Blood Power to Steam Power – Part one

19 Aug
A Mayan City Center

A Mayan City Center  Photo credit to

Blood sacrifice, Ritual beheadings, and games where the losing team captain is sacrificed to the gods, this is where my weekend started. No, not at the local parent/teacher association meeting. The domestic CEO and I went to the Minnesota Science Museum’s Maya Exhibit.

I have always been fascinated by the history and depth of this culture. Visiting the locations of these once powerful city-states has always been on my bucket list.

The juxtaposition of sheer intellect capable of tracking the stars and predicting celestial occurrences and the brutality of blood lettings and human sacrifice make this culture puzzling. The Mayan calendar and their pyramid-shaped temples are probably the most recognizable of the remains of this vast civilization that spanned from 1800 BC to 1450 AD..

However, their advances in medicine, dentistry, art, and agriculture remind us that this was a culture that supported tens of thousands of people without the benefit of ‘modern’ technology.

Two areas that really jumped out at me were the dental inlay work were gems and precious stones were placed into holes drilled into a person’s teeth using a simple bow-drill. Ouch! The part of the exhibit I found fascinating was a map that was created using laser photography from a low flying airplane to map the Maya city of Caracol in Belize. It revealed the existence of thousands of previously unknown roads, agricultural terraces and suburban housing settlements. The size of this city was awesome. The fact that the Mayans did not have horses or other means of travel other than by foot added to the magnitude of their way of life.

The two and a half hours we spent at the exhibit only fueled my desire to visit the actual sites. This trip has certainly moved up in priority on my bucket list.

From a writer’s viewpoint, the possibilities for story lines is truly endless. Obviously, historical fiction and fantasy are easy genres to leverage. However, so would romance, mystery and horror. Now I have to go back and watch, Mel Gibson’s action-adventure movie, “Apocalypto”, Just to see how the director recreated this marvelous culture.

In my next post, we’ll travel forward in time from the Mayans to the industrial revolution and my visit to a local festival that celebrates steam power.


Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Musings and Odd Thoughts


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6 responses to “Blood Power to Steam Power – Part one

  1. Sara Kjeldsen

    August 19, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    This is so interesting! The Mayans were certainly a puzzling, but profound culture. Apocalypto was really good, by the way. And you’re right, you could work The Mayan Civilization in any genre and still create an amazing story.

    • Dennis Langley

      August 20, 2013 at 9:48 am

      The other common misconception is that the civilization disappeared. In fact, there are over six million Mayans currently living in Mexico and Guatemala. History is written by the victors…that doesn’t mean it is accurate.

  2. byjhmae

    August 20, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Love this post – it’s so true that history is treasure chest of creative inspiration. I love the history of the Maya myself, and I was going to recommend the film “Apocalypto.” I absolutely loved that movie. There was a very interesting article in National Geographic last month about how the Maya coordinated their calender using cenotes, which they considered sacred. Here’s a photo gallery about it:

    Just fascinating.

  3. Matthew Wright

    August 21, 2013 at 12:17 am

    Love this post! Fascinating post about a fascinating people! I guess mysterious to us in part because they developed so completely independently from the west.. Would have been wonderful to see their civilisation in full flower…and then the Spanish squashed them. Sigh.

    Years ago I wrote a SF history book postulating similar Spanish arrival in New Zealand – pure fantasy, of course, but it was interesting to speculate, using the South American experience as a model. I postulated that llama, in fact, would end up in New Zealand, as creatures of ridiculousness…(OK, it was a sci-fi comedy history…It was duly published, and it duly bombed. The only reviewer who got the joke was one from a community newspaper in Auckland…,Sigh.).

  4. Dennis Langley

    August 22, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Thanks, Matt. It would have been fascinating to see them at the height of their power. Your book sounds interesting. Sci-fi historical comedy…now there is a genre I have not seen before 😉


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