The intimate relationship between a fantastic animal and an ancient culture
The Mayas found in nature a unique source of inspiration that allowed them to understand everything around them. For them, there were no differences between animals and plants, they all belonged to the same plane and even some of these animals were personifications or reincarnations of divine energies.
Among all these animals we can count the jaguar, the snake, and the turtle. The turtle is the one that had a fundamental role as the origin of life for this culture.
Although the records of the relationship between the Mayas and the sea turtle are few, we can still find them in different manifestations of them in different cases. In the ancient world, it had a special symbolism as a representation of the Earth par excellence for its stability, as well as its close relationship with water and constellations.
The sea turtle was not only important within the Maya cosmogony but also for other cultures in Mesoamerica that related its shell to the celestial vault and the animal’s body was the axis that united both heaven and earth.
Among the vestiges of the great Maya cities, we also find representations of this fantastic animal. In Uxmal with the House of Turtles which is located near the Governor’s Palace. Or in Chichen Itza in the building known as “The Church”, which sports a strip of masks where different animals such as the rabbit, the snail, the armadillo and of course the turtle are interspersed.
In Calakmul, the best-known images of the sea turtle were found inside the tomb number one in vessels, which alluded to the rebirth of the Corn God commonly represented as a being emerging from the shell of a turtle. If one day you visit Xcaret Park you can see this moment represented in the dances of the Maya People.
In the Dresden, Tro-Cortesianus and Nutall codices, at least three species of sea turtles appear and are frequently mentioned in the Chilam Balam book.
Over the years, the sea turtle has had a very important place in the conception of life, culture, and nature. Therefore, its presence within civilization as important as the Maya culture is not surprising since many of the concepts related to this wonderful being are usually connected with fertility, longevity and good luck.