012, a major 5,000-year-old cycle of the Maya Long Count calendar came to completion. The entire Maya region — southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, parts of Honduras and El Salvador — marked the event with a year full of festivities, celebration, and ceremony. Continue reading A Night on Sky Temple: Honoring the Maya Long Count in Belize

Maya calendar cycle celebrated throughout Central America

My report for GlobalPost: SAN IGNACIO, Belize — Caana, or Sky Temple, at Caracol archaeological site in western Belize, is one of the largest, most impressive pyramids in the Maya world. Even more than a thousand years after it was built, it remains the tallest manmade structure in all of Belize, a tiny country in Central America with both ancient Maya ruins and modern Maya communities. [READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE]->

Photographer James Rodriguez’s report from western Guatemala: “2012-12-21. Mayan Oxlajuj Baktun: End of an Era, More of the Same”: “Events in the Guatemalan northern city of Huehuetenango during the much-awaited end of the Mayan Oxlajuj Baktun provide a clear reflection of the divisions and challenges faced by Mayan communities today.

13 B’aktun Roundup: Maya calendar cycle celebrated throughout Central America

josh berman at caracol for 13 baktun

SAN IGNACIO, BELIZE — It’s been exciting yet tranquilo here in my little corner of the Maya world. You can see me in the blue shirt in the photo above, atop Caana, Sky Temple (PHOTO BY JOSH BROWN). Celebrations are continuing throughout the region. Here is a quick round-up of reports by yours truly and a few friends:

GlobalPost: “Maya calendar cycle celebrated throughout Central America” by Joshua Berman: This week, across the “Mundo Maya” — swaths of territory once ruled by the indigenous group in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and parts of El Salvador and Honduras — modern Maya villages, as well as the archaeological sites are awash in celebration and ceremony…. Continue reading 13 B’aktun Roundup: Maya calendar cycle celebrated throughout Central America

Maya Calendar 101: What does “December 21, 2012” really mean?

maya calendar 2012
Maya Calendar 101: What does “December 21, 2012” really mean?

By Joshua Berman

The hour is upon us. This Friday at the stroke of solstice (4:12 a.m. Mountain Standard Time), the Maya Long Count calendar will “click over” to read “,” (pronounced “thirteen b’aktun”) for the first time in 5,125 years.

The event has captured the world’s curiosity and imagination and this week, all eyes are on Mesoamerica: i.e. southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and parts of Honduras and El Salvador. That’s where the Maya culture reigned during the Classic Period (about 200–900 A.D.) and where most of the ten million or so living Maya reside today. So much attention being showered on the Maya people and their history, cosmology, and culture, presents an opportunity to travel there — or, at least, to ask a few questions.

What is “13 b’aktun”?

A b’aktun is a period of 144,000 days (about 393 years) in the Long Count. It is an especially important unit, “used for describing the creations of humans and of the world,” as Guatemalan writer Gaspar Pedro González says. Some historians, looking at the historical record, have argued that there is a correlation between major world events and b’aktun endings.

Thirteen is a sacred number for the Maya, so the completion of 13 b’aktuns, or 1,872,000 days, lends even more import to December 21, 2012. The fact that the Maya may have pegged this end date to a winter solstice (using only naked eye astronomy while taking precession into account, the earth’s leapyear-causing wobble) is, for some, additional evidence of some kind of intention by the ancient Maya.

Others are not so convinced and most (but not all) mainstream academic Mayanists say there is zero evidence of any intention or prophecy. So put down that survivalist manual, ignore Hodgman’s advice to hoard urine and Mayonnaise, and instead, buy some books, or maybe even some plane tickets to a Maya country. Continue reading Maya Calendar 101: What does “December 21, 2012” really mean?

Film Premiere and Maya Culture Event this Friday in Boulder!

During the last eighteen months of researching the Maya region, specifically, researching travel and tourism in the Maya region during the final clicks of the 13th bak’tun (the sacred 5,125-year chunk of the Maya Long Count which will come to a close this December 21), I’ve had the privilege of meeting a wide range of people whose lives are somehow entwined with the Maya calendar and culture. I’ve interviewed authors, archaeologists, shamans, elders, and documentary film makers.

This Friday in Boulder, I’ve invited some of these new friends to my neighborhood community performance spot, the Nomad Theater. The film/concert/ceremony/lecture is scheduled for the evening of Gregorian date September 28, 2012; or Maya Long Count date, 11 Kib, 19 Ch’en. We’ll be gathering for the Colorado premiere of 2012: The Beginning, a 52-minute documentary film by Director Shannon Kring Buset, both to answer questions about the Maya calendar, and also to raise money for the San Rafael School of Copán Ruinas, Honduras.

Tickets are $20 in advance, available at

The evening will begin with a sacred fire ceremony by Aumrak, Guatemalan priestess, as well as a talk by 2012 author/scholar John Major Jenkins, a Q&A with Director Shannon Kring Buset and a special musical performance by TIERRO, the new musical group by Kan’Nal co-founder Tierro Lee.

