Whether this is in fact the case will be explored in the next section.
The Case for Mayan Culture
Researchers that do not agree with Haug and others argue that the Mayan culture has continued throughout history and has been passed down to individuals that are still alive today within areas of Central America. There is some agreement regarding this between various researchers that have studied Mayan culture, rituals, and architecture. Certainly, the pyramids that the Mayans built are still around today and can be seen as monuments to the Mayan people and the lives that they lived. While it is impossible to know everything about a people that died out hundreds of years ago, much has been determined about the Mayan culture and lifestyle through a study of artifacts that are still in existence.
What many people do not realize, however, is that what is left of the Mayan race is much more than just temples that are falling to ruin after hundreds of years, or artifacts preserved in a museum somewhere behind glass where people can look but not touch. Instead, the Mayan culture is still in existence, particularly in Guatemala, although some extends into Mexico and other areas of the world. The Guatemalan Maya, however, are the strongest of the groups that are left and they are also the most obvious when it comes to what kind of cultural issues they share with the earlier Mayans (Hamilton, 2006).
Religion is (and was) very important to the Mayan culture, and this is still evidenced by the present-day Maya of Guatemala, as they take their religion and their spirituality very seriously and they follow the ancient traditions of their ancestors from hundreds of years ago (Hamilton, 2006). This is but one indication that the Mayan culture still exists and therefore the Mayans are still 'alive' in that respect. When a culture completely dies out, that civilization can then be said to be gone from the earth, but when there is still much rich culture that has been passed down through hundreds of years and still remains today, it becomes difficult to say that the civilization in question is dead or gone.
The Mayans of today have a strong cultural heritage, and they also have religious beliefs and other understandings that fit in with the Mayans of the past. Because of this, the original Mayan culture has been retained in many different ways, including religion, architecture, and basic beliefs regarding family and nature (Hamilton, 2006). Since this is the case, it is difficult to say with certainty that the Mayan culture has died out or has disappeared. Instead, it would seem to be more appropriate to say that the Mayan culture has simply changed and evolved based on what it needed to do to continue to survive.
The Mayan culture, however, did not all come through to the present day. There are still many temples that have been left in ruins and there are issues regarding the Mayans and the way that so many of them died out so suddenly that have not been solved and will probably never be solved. This is unfortunate, but there is little that can be done about it now. It is possible that more will be discovered regarding the Mayans and that new discoveries will lead to a better understanding of who they were and why they disappeared, but this is not completely likely. It has been a long time since the last of the Mayan ruins that were discovered have been found, and the likelihood of finding more of them now and learning anything especially new is small, but not impossible.
Still, much of what has already been found and studied is enough to show that the Mayan culture was highly important in its day and that it encompassed millions of people. Where most of them went is still a mystery, but the culture of the Mayan people remained, regardless of how many of the actual Mayan people still exist today (Hamilton, 2006). Some of them survived whatever happened to them hundreds of years ago, and whether today's researchers ever find out what really happened to the Mayans of hundreds of years ago or not does not discount the fact that many researchers agree with the idea that the Mayan culture did not completely pass away when many of the Mayan people did (Hamilton, 2006).
As can be seen from the information already discussed, the Mayans were a proud, religious, and important people. They had many interests and they were a strong and significant culture that contained millions of people. The Mayans had Kings, and it is quite likely that there was not just one King that ruled all of the Mayans. More likely, there were 'pockets' of Mayans in many different areas, and they each had a King. This makes much more sense because the Mayans were spread out over so much territory and the ways of communicating back then were not nearly as advanced as what they are now. Because of this, the Mayans of each group would not be able to contact the Mayans of other groups, and therefore they could not be ruled by the same King.
The Mayans were very religious, but they were also a proud and cultural people, and hard working. They built many pyramids and temples to the gods that they worshiped and also simply to live in. Many of those temples and other architectural creations are still around today. Some are well-preserved and others lie in ruins, but many are still able to be visited and viewed, and some of them have been preserved and restored as well, so that tourists and researchers can enjoy them and learn about the culture that was left in the past.
The culture, however, was not entirely left in the past, as there are many people today that have descended from the Mayan culture and that still consider themselves to be Mayans. There is really no way to trace these people's ancestry completely and to prove that they did descend from the original Mayans, but it appears that they did, and this is significant for many researchers. The reason for this is that there are researchers that argue that the Mayans suddenly disappeared, and this means all the Mayans. However, if there are individuals that are descended from the Mayans of hundreds of years ago, and these people are alive now, it stands to reason that all of the Mayans did not die out back in history. Some of them would have had to survive or there would be no descendants today.
However, since there is no written proof that these individuals are actually descended from the Mayans, researchers that do not believe in this theory find that they can argue with this idea rather easily, and therefore no one is able to find total agreement or total proof that the Mayans either did or did not die out completely back in the ninth century, and therefore there is no honest way to say which group of researchers is correct. There are good arguments for saying that the Mayans did indeed completely die out centuries ago, and there are also good arguments for saying that some of them must have survived because they have descendants and their culture remains in some parts of Central America.
Regardless of whether the Mayans died out or are still around, however, the information that researchers have collected about them in the past and the ruins of their architecture that they have left for others to find and study is indicative of a large population of people that took many of the things in their lives very seriously and worked to make sure that the lives of their descendants would be as strong as the lives of those that came before them. This indicated a caring for others that not everyone would think of when learning about the Mayans and the culture and religion that were so important to them in the past.
Blanton, Richard E., Gary M. Feinman, Stephen A. Kowalewski, and Linda M. Nicholas. Ancient Oaxaca. Cambridge: University Press, 1999.