Pre-columbian Era Apocalypto

10

Almutlaq

Pre-columbian Era Apocalypto

Ali Almutlaq

History 1301

Oct 20,2015

Synopsis

Apocalypto begins with a hunt; a group of villagers living on the outskirts of the crumbling Mayan empire have caught a tapir. The actors in the film speak ancient Mayan and enact some ancient Hollywood humor before their innocent frolicking is put to an abrupt end when the evil Mayans attack. As the foundation of the Mayan civilization began to collapse, one of the men was chosen as the sacrifice to pacify the gods. During the time, the Mayan Kingdom was full of richness and power. Despite richness and power, the people of Mayan kingdom were convinced that unless they make more human sacrifices and build more temples, their crops and the people of the kingdom will suffers.

In the kingdom, Jaguar Paw is a hunter who is considered to be a peaceful man. The man comes from a remote rainforest. The hunter’s life is about to be changed forever. When Jaguar Paw’s village is raided and he is prepared as a sacrifice that the Mayan deities have demanded, Jaguar Paw, the brave young hunter is forced to steer a horrific new world of fear and cruelty. Jaguar Paw is prepared to escape his captors in order to save his family from harrowing demise. He did not succeed to escape and was captured together with his village. He tries to escape back to his family to save his pregnant wife and son.

Eclipse scene

In the Apocalypto film, the Maya people are portrayed as the people who believed in their gods to provide them with productivity as well as believing in gods to protect them from any disaster. Within the Maya area, people wanted to please their gods through sacrifices and building more temples. Their gods demanded that if the people of the kingdom does not offer sacrifices and build more temples, the people and their crops will be destroyed. Those who were captured by the invaders, they were taken to the raider kingdom’s pestilence-stricken capital where they were supposed to be sacrificed to please god.

When the raiders invaded the kingdom, several people were captured and taken to the raider kingdom’s pestilence-stricken capital. Among the captives was a man who was the son of the chief of the Maya kingdom. The man was named Jaguar paw. During the time of invasion, the wife of Jaguar Paw was pregnant and had a son. Although Jaguar Paw had hidden the wife and the son, he was still worried of their life while in prison. His plan in the captivity was to escape and go back home to save his family.

Once the people were captured, they were taken and were sacrificed. When they were sacrificed, the captives were placed in a column-shaped stone on which they would splay out, back arched. This was made in order to allow the person sacrificing the captives to more easily access the heart from beneath the rib cage to make a heart sacrifice. Through the experience of the sacrifices, Jaguar Paw was worried that his family will suffer. “The invasion in the movie portrays Indigenous political movements across North and South America are fighting for civil rights and cultural recognition. The people of the North and South America fought a fight that each wanted to be recognized.[footnoteRef:1]” The invasion also portrayed the oppression of the minority groups among the different groups of people. [1: Chacon, Richard J., and Ruben G. Mendoza. The ethics of anthropology and Amerindian research: reporting on environmental degradation and warfare. New York: Springer. 2012. 67. ]

Since the people of Maya were obsessed with the eclipses, they studied and predicted them. While in captivity, Jaguar Paw witnesses his fellows being sacrificed and it was a time for him to be sacrificed. During that time, solar eclipse resulted. Because of solar eclipse experience, Jaguar Paw and other captives who had not been sacrificed are temporarily spared. When the eclipse is experienced, the high priest tells the people of Maya that god is satisfied with the sacrifices. The High priest then asks Kukulkan to let light return. At the same time, those captives who had not been sacrificed are ordered to be taken to another place and given full freedom. They are lured that if they reach the end length of the court during the target practice, they will be given full freedom.

While in the end of the court, target practice began and most of the captives are killed. Any survivor who is shot by the spear during the target practice is ordered to be killed. Many of the survivors are killed. When all the Tribesmen are killed, jaguar Paw is then shot on the waist but despite this, he managed to kill Cut Rock as the latter approaches. After Jaguar Paw killed Cut Rocks, he escapes while Zero Wolf comforts his dying son. After he comforts his dying son, he then set out with the other comrades to chase Jaguar Paw. Although the chase was to kill Jaguar Paw because he had killed captain’s son. In the Native jungle, Jaguar Paw remembers his father had told him, “never to give in to fear”. In the jungle, he began thinking of the ways of killing his pursuers. The jungle gave him an advantage since he understands the terrain of the forest. While in the jungle, he also has another advantage in that, his pursuers are gradually killed with one attacked by a black jaguar guarding her cub, another dies from a snake bite, one more dies after leaping into a waterfall, and lastly another from poisoned darts made from the skin toxins exuded by a poison dart frog while others are driven off by a bee swarm. Middle Eye dies after attempting to kill Jaguar Paw in revenge.

