The Maya Their Culture Inspired from My Travels and Shadow of the Tomb Raider!


 Updated at: 4/13/2018 12:15pm

Because of the latest update from the Tomb Raider site with the audio clip about what Trinity is pursuing, I decided to update this article. I think from what I heard on the clip, that Trinity is after something connected to the Maya creation god or more.

tsamnaaj / Itzamna The Supreme Creator aka (God D) of the Maya belief system. 


In Maya mythology, Itzamna was the name of the supreme creator deity. He was the lord of all the heavens and ruler of day and night. It is also said that he invented books and writing.   Simply said, he is the Maya creation god. If you look at the Codices he is defined as god D. He appears as an old, toothless man. 


Maya God Itsamnaaj


This might explain where Lara is standing and is located in the game as well. It is all exciting. Why Trinity is interested in this Maya god is still a mystery until we play the game. Maybe we will see the Maya creation myth at play aka Popol Vuh. There are many reasons, and many ideas surrounding this Maya god. However, from what Jonha says in the clip about it, makes the excitement mount! I am so happy right now about this development. See ya all later! 

Caution on the video. There is some graphic scenes. Just a warning!

You might want to pay attention to the part about Chichen Itza. Starting at this point in the video 17:07 and beyond I found it quite interesting and did not include it in the article because it was in this video. Also, Path of the Stars and SOTTR could be inspired from a part of the Maya belief in Venus as a god. This ideology could be the catalyst for the game. Let’s not forget about what they believed about solar eclipses in general. We shall see. 

 You can find the above video at YouTube HERE

(•) In the interest of shadow of the Tomb Raider and my personal adventures into Mesoamerican ruins, I am going to focus some attention on the Maya culture.
My main attention will concentrate on Chichén Itzá in the Yucatan, Mexico as well as the incredible Guatemalan Maya city, Tikal.

The temple in Chichén Itzá was dedicated to  Kukulkan and the pyramid in the game trailer looks a lot like that one. Although, the game sports what appears to be three beside each other unlike what we see at the actual archaeological site. 

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Image: Crystal Dynamics – Square Enix 2018

Tikal, however, has many temples but their styling is different. So, these could be sites of inspiration. Whatever they are, they are indeed an incredible part of history. From their location to the language and numbers of the Maya it all is fascinating, and I shall bring some of it to light in this article. Let’s get started.

 (••) A brief history of the Maya

The Maya of Mesoamerica, as well as the Aztecs from Mexico and the Inca from Peru, were the main civilizations of American Indians during the time of the Spanish conquest. Among the Inca, Aztecs and the Maya, only the Maya of Yucatan and Guatemala were the oldest and constant civilization spanning more than 2000 years. They developed a glyph language, created an improved calendric system, studied the stars and put the number zero to use. They were an enterprising Mesoamerican race, and you can see many facets of their culture in their people to this day.

There are three major periods in Mesoamerica. The Pre-classic, 2000 BC-AD 300, Classic, 300-900 AD, and the postclassical, 900-1500 AD. It was during the classic period the Maya culture thrived for 600 years. Their reach extended from the rainforests of Petén in Guatemala founding cities such as Tikal, Uaxactun, Quirigua, Copan. Then they spread into the scrublands of northern Yucatan building the cities of Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, Etzna, and Coba.

Then we get to the post-classic period and the Yucatan sees the invasion of the Toltecs from central Mexico. They established a foothold at Chichén Itzá (987-1200 AD).

Soon after, the coastal walled town of Tulum grew stronger in trading goods from farther regions in the Maya world. This hole in the Maya stronghold which allowed the Toltec to fall into power came because of the decline of the military led by Mayapan. The Maya growth period led to big cities of over 20,000 people each and the construction of many temples and pyramids spread over 40 cities in the empire.

The Maya civilization was defeated by the Spanish led by Francisco de Montejo in 1542 better known as the Spanish conquest. At present, there are about 2 million Maya living in the northern Yucatan and the highlands of Guatemala. Let’s look at a couple of initial Maya cities to see their beautiful culture up close.

(•••) Tikal, Guatemala

The once known to be lost city Tikal is believed to be interpreted as ti ak’al from the Yucatec Maya language, and it is reported that the meaning is “at the waterhole” It was named by hunters and travelers. Additionally, the Itza Maya language interpreted the name as meaning “the place of voices” However, Tikal is not the original name but the label given it in the 1840’s upon its discovery. It may sound odd, but the actual name is “First Mutual” also known as “Yax Mutual” and its corresponding glyph is a hair bundle seen here:  However, the meaning of this emblem glyph is taken apart here… where you can see the various parts of the Maya language glyphs related to this glyph. Also, the Maya writing system is fascinating in itself. On a basic level, they used syllable glyphs and whole word glyphs aka a syllabogram glyph. It was a complex system, however, I adore language study, so I am addicted to studying these, and have found it not so difficult once you learn a few basics. That is not to say it is easy either.  The entire language is not deciphered as of yet.

Moving on, name meaning aside, the architecture found at this glorious site is breathtaking, to say the least. I would say far more breathtaking than even Chichén Itzá. Let’s explore some of the dwellings, history, and location of Tikal.

