Skip to content
Hardcover The Heart of the Sky: Travels Among the Maya Book

ISBN: 006016705X

ISBN13: 9780060167059

The Heart of the Sky: Travels Among the Maya

Select Format

Select Condition ThriftBooks Help Icon


Format: Hardcover

Condition: Good

Save $19.81!
List Price $25.00
Almost Gone, Only 2 Left!

Book Overview

New Yorker editor Peter Canby spent two years studying Mayan culture, both past and present, to provide this vivid portrait of these enigmatic people, their life style and beliefs. A fascinating glimpse into a world long forgotten by outsiders. 15 maps.

Customer Reviews

2 ratings

Good travel book and great introduction to the fascinating Maya

_The Heart of the Sky_ by Peter Canby was an enjoyable if a bit disconnected account of his travels among the Maya people, each chapter pretty much a vignette, a report of his encounters in a village or at a Maya ruin site, each story interspersed with information on Maya history, culture, religion, and the history of the study of these interesting people. The Maya are a resilient and diverse people, still prevalent as a distinct cultural group despite centuries of attempts at forcible cultural assimilation and often quite cruel subjugation and oppression. Speaking over thirty distinct and mutually unintelligible languages, the Maya have lived in a roughly 100,000 square mile region for about 5,000 years, an area that stretches from the Yucatan in the north through Guatemala to Honduras in the south and from Belize and the Caribbean in the east through to the Chiapas highlands of southern Mexico in the west, an area encompassing everything from dry scrub to dense tropical rainforest to near-alpine highlands. Canby never states their overall numbers, though he did mention at one time that some 4 million Maya live in Guatemala, which he said was more than half the total. Though often lumped together in the popular consciousness with the Aztecs and the Incas, the Maya were quite distinct. They reached their peak in the 8th century A.D., some 500 years before the apex of the Aztecs or Incas. They never formed a true empire like them either, but were always a series of competing city-states. They were quite advanced; inventing the mathematical concept of zero, performing advanced astronomical calculations, and had the only true writing system in the Americas. They also proved considerably more difficult for the Spanish to subdue, owing in part to their decentralized nature and in part according to French researcher Tzvetan Todorov their possession of writing (Todorov maintained that the Incas, who had no writing, viewed the Spaniards as gods, the Aztecs, who had pictograms, saw the Spanish at first as gods but soon changed their minds, and the Maya, who could read and write, knew from the start they were men). It took 20 years to subdue the major Maya groups and 150 years before the last independent kingdoms were conquered. Unfortunately, the Spanish (and later the Guatemalan and Mexican) authorities weren't satisfied with merely besting them on the battlefield. Beginning in the second half of the 16th century, there was a systematic effort to erase Maya culture, language, and religion, as concerted efforts were made to find and burn all Maya books, impose Christianity upon them, and in short make them "into a compliant, Hispanicized peasantry." Combined with the devastating effects of European diseases and the desire to drive the Maya out of prime agricultural land (particularly for cattle and later for coffee), the Maya went from being a great urban culture, with cities that were compared at one time favorably with the cities of Spain, to a

A fascinating introduction to the Maya world

What a great introduction to a vigorous culture that many of us had erroneously assumed no longer existed! I feel that a whole new part of the world has opened up before me, thanks to Peter Canby's excellent research and intrepid reporting. Mr. Canby includes information that he gathered from anthropologists, epigraphers, naturalists, textile experts and other people who have lived their lives immersed in one aspect or another of the Maya world. He also obviously did a lot of background reading which adds further depth to the portrait his book presents of the past and present Maya phenomenon. In addition, the author reports on his own travels in the region, from the Yucatan to Chiapas to Guatemala. His firsthand experiences bring vividly to light the Maya world as it is today. I found it very enriching to learn from this highly readable book about the ancient, yet evolving universe of the Maya.
Copyright © 2023 Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Do Not Sell/Share My Personal Information | Cookie Policy | Cookie Preferences | Accessibility Statement
ThriftBooks® and the ThriftBooks® logo are registered trademarks of Thrift Books Global, LLC
GoDaddy Verified and Secured