The eclipse scene in the Apocalypto film and the escape by the prisoners including Jaguar Paw portrays the struggle by the people to come out of slavery and to gain their independence. Jaguar Paw who wanted to rescue his family from dying represents a political figure that was trying to save the oppressed people during the Pre-Columbian Era.

The scene tries to portray how the indigenous political movement in the North and South America were fighting with the participants of the white backlash movements, each fighting for civil rights and cultural recognition. The movements during the Pre-Columbian Era take pride I their ancient civilization. The participants of the white backlash movements love talks about how the ancient civilization was violent, degenerate and disgusting.

Since the film portrays ancient Maya as a bloodthirsty and immoral society that is full of evil, eclipse scene portrays the turning point to the people of Maya. The point where people fight to save their people from the oppressive people within in the kingdom. Since the capturing and sacrificing people is wrong, the film tries to explain how ancient people of the Maya as so evil, capturing and sacrificing people, eclipse scene also portrays the point where people were running for their freedom and adopting the civilization which was brought about by the Spanish people into America during Pre-Columbian Era. “The civilization that was brought into America by the Spanish were rejected by the indigenous political movement; movements that were against the civilization.[footnoteRef:2]” The escape of the Jaguar Paw during the solar eclipse marked the beginning of liberation of American people and finally brought about the liberation theology. The American civilization came about when the white backlash movements conquered the indigenous political movement. The civilization led to the rise and fall of some cities in America because new political movement marked the beginning of new era. [2: Thompson, Kirsten Moana. Apocalyptic dread: American film at the turn of the millennium. Albany: State University of New York Press. 2007. 98. ]

Historical context

During the classical period, A.D. 250 to 900, Maya ruled the Mayan kingdom. The kingdom was an agricultural region with people practicing agriculture. Although they were agricultural people, Maya hunted although wild game made a small percentage in their diet. Meat among the Maya people was seen as a luxury thing. At that time, the forest was maintained, manicured and owned by someone. “Finding a person that that does not practice agriculture during the time was an impossible thing”[footnoteRef:3]. [3: Alcocer, Rudyard J. Time travel in the Latin American and Caribbean imagination re-reading history. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2011. 76. ]

Although most houses were built with perishable materials, the foundations were strong. The foundations of the houses were built with stones and in cleared places and not in the middle of the forests. “House lots were planned and intensively managed spaces where fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants were grown and where some domesticated animals were raised”[footnoteRef:4]. During the period, men and women were captured and taken during war between polities. The Maya settlement was too scattered where people lived at about 10 to 20 kilometers from each other. Despite the scattered community, the political connectedness of the people was strong. No small villages was left, instead, they were all connected to some political center. [4: Galeano, E., & Belfrage, C. Open veins of Latin America: Five centuries of the pillage of a continent. New York: Monthly Review Press. 1997. 108. ]

Since the city was seen to be of wealthy people and poor people, the royal families were wearing jade jewelry. Jade jewelry was a symbol or royal power and wealth. Within the Maya area, people wanted to please their gods through sacrifices and building more temples. The captives were taken and were sacrificed. When they were sacrificed, the captives were placed in a column-shaped stone on which they would splay out, back arched. “This was made in order to allow the person sacrificing the captives and to more easily access the heart from beneath the rib cage to make a heart sacrifice”[footnoteRef:5]. [5: Lohse, Jon C. Ancient Maya commoners. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press. 2004. 65.”]

Although Maya civilization was so impressive i.e. it had a well developed writing system, impressive architecture, and a complex political system, life expectancy was very low. Within the kingdom, the king was seen a central figure who was supposed to conduct rituals in front of large congregations. In doing this, king was considered to play a ceremonial role. The king was given the role to lead ceremonies because it was believed that kings communicated with the ancestors.