Located 188 miles north of Guatemala City, Tikal is nestled in what is known as the Cradle of Maya Civilization, the Petén Basin. It is a geographical sub-region in Mesoamerica, and most of it is in northern Guatemala. A smaller portion spans into the Campeche state in southeastern Mexico.  The setting is dense, lush greenery like a green sea in all directions.


(••••) (Tikal has been  included in the UNESCO World Heritage List) A look at Structures/ History

Upon first sight of this section of this extraordinary place, you can see miles of jungle and many temples dotting the landscape. Tikal was a bustling city during the Early Classic period (250-600  AD) This place had ceremonial platforms, palaces, private residences and temples that looked like pyramids. The area that became Tikal started being cleared about 300 BC and grew from that time to 100 AD with monumental structures.

Tikal drew trade from its natural resources such as cedarwood, flint, dyes from brazilwood. Another big item was growing corn in cleared areas of the rainforest around the ever-growing city. In 378 AD Tikal developed trade with distant city Teotihuacan. The result was the great city’s influence in art, architecture, and clothing. However, Tikal gained power along the way and conquered Uaxactún and Rio Azul which were close by and an asset. Tikal’s height of prosperity enjoyed an area of 77 square miles and over 50,000 citizens.

The most significant ruler in this renaissance of Tikal was Jasaw Chan K’awiil (r. 682-734 CE) 


   He conquered Calakmul in 695 AD and managed a noteworthy transformation building program. Two of the most remarkable pyramids known simply as Temple I (aka Temple of the Great Jaguar) and temple II (aka Temple of the Masks) took shape under his command. Chan K’awiil was buried in Temple I in c. 727 AD. Temple II AKA the temple of the Masks is said to be the resting place for his wife Lady Kalajuun Une’ Mo’s. There are other pairings of pyramid temples throughout the site, however, many remain unexcavated.

Again, from above seen here from the Grand Plaza is The Temple of the Jaguar (Temple I) on the left and The temple of the Masks (Temple II) on the right. Notice other temple pyramids in the background.
From the base of the Great Jaguar Temple II


Star Wars and the Temple of the Two-headed Serpent! 

Yes, Tikal found its way into the legendary Star Wars space opera! Lucas brought his heavy equipment to the top of the massive pyramid temple at 210’. No small undertaking for sure. Tikal is also seen in James Bond Moonraker. Here is the famous Star Wars temple from Tikal Temple of the Two-Headed Serpent below the video!

Watch a snippet from Star Wars with the Temples of Tikal!

You can find the below Star Wars video on YouTube HERE


Temple of the Two-Headed Serpent Temple 4 over 200’ high the tallest temple in Tikal.

Maya Gallery (hover over each image before clicking to read the description)

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Watch the aerial video of Tikal 

Find the video on YouTube HERE

Also, as an extra treat, watch this video. It features different Maya cities as what it is believed they looked like. Also, what they look like now. The game no doubt drew inspiration from these sites. The showreel is spectacular, and brings a strong visual of the remarkable people known as Maya! 

Find the youtube video HERE

() Well, now that I have touched on a bit of Tikal, let’s look at Chichén Itzá in Mexico. I picked this location because of the pyramid seen in the trailer in the distance and the concept art for Shadow of the Tomb Raider. It looks like the art designers of the game were inspired from this beautiful structure, although there is only one of this type on the site and not three in a row as it appears to be in the trailer. However, we have not learned enough about the game location rather actual or fictional with inspiration from the above temple sites. Additionally, I wanted to touch on this Pyramid temple because of its relationship to the Maya Calendar.


History Kukulkan Pyramid and the Maya Calendar

What most people visualize when they think of the Maya city Chichén Itzá is the spectacular Temple Pyramid of Kukulkan.

 K’uk’ulkan or K’uk’ul-chon) Kukulkan was a god from Maya mythology. Similarly, this god is a feathered serpent like the Aztec god Quetzacoatl.

However, Kukulkan may have originated in Olmec mythology. Nonetheless, versions of it are seen throughout the Mesoamerican cultures.

At the beginning of the steps to the top. Loved this.

Chichén Itzá became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2007 it was also named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It never gets old. Standing in front of these imposing structures takes your breath away and it is all too clear why it is such a popular tourist attraction. Chichén Itzá (750 to 1200 AD)

Chichén Itzá is a beautiful Maya city that is located on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. The entire complex is composed of plazas a huge Temple dedicated to their feathered serpent god Kukulkan and there is also an observatory etc. It was a statement in true Maya culture until the Toltec invasion of 1000 AD. This invasion was a result of the merger of the two cultures which can be seen throughout the city. 

Chichén Itzá has a water supply source of sinkholes. According to Spanish records, the largest of these holes aka the Sacred Cenote played host to sacrifices of young women. They were thrown into the cenote alive as a sacrifice to the rain and wind god Kukulkan. The Maya believed he dwelled in the depths of this cenote. Their bones, as well as the jewelry and other precious objects they wore in their final hours, have been found in the depths of the cenote’s floor. 

