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Friday, November 24, 2006

"Secrets of ancient civilization revealed to those who visit Yucatan"

Here is a good article for those interested in the locations where Apocalypto was filmed as well as the rich history of its inhabitants:

This winter, Yucatan's mysterious Maya will be invading theaters near you, courtesy of Mel Gibson's epic "Apocalypto."

In all likelihood, the release will inspire many Americans to return the favor, visiting sites such as this ruined city in Mexico, as well as others in Guatemala and Honduras. And for the hurricane-battered Yucatan peninsula, between the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, a movie-motivated influx couldn't come at a better time.

In contrast with his billion-dollar, box-office bonanza, "The Passion of the Christ," controversial director Gibson's new film is about Central America's pagan Indians who built a massive pyramid I'm about to climb. Just as Gibson is wrapping up filming across the Gulf in the jungles of Veracruz, Mexico, I am staggering up the endless stone steps of El Castillo, which the Maya call Nohoch Muul.


I can understand Gibson's choice of the ancient Maya as a subject for his $50 million film, currently set for a Dec. 8 release by Disney's Touchstone Pictures. This was a pre-Columbian civilization, a complex society that managed to build monumental stone cities, develop a sophisticated astronomical calendar, imagine the mathematical concept of zero and build an extensive network of paved footpaths. They did all of this without metal, beasts of burden, the wheel or the keystone arch. And then, inexplicably, they abandoned their cities and moved to jungle villages such as this one to live on subsistence farming.

Gibson's film, in which characters speak Yucatec Mayan, is set at the time of this collapse, probably because of war and famine, around the year 1000. The movie could do for this century's travelers what American adventurer John Lloyd Stephens, and his artist, Englishman Frederic Catherwood, did in their best-selling 19th-century books.

For those who wish to imagine themselves in "Apocalypto," Coba offers the opportunity to see restored and reconstructed ruins, as they were around the time Gibson's film is set, as well as partially covered remains still in the wild, as Stephens and Catherwood found them in the 1840s. [Read the full article.]