This is your classic road story. Growth, discovery and learning to face an ultimate threat. The Popol Vuh is the major text containing the creation myths of the Mayan people. For many years, the only copies were those transcribed by a Franciscan monk in the 18th C. These texts were clearly influenced by the Catholic beliefs and have altered the underlying story. This version was translated into several languages and remained the sole source of these creation myths. Recently however, while investigating the water collection system at the city of El Mirador in northern Guatemala’s Petén rain forest, a team of archaeologists led by Richard Hansen of Idaho State University uncovered a sculptural panel with one of the earliest depictions of the Maya creation story. This discovery was made in 2009. The sculpture dates to the same period as some of the earliest artwork to depict the Popol Vuh, the murals at San Bartolo and a stela at Nakbe, two other nearby cities and dates to about 200 B.C.
The creation myths contained in the Popol Vuh and other archaeological discoveries around early Mayan civilisation show several anomalies that lead to inevitable questions. Why would the Mayans build large road systems to rival those of the Roman Empire, when they possessed no wheeled vehicles or beasts of burden? How do we explain some of the carvings found in many of the Mayan temples and cities? Why were some of these places simply abandoned? What prompted the belief that sacrifices involving the removal of hearts appeased the gods?
There exist multiple sources online containing both old and new translations of the Popol Vuh and numerous discussions about Mayan civilisation and its decline and disappearance. For those that are interested these are well worth taking a look at. Some of the stuff is truly fascinating. Reading the Popol Vuh in its entirety, there are surprises associated with some of the comparisons to be drawn with completely different religions, a great flood, the fall, oceans parting to allow passage, similar parallels. It’s worth the short read just for those.
Within this novel, and Tohil’s journey, you discover some answers to these questions and how they might have come to be.