2012-09-24-aumrak.jpegAumRak, who is featured in the film 2012: The Beginning, is an acclaimed curandera (medicine woman), transpersonal psychotherapist, and ceremonialist. She is from Central America and travels around the world to do her work.

John Major Jenkins is a pioneering voice in the evolving 2012 discussion, with over twenty years of experience defining and debating the issues. “I’m excited for the showing of this wonderful film,” Jenkins said, “and to return to Boulder. I wrote several of my early books while living in Boulder.”

The film, 2012: The Beginning, was shot in six countries, and includes visits to the sacred Maya texts, to see what they actually say about December 21, 2012. It was the most-watched program of the 1,000+ at MipDoc 2012, the world’s premier factual programming showcase held in Cannes each spring.

LEARN MORE: Official event website

Ancient Chocolate Sauce: Discovery of 2500-year-old cacao remnants in Mexico’s Puuc Region

maya chocolate lady

I get all my Maya world news by reading the daily digests I receive from the FAMSI Aztlan listserve, an email group intended for “all persons interested in Pre-Columbian cultures, whether amateurs or professionals.”

Yesterday, Mike Ruggeri, who runs his own Maya Archaeology News and Links page, reported on the Maya wire that “seed residues of chocolate have been found in a dish and not vases for the first time in Mesoamerica. The discovery was made at the Paso del Macho site near a ball court in the Maya Puuc region of the Yucatan. This shows the Maya used cocoa as a condiment as well as a beverage. The residue is dated at 600-500 BCE.” Continue reading Ancient Chocolate Sauce: Discovery of 2500-year-old cacao remnants in Mexico’s Puuc Region

5 Questions for Macduff Everton, photographer and author of The Modern Maya: Incidents of Travel and Friendship in Yucatán

The Modern Maya: Incidents of Travel and Friendship in YucatánPhotographer Macduff Everton’s latest book, The Modern Maya: Incidents of Travel and Friendship in Yucatán (University of Texas Press, 2012), was 40 years in the making. It is no mere coffee table showcase. It is, as has been reported by a number of reviewers, nothing less than a magnum opus, and a serious tribute to the people he has met and befriended during his decades traveling in the Maya region.

Everton is a contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler, and his editorial clients include Condé Nast Traveler, Gourmet, House & Garden, Life, National Geographic Traveler, LA Times Magazine, NY Times Magazine, Outside, Smithsonian, and Town & Country.

There aren’t many documentary photography projects that, like The Modern Maya, span more than forty years, especially working with the same families. This book, says the author, is their stories, told through these images.

“While most history chronicles the famous,” he says, “this book is about the lives of ordinary people who are the soul of their culture. History only exists if someone documents it.”

Joshua Berman: When did you first travel to a country in the Mundo Maya? Where did you go and how did it impact you?

Macduff Everton: I first traveled to Mexico in 1967 when I was 19. I was offered a job to go to South America for an educational film company to create college level anthropological and archaeological filmstrips primarily as a photographer, but I also did my first ethnographic survey. I never got to South America for them — I couldn’t believe how incredible Mexico was, and by the time I got to Guatemala, I got a telegram explaining they’d ran out of money, but felt confident that if anyone could get back by themselves, I could do it. It was on this first trip that I visited Yucatán, including walking out to the Maya archaeological site of Cobá from Chemax. That first trip changed my life — I keep returning to visit my Maya friends. Continue reading 5 Questions for Macduff Everton, photographer and author of The Modern Maya: Incidents of Travel and Friendship in Yucatán

“Visiting the Mundo Maya” on June 2, 2012, episode of “Travel with Rick Steves”

josh berman radioMy interview with Rick Steves about “Visiting the Mundo Maya” aired on radio stations across the land yesterday on the June 2, 2012 episode Travel with Rick Steves. My interview with Rick Steves about “Visiting the Mundo Maya” on the June 2, 2012 episode of Travel with Rick Steves. It is program number 288 and is available here.

“Get tips for visiting evocative pre-Columbian sites. Learn how you can be a houseguest of today’s Maya, too. Plus, Rick joins a guide from Prague for a walking tour of the charmingly preserved ‘Golden City of 500 Spires,’ where sightseeing is fueled by some of Europe’s best beer.” Beginning on June 3, 2012, the show will also be available to download any time. Please enjoy, and let me know what you think about traveling in the Mundo Maya!

Article and Slide Show on 2012 Tourism in the Maya Region


My first column in Huffington Post Travel appears today: “The Maya World Braces For 2012 Apocalypse, Tourism Boom.”

Despite the title and the hundreds of comments debating the end of the world, my article has absolutely NOTHING to do with an apocalypse. It is about tourism to Mexico and Central America, which has been quite depressed for some years now. Hopefully, foreigners’ genuine curiosity and interest in the Maya people, culture, and history will result in a boost in these regions next year and hopefully the Maya themselves will benefit.