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WHERE THE CONQUISTADORS MADE LANDFALL

The photograph shows Tulum, a ‘Suburb of Paradise’ on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

Central America abounds in pre-Colombian ruins featuring the vestiges of city-states, including Tikal (Guatemala); Copan (Honduras); Chichen Itza, Uzmal, and Palanque (all in Mexico). Listed here are just the ruins associated with the Maya, and do not even include the ruins of other civilizations such as the Olmec, Mixtec, Zapotec, Toltec and the Aztec, vanquished by Hernan Cortez in the early 16th century.

The Maya — a race of gifted artists, architects, mathematicians and astronomers — were astride their classical period (between the 3rd and 10th centuries) when much of Europe was immersed in its ‘Dark Ages.’ Mayan mathematicians had formulated the zero around the first century AD, something unheard of in Europe at the time. (In AD 500 the Hindu mathematician, Aryabhata, formalized the zero, but it was not introduced into Europe until AD 1202, when Fibonacci published his book, Liber Abaci).

Deeply devout people, the Maya worshipped the God of the Sun, the Moon, Rain, and Time itself, indeed a god existed for each of 13 different heavens. They developed an astronomy and mathematics based religion, one of the motivations in producing a calendar more accurate than any seen until the atomic clock was invented in the 20th. The Julian Calendar introduced in 47 BC, introduced the leap year and took the length of the year to be 365.25 days. A vast improvement to the Julian Calendar, with 365.242 5 days per year, was introduced by the Pope Gregory in 1583, and is still in use. The Maya calendar, developed in ancient Meso-America, was based on a calendar of 365.242 2 days. In distinction, the atomic clock corrects the length of the year to 365.242 199 day.

Tulum would not have compared in size and political significance with some of the others listed, especially with Tikal, Chichen Itza and Tenochtitlan. But its significance lies in three other aspects: 1) Perched on a bluff right on the sea, its setting is unrivaled. The sun rises over the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. 2) It is a walled city, rare among city-states in Mayan civilization. And 3) it is thought to be the site of the landing by Hernan Cortez and the Conquistadors, an event signaling a catastrophic meeting for the inhabitants of the New World. The beaches seen here depict the dramatic site of the natives suddenly seeing the Spanish galleons at the end of the powerful 2006 film, 'Apocalypto.'

Winifred (windosil) made a good point that without any humans it was difficult to get the scale. I looked at the original 10.2 MB image on a full screen, and only then could I make out a woman's white straw hat near the left, an iguana perched on the flat top of the building, and a large bird — perhaps a pelican — on a wall above the cliff. Thanks Winifred.

Nikon D200, 28-200 mm Nikkor lens, ISO set at 200; hand-held, and shot in JPG+RAW mode.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6057 W: 464 N: 10512] (35369)
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