Near to the time of the collapse, people were generally undernourished, which is reflected in their bones, and they had bad problems with their teeth. The collapse of the Maya occurred during A.D. 800. “The collapse of Maya was due to a number of reasons which include; bad drought, heavy deforestation, the ancient Maya overused their land and were no longer producing the amount of food they needed, high population growth and increased warfare in some areas.”[footnoteRef:6] [6: Houston, Stephen D., and Takeshi Inomata. The classic Maya. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2009.95-96.]

Print Resources

Alcocer, Rudyard J. Time travel in the Latin American and Caribbean imagination re-reading history. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2011.

Chacon, Richard J., and Ruben G. Mendoza. The ethics of anthropology and Amerindian research: reporting on environmental degradation and warfare. New York: Springer. 2012.

In this article, the authors talks about the warfare that was experienced in the Maya kingdom during Pre-Columbian Era. The essays contained in the article talks about the evidence of the remains of human bodies, that shows that the Maya people were sacrifices and also that there was great warfare in the region. The article also talks about the strategies and tactics that the Maya people use to defeat other during their warfare. The author also talks about how the Maya people hunted and the sustainability of their hunting practices. It gives an explanation why the Maya people hunted wild animals.

Conrad, Geoffrey W., and Arthur A. Demarest. Religion and empire: the dynamics of Aztec and Inca expansionism. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr. 1988.

The authors of this book give an explanation on the kind of religion and the empire. It explains how the ancient people in the Latin America were ruled and the kind of religion that they hold in common. Some of the topics that the author discus includes; the history of the Maya kingdom, the religion of the Maya people and the kind of leadership adopted in the area. The authors also discuss the kind of economic activities that the people of the Maya kingdom practiced. The authors also give a clear explanation on how the Maya people worship their god as well as how they offered their sacrifices to their god.

Martínez, Zarela, Anne Mendelson, and Laurie Smith. The food and life of Oaxaca: traditional recipes from Mexico’s heart. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley. 1997.

Galeano, E., & Belfrage, C. Open veins of Latin America: Five centuries of the pillage of a continent. New York: Monthly Review Press. (1997)

Houston, Stephen D., and Takeshi Inomata. The classic Maya. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2009.

This book talks about how the classic Maya created courtly societies in and around the Yucatan Peninsula that have left some of the most striking intellectual and aesthetic achievements of the ancient world, including large settlements like Tikal, Copan, and Palenque. This book is a synthesis of the Classic Maya, the kind of leadership and how people organized themselves in their villages. It explains how the people in the Maya kingdom were ruled. The authors also talks about the kind of religion held by the Maya people during the classical period. The author gives an explanation why people of Maya kingdom believe on giving sacrifices.

Lohse, Jon C. Ancient Maya commoners. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press. 2004.

Online (5 with annotations)

Video (5 with annotations)

Audio ( 5 with annotations)

End of Maya civilization

The major issue in history raised by the film is the end of wrong civilization in Mexico, Maya area. Before the Spanish conquered the Maya people and the Native Americans, the Mayans had a different culture. During the Pre-Columbian Era, the Maya people ruled Mexico, Yucatán peninsula. The kind of leadership that they had was too sophisticated and difficult to understand. The kind of political systems adopted in the Maya was so different unlike the one that seen in the new era. The Mayans had an advanced science that helped them in predicting weather and eclipses.

Since Apocalypto film features the life of the Maya and the Native Americans, the kind of culture that the Maya people had was violent, depraved and full of oppression. The people of Maya during Pre-Columbian Era practiced warfare where they invade another kingdom and capture people, men and women. The men were used as sacrifices to the gods whereas women were sold as slaves. This kind of culture was seen to be wrong since it was going against the rights of the people. Sacrifices were offered by the High priest in order to please god. Human sacrifices were believed to be important since it prevented human suffering and the destruction crops by gods. The captives from the warfare were taken and offered to god as sacrifices. This shows that the prisoners were treated harshly. The sacrificial of human was conducted and lead by the High Priest since it was considered to be a religious culture of the Maya people.

