Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What Maya Empire?

Mel Gibson's an easy target these days, and this MSNBC anchor let him have it, looking foolish in the process:

WHAT is Mel Gibson thinking? Clearly not shy about making his opinions known, the actor's back in the news, this time slamming the U.S. and the Iraq War, comparing the United States to the ancient Mayan empire just before it collapsed.

YouTube video (2:35)

Hello? There was never a "Mayan empire." Ancient Maya civilization consisted of a number of city-states, sharing a common language and culture, with shifting alliances and trade relationships. Gibson spoke of Maya civilization, not a Maya empire, in promoting his movie Apocalypto, to be released this December. (Just so everyone knows, the convention among archaeologists is to use the adjective Mayan only when referring to the language group. For everything else, including the people themselves, the word is Maya, not Mayan. While both are correct, we'll use the archaeological convention.)

Here's what Gibson said:

The precursors to a civilization that's going under are the same, time and time again. What's human sacrifice if not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason?

And, yes, it's a stupid historical parallel to draw, especially considering that human sacrifice was practiced by the Maya long before their civilization began to wane. The movie looks fascinating, especially for the costumes and weapons, which appear to have been closely researched. Here's a trailer. YouTube video (2:29)

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