Chocolate, cotton, and corn: The Maya’s Impact on the World

No other civilization has lasted longer than the ancient Maya. They were at the forefront of a historic era that lasted 3500 years. This is an unprecedented figure that, arguably, will never be surpassed. This civilization existed roughly from 2500 B.C. to 900 A.D., but the majority of their accomplishments went virtually unnoticed. Their exploits and the effects they had on the planet and the rest of humanity were not reported in any written or oral media. They were, in essence, “phantoms of history.”

CHOCOLATE, CORN, AND COTTON: The book How the Mayans Changed the World looks like a textbook, which may be required for your Social Studies class. It could also be a text that is frequently cited to help you research for your term paper or thesis. Doesn’t that sound like a lot of dry material? I am happy to report that when author James O’Kon wrote this eye-opening book, it was full of surprises and would happily keep the attention of any intelligent person interested in learning more about the civilization that may have had the greatest impact on history.

I decided to spice things up rather than simply reviewing each chapter one by one.

The Mayans Are Deservedly Applauded for 10 Things:

  1. Mayans were cosmic thinkers. They were always sky watchers, and their desire to comprehend the universe above and below us made them the first known astronomers. They were able to acquire a remarkable understanding of the cosmos’ harmonious composition. Yes, much earlier than Carl Sagan!
  2. They were the world’s greatest agronomists. They made the term “cultivar” famous. not just a collection of flowers or plants, but rather a natural process that has been refined through careful cultivation. They can say thanks to Columbus for getting the message out around his worldwide excursions about the first ‘bloom power’ individuals.
  3. the development of the zero-based number.(No pun intended) This is nothing to laugh about. According to mathematicians, the Maya’s greatest intellectual achievement and one of the singular achievements of the human era was the number zero. This was a culture with such self-awareness and intelligence that they were able to comprehend the idea of something having no value while still using it as the basis for numerical sequences!
  4. Maize, or corn, as it is more commonly known, was brought about as a result of sophisticated cultivation of high-yielding grain, which was once thought to have originated among Native Americans. It has been dubbed the Maya’s greatest invention by some. They were a long way ahead of the trend of using genetic engineering to make food, especially the one in which people can’t go to the movies without eating “hot air-popped” maize.
  5. An avocado Due to its health benefits, the fruit that is botanically known as Persea americana has gained popularity in recent years. The beloved Guacamole Dip is centered on this tropical delight. Avocado trees may have been grown by the Mayans during the Cenozoic era.
  6. The cassava and its impact on global food production. The Mayans also mass-produced cassava root, which became known as the “bread of the tropics” in numerous cultures around the world. In that category, this excellent carbohydrate source is only behind sugarcane and sugar beets.
  7. Gum Bubble. O’Kon talks about the mass-produced sticks of hard gum that used to come with every baseball card package—long before collectors thought the practice was a bad idea because it made the cards less valuable. We can give the Mayans credit for making Chicle, also known as the sap of the sapodilla tree, into something that can be chewed and enjoyed. I’m not sure if they actually used it to blow bubbles…
  8. Chocolate/Cocoa. Chocolate has a very personal relationship with many of us, especially the women. Is it possible to celebrate Easter or Valentine’s Day without it? This was the treat of choice four millennia ago because the Mayans loved chocolate and cocoa in general. Yes, they even used it to make a frothy, warm beverage!
  9. The extensive cotton plantations in the southern United States have long been credited with this. However, the skilled cultivation of the wild cotton plant once more produced the most valuable and productive vegetable fiber in the world. Additionally, it results in extremely smooth and breathable clothing fabrics.
  10. Due to the health risks they can pose, cigar and cigarette smoking, as well as the secondhand smoke they produce, may have become taboo in recent years. Having said that, tobacco has had a profound impact on every civilization, from the Marlboro Man to Native American peace pipes. Again, Nicotiana cultivation by the Mayans set the stage for a vice that has persisted throughout every civilization since.

This only scratches the surface of James O’Kon’s excellent research for this text. A fascinating and enjoyable read. More importantly, every paragraph reflects O’Kon’s enthusiasm for the subject, which sets it apart from other textbooks.

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