Birds in the Mayan civilization: The Owl

Pulsatrix perspicillata or spectacled owl, La Aurora Zoo, Guatemala (Photo by Sofía Monzón)

Written by. Dr.Nicholas M. Hellmuth, Daniela Da’Costa, Ilena García Birds have played an important part in the life and culture of ancient civilizations. Between A.D. 300 and A.D. 600, owls were occasionally featured in the murals and vase paintings of Teotihuacán, Mexico. Some owl eye rings are good replicas of the round “goggles” of the Teotihuacán deity Tlaloc. Mayan art, […]

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Crocodiles, caimans and alligators in Mayan art & mythology of Guatemala

Crocodiles (photos by Nicholas Hellmuth)

There are two species of crocodiles and one species of alligator in the Mayan regions of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and Mexico. Caiman crocodilus is a caiman, but considered an alligator (not a crocodile) despite its name “crocodilus.” The pattern of scales on this creature is very distinctive: no spikes or sharp spines but lots of raised bumps in a regular […]

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Sacred turtles in Mayan art and iconography

A new FLAAR Report* now lists all of the animals that were sacred or otherwise considered as special by the Classic Maya. There are animals that are related to the sky (constellations, stars, planets), the forests and those that are associated with rivers, lakes, swamps and the oceans. These waters are conflated by the cosmology of the Preclassic and Classic […]

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Macaws and Parrots in 3rd-9th Century Mayan Art

Military macaw (Ara militaris), Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve, Copán, Honduras (Nicholas Hellmuth)

by Dr. Nicholas M. Hellmuth The most remarkable deity in the ancient Mayan myth of the Popol Vuh is “Seven Macaw.” In reality this preening bird-creature is pictured in Classic Mayan art as a snake-eating raptor. So in most renditions in murals and pottery, Seven Macaw is a hawk-like composite creature without very many features of a macaw (other than […]

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