Who were the Maya? Who would you have been in ancient Mexico?

Who were the Maya? I’ve become interested in Mayan civilization for various reasons. One, it’s 2012, and there are the obvious accompanying prophecies of the apocalypse. Two, I grew up listening to stories about the Maya as part of my culture.

The Maya people are widely regarded as a civilization ahead of their time — an ancient culture who built great pyramids, created a calendar using the stars, and continue to thrive in the cold, mountainous regions of Guatemala and Southern Mexico as well as in the rainforests of Northern Guatemala and Southern Belize.

2012 Mayan_30x402012: Mayan Prophecies is currently showing in the HMNS Planetarium

But who were the Maya, really? In the 1500s when the Conquistadores arrived in the New World, they came looking for gold, land, and other riches. After colonization they brought religion in the form of Roman Catholicism, and in time, there was a fusion of the old and new worlds. The Maya soon became immersed in the Spanish Empire.

Even though the Olmec are not considered Maya, they did influence the Maya people as they developed and perfected their spectacular architecture of step-pyramids and sacred buildings, beautiful artwork and pottery, and a complicated mathematical and astronomical numerical system.

IMG_1816A Mayan step pyramid

There are three different periods of the Maya culture: The Pre-Classic period (c.1700 BC-250 AD), the Classic period (250-900 AD) and the Post-Classic (900 AD-1546/1697 AD) period.

Pre-Classic Period Maya were modest farmers whose primary crops were corn, squash and beans grown in their gardens. Their houses were mud-covered with thatch roofs.

In the Classical Period, complex cities, architecture, astronomy, mathematics, and timekeeping developed. The collapse of the Maya towards the 8th and 9th Century AD left many cities abandoned, while others continued. What incited the Maya’s downfall — and how some cities survived while others fell — remains a mystery. Some hypothesize drought, natural disasters, famine, plagues, disease or possibly war.

Tulum Temple of MuralsThe Tulum Temple of Murals

Post-Classical Period cities in the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula and in the Highlands of Guatemala, like Chichen Itza, still flourish. It was also during this time that the Maya people started using a simpler timekeeping version of the Mayan Calendar.

Did you know how that the same ancient calendar that has us stockpiling for the apocalypse also helped Mayan babies get their names?

The day a baby was born on the Sacred Calendar would also be their first name. A child’s full name was a combination of the Sacred and Solar Calendar. If you are curious about what your name would have been, there is a kiosk located in our Hall of the Americas where you can enter your date of birth and discover your Mayan name.

Offshore Technology Buffet

Creative Commons License photo credit: Strocchi

OTC – these letters announce the biggest event each year for people in the offshore petroleum industry, the Offshore Technology Conference at Reliant Center. It is actually one of the 10 largest conferences in the world with over 24,000 companies displaying their wares. Last year, over 67,000 people attended from all over the world.

So what would you expect to see at OTC?  I expected to see pumps,  pipes, valves, and safety devices – in other words, I expected very boring metal things that I would have no clue as to what they were used for. 

Well, I did see all of that, but there was so much more!  You know the old saying – the only difference between the men and the boys is the size of their toys.  That certainly applies to this field.

There were not only models of everything imaginable, but also life-sized items as well.  There was a truck whose tires alone were almost as tall as I am. (I stand at about 5 feet.)

There were all kinds of chains,  rope, valves, gear, pipes, containers as large as rooms, shoes, gloves, sign makers, decking, hooks, rope and gears larger than you could imagine using.

There was so much technology that it was like visiting a gigantic Wiess Energy Hall!  You could learn all about offshore exploration,  production,  transportation – you name it.   One of my favorite things to see were the bunches of cables bound together and then sliced—they looked like sushi.   They are truly works of art,  yet created simply for their usefulness. 


Creative Commons License photo credit: fawke

You could hear every language possible. I picked out Chinese,  Nigerian, Japanese,  Arabic, French,  Spanish  and several British accents, so I imagine there were many more.  Several cities were mentioned over and over – Houston,  Singapore,  Aberdeen, Dubai,  Stavanger.

Scattered throughout were two-story structures with meeting rooms below and open space above for attendees to relax. The needs of attendees were well accommodated,  from shoeshine stalls to restaurant guides to airline information.  

I wouldn’t expect the average person to attend the OTC,  but if you ever get the chance,  do.  You will be dazzled by the sights. It is valuable to our community,  and the world as a place to stay up to date on developing materials and technology in a field that is vital to our sustainability as a nation.