According to the Maya civilization, the Maya sacrifices were very personal. Due to this, the captives from the warfare were considered to be personal objects. The bones that were left after the sacrifices were made were still owned by the sacrificer. “The blood from the auto-sacrifice was used in ancestor veneration and in other rituals”[footnoteRef:7]. This shows that people of the Maya had a strong religious belief that each person was supposed to follow without objection. [7: Jones, Grant D. The conquest of the last Maya kingdom. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press. 1998. 112. ]

Because Maya Kingdom was considered to be evil and revolting, the Spanish turned up to come and conquer it. The oppressive Maya civilization was to be changed by the new civilization that was brought by the Spaniards. During the time when the Spaniards came to the Maya to conquer the indigenous political system, warfare was encountered. In the warfare, many indigenous people lost their lives. This warfare is depicted in the apocalypto film where much warfare was fought between the good Maya people and the people who were considered to be evil. During the warfare between the Spaniards and the indigenous people of the Maya, Spaniards were using modern weapons whereas indigenous people were using sticks and had no medicines to treat the injured people. This led to the Spanish conquering the Maya people. Although the civilization of the Mayans was integrated and hard to destroy, the Spaniards still managed to conquer them.

When the Spanish people began to arrive at the mage, it signaled the beginning of the end of Mayan civilization. As the fight continued, the Spaniards conquered and introduced new civilization into Maya, Mexico. When Maya was conquered by the Spaniards, there was introduction of new things in the Maya region. One of the things that were introduced is the new types of religious systems. When the Spanish came to the Maya, it introduced Christianity because Maya was an Islamic kingdom.

The colonization of the Maya by the Spanish began in 1521. During that time, the king of Spain was petition by Francisco de Montejo. The last Mayan stronghold to fall was the Tayasal which is in Guatemala. This stronghold fell in the year 1697. The introduction of European diseases helped the Spanish in conquering the Mayan populations. “The reason why the Spaniards wanted to conquer America was to locate vast qualities of gold silver”[footnoteRef:8]. [8: Foster, Lynn V. Handbook to life in the ancient Maya world. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005. 101. ]

The kind of colonization that the Spanish introduced is the forced labor and conversion to Christianity. Although the Spaniards forced the Mayans to change to Christianity, some of them refused to give up their religion. The kind of religion of the Mayan during the time was the pantheistic religious practices. Those who refused to give up their religion were arrested and tortured for heresy.

Before the arrival of the Spaniards in the Maya, the maya kingdom had experienced warfare that affected it progress and developments in the region. During that time, most of the Mayan buildings that had been built in the region left for hundred years. Most of their cities had fallen and been destructed. The cities had been overtaken by fast growing jungle that had covered the areas that had been previously cleared. During that time, the Maya people had become scattered, separated into small villages and towns. The splitting of the Mayans into small villages and towns lead the Mayan to lose their complex social structure and the rituals that they use to perform and enjoy in the past. “The complex social strata of the Mayan people together with the rituals supported their great civilization at its apex.[footnoteRef:9]” [9: Andrien, Kenneth J. The human tradition in colonial Latin America. Wilmington, Del: SR Books. 2002. 38.]

Bibliography

Alcocer, Rudyard J. Time travel in the Latin American and Caribbean imagination re-reading history. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2011.

Andrien, Kenneth J. The human tradition in colonial Latin America. Wilmington, Del: SR Books. 2002.

Chacon, Richard J., and Ruben G. Mendoza. The ethics of anthropology and Amerindian research: reporting on environmental degradation and warfare. New York: Springer. 2012.

Foster, Lynn V. Handbook to life in the ancient Maya world. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005.

Martínez, Zarela, Anne Mendelson, and Laurie Smith. The food and life of Oaxaca: traditional recipes from Mexico’s heart. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley. 1997.

Galeano, E., & Belfrage, C. Open veins of Latin America: Five centuries of the pillage of a continent. New York: Monthly Review Press. (1997)

Houston, Stephen D., and Takeshi Inomata. 2009. The classic Maya. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Jones, Grant D. The conquest of the last Maya kingdom. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press. 1998.

Lohse, Jon C. Ancient Maya commoners. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press. 2004.

Thompson, Kirsten Moana. Apocalyptic dread: American film at the turn of the millennium. Albany: State University of New York Press. 2007.

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