How to survive ancient Maya battle.

When plotting How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings, I knew I had to include a battle scene. Here’s how I learned to survive their battles. If I were to ever time travel back.

1. Dig up some of the nastiest names you can find.

The Ancient Maya were similar to other ancient cultures. They lined up on their perspective sides of the fields and then attacked. But before they attacked they shouted insults at each other.

At first I found this kind of humorous because I thought about first graders out at recess calling each other out on cheating during a kickball game.

But the more I researched I realized it was a ritual with a purpose. To get pumped. Similar to athletic teams before a big game.

2. Try to hide the fact that you’re a king or a noble.

Of course, the Ancient Maya didn’t do that. The kings and the nobles would have the most decorated headdresses, the fanciest quilted armor, and the most tattoos. But they were also the most prized reward in a battle.

My impression is that to hide their kingship or nobility would be shaming themselves.

Yeah, not very smart.

3. Carry a longer, bigger club than your enemy. Or have bigger muscles.

The Maya fought with a club embedded with pieces of sharp obsidian. Ouch!

Battle came down to fighting one on one. It was a pride thing. All the warriors wanted to walk away victorious with an enemy bound and demoralized.

4. Pray that you sacrificed enough blood the day before!

Before the battle, the Maya sacrificed blood to their gods, hoping for their blessing during battle. No surprise there. The Maya sacrificed blood for just about any reason.

If all these don’t work, then be prepared for the worst. You’ll be lucky to be a slave. Most likely, you’ll get your heart ripped out and decapitated.

Before revising the battle scene, I wrote out a battle with Chak Tok (shortened name) as the main character. He ruled Tikal from 360 AD to 378 AD. Below is just a portion. But it really helped set the mood before writing my own battle scene.

 The mass of decorated warriors stood at the edge of a field. Beating war drums matched the king’s heart in anticipation of the fight. For a short while the only sounds were the roar of the howler monkeys and calls of macaws and toucans sounding from the jungle.

 A voice broke the silence, then another. Warriors called out insulting names to their enemies. The hatred and anger behind the name calling filled hearts and the shouting intensified. Adrenaline pumped through bodies that minutes before were still and silent. Sweat beaded on foreheads, muscles twitched and trembled, ready for a fight. Clubs imbedded with sharp obsidian shook in the air and wooden bows stretched with sharpened arrows ready to be released. Restless feet shifted side to side and faces contorted with emotion.

The name-calling climaxed, breaking into a war cry. Both sides thundered across the field, trampling any long grass or bushes in the way. Chak Tok surged across the field. Clashing in the middle, each warrior fought with all his strength. The goal was not to kill the enemy, but the greater honor was to capture a noble or maybe even the king, to return to Tikal and offer up in sacrifice. 

 As the first wave of adrenaline ended the warriors retreated to their side. Any captives were stripped of their war costume and bound.

 The name-calling resumed and soon the warriors were at it once again. Chak Tok wrestled with his opponent. Each man taking and giving blows. Finally his enemy bowed under the Tikal’s king’s might and will. Each side retreated for the last time. Chak Tok considered it a victory. They tended wounds, bound prisoners and headed for home.

Many battles between the same two city-states could be fought and it did not always result in a winner and a loser. Sometimes the battles went on for years, resulting in the capture of elite nobles to be sacrificed and farmers to become slaves.

What about you? What time period are you glad weren’t around for? Or that you’d love to go back to?







, , , , , , ,

20 Responses to How to survive ancient Maya battle.

  1. Jemi Fraser October 22, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    Yikes!! I don’t think I’d have lasted long as a Mayan!! The name calling does sound like the kids at recess, doesn’t it? 🙂

    • Laura October 22, 2012 at 11:59 am #

      No kidding! That might have made it into my book too!

  2. Natalie Aguirre October 22, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    I wouldn’t go back in time because of how women were treated. We are so lucky to have the freedoms we do. It must have been fun doing all your research for your book. I love the Mayan times.

    • Laura October 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

      I agree, Natalie. I could do a post on cruel our society can be – we’re just more sneaky – but I won’t. And you’re right about women!

  3. Leigh Moore October 22, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    I have to say, I’m pretty glad I don’t live in any time periods before like the 1980s. I’m happy to be around right now, thanks! 😀

    I was doing some research for the light historical I’ve got coming out and feminine hygiene alone… :p

    But how interesting about the shouting insults before battles. It IS like sports today. I guess it’s instinctive or something. <3

    • Laura October 24, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

      I see that instinct to shout at 5/6th grade soccer games! 🙂

  4. Susan Kaye Quinn October 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    Sounds like they would run out of nobles after a while! LOL But how cool, all the research you put into this!

    • Laura October 24, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

      You’d think so! I loved researching this culture. All the time I put into is one of the main reasons I kept seeking publication.

  5. Jennifer Hoffine October 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    As we head into elections and I get frustrated with our lack of progress and some people’s limited/self-serving views, it’s good to remember that we’ve come a long way as a social species…not far enough, but we have made progress:)

    • Laura October 24, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

      So true! Sometimes it feels like over a couple decades we haven’t made it far but then if we look back farther, we realize we have.

  6. Alex J. Cavanaugh October 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    Think I’d avoid that one!
    First graders aren’t the only ones. Look at all the sports teams, especially football teams, that talk junk before a game.

    • Laura October 24, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

      me too. I’d avoid that and the medieval time period!

  7. Patti October 22, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    Sounds like this one would be a good one to avoid. And after reading a CP’s first chapter about England in the 1800’s, I might want to avoid that era as well, especially if you’re a single woman.

    • Laura October 24, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

      Many aspects of our culture to be thankful for even if we have many flaws!

  8. Stina Lindenblatt October 22, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    I’ve always been interested with the Mayan period, but after this post, I might have to rethink that. 🙂

    I’m not sure there is another era I would love to live in. I’m pretty happy with this one. 😀

  9. Jennifer Shirk October 23, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    Whoa. I wouldn’t have lasted too long. LOL

    I do love the Regency time period–although I think about the medical knowledge they had on hand then and think I wouldn’t have survived then either. 🙂

  10. Sonia G Medeiros October 24, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    I’m pretty thrilled to live in the time and place I do. It’s not perfect but we (in the US) have a lot of protections under the law, especially for women. We have a decent justice system. We have rights and freedoms. Abundant food and clean water. For the most part, anyway.

    Still, it would be interesting to visit other times maybe. I don’t think I’d want to live in any of ’em though. 😀

    • Laura October 24, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

      I’ll just learn about them through time travel stories and live vicariously through fiction!

  11. Margo Berendsen October 25, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Whenever I think of battle scenes I think of Braveheart or Gladiator – yikes! This one sounds pretty awful too. It’s neat you found some specific details like the clubs embedded with obsidian.

  12. Laura Diamond October 28, 2012 at 10:14 pm #


Leave a Reply