Calendars and the Pyramid Of Kukulkan

A very good look at the pyramid structure. Also known as El Castillo. Chichén Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico.
This is a Mesoamerican step pyramid. Each of its four stairways of 91 steps, totals 365, counting the upper platform or the number of days in a calendar year.


If you find this info interesting read on about the connection with the Maya calendar. 

The Maya had many accomplishments as seen throughout their many cities. Maya echoes of brilliance from the past. However, one amazing thing they implemented was the calendar. The Maya calendar had remarkable accuracy. One example of beauty is the Pyramid of Kukulkan built in 1050 AD in the late Maya period. This was during the time the Toltecs from Tula were considered a power in their world. Each of four stairways boasts 91 steps the platform on the top makes a total of 365! The Maya used the pyramid as a giant calendar.

The Maya calendar uses three different dating systems. They are known as The “Long Count” “The Tzolkin (aka divine calendar) and the “Haab aka the civil calendar”

Small Delve into the Maya Calendar

If you were looking for a Maya date it would look like this:, 3 Cimi 4 Zotz. To explain what this means:

Cimi is the Tzolkin date. 4 Zotz is the Haab date. 


Long Count refers to a mixed base-20/base-18 representation of a number, representing the amount of days from the start of the Maya era. 

Deeper Understanding

Maya basic unit is the kin [meaning day], which is the last factor of the Long Count. The remaining factors are:


(1 uinal = 20 kin = 20 days)


(1 tun = 18 uinal = 360 days = approx. 1 year)


(1 katun = 20 tun = 7,200 days = approx. 20 years)


(1 baktun = 20 katun = 144,000 days = approx. 394 years)

The kin, tun, and katun are numbered from 0 to 19.

The uinal are numbered from 0 to 17.

The baktun are numbered from 1 to 13.

Although they are not part of the Long Count, the Maya had names for larger time spans. The following names are sometimes quoted, although they are not Maya terms:

1 pictun = 20 baktun = 2,880,000 days = approx. 7885 years

1 calabtun = 20 pictun = 57,600,000 days = approx. 158,000 years

1 kinchiltun = 20 calabtun = 1,152,000,000 days = approx. 3 million years

1 alautun = 20 kinchiltun = 23,040,000,000 days = approx. 63 million years

The alautun is probably the longest named period in any calendar.

The Tzolkin

The Tzolkin date is a combination of two “week” lengths.

While our calendar uses a single week of seven days, the Maya calendar used two different lengths of a week:

  • a numbered week of 13 days, in which the days were numbered from 1 to 13
  • a named week of 20 days, in which the names of the days were:

0. Ahau

1. Imix

2. Ik

3. Akbal

4. Kan

5. Chicchan

6. Cimi

7. Manik

8. Lamat

9. Muluc

10. Oc

11. Chuen

12. Eb

13. Ben

14. Ix

15. Men

16. Cib

17. Caban

18. Etznab

19. Caunac


Tzolkin Calendar Glyphs

The named week is 20 days also, the smallest Long Count digit is 20 days, the two are in sync. Here is an example, if the last digit of today’s Long Count is 0, today is Ahau; however, if it is 6, it would be Cimi. Because the numbered and named week are both “weeks,” their name/number change daily; so, the day after 3 Cimi is not 4 Cimi, but 4 Manik, and the day after that, 5 Lamat. The following time Cimi comes around, 20 days later, it shall be 10 Cimi not 3 Cimi. The following 3 Cimi will not happen until 260 (or 13 x 20) days have passed. This 260-day cycle also had good-luck or bad-luck associations connected with each day, and for this reason, it became known as the “divinatory year.”

The “years” of the Tzolkin calendar are not counted.

The Haab

The Maya had a civil calendar as well. It entailed 18 “months” 20 days each, trailed by 5 extra days, known as Uayeb. This gives a year length of 365 days.

The names of the month were:

1. Pop

7. Yaxkin

13. Mac

2. Uo

8. Mol

14. Kankin

3. Zip

9. Chen

15. Muan

4. Zotz

10. Yax

16. Pax

5. Tzec

11. Zac

17. Kayab

6. Xul

12. Ceh

18. Cumku

In dissimilarity to the Tzolkin dates, the Haab month names changed every 20 days instead of everyday; so the day after 4 Zotz would be 5 Zotz, followed by 6 Zotz … up to 19 Zotz, which is followed by 0 Tzec. The days of the month were numbered from 0 to 19. This use of a 0th day of the month in a civil calendar is exclusive to the Maya structure; archaeologists believe that the Maya discovered the number zero, and the uses to which it could be put.

The Uayeb days acquired an awful reputation for bad luck; known as “days without names” or “days without souls,” and were observed as days of prayer and mourning. Fires were extinguished and the population did not eat hot food. Anyone born on those days was “doomed to a miserable life.”

The length of the Tzolkin year was 260 days and the length of the Haab year was 365 days. The smallest number that can be divided evenly by 260 and 365 is 18,980, or 365×52; this was known as the Calendar Round. If a day is, “4 Ahau 8 Cumku,” the following day falling on “4 Ahau 8 Cumku” would be 18,980 days or about 52 years later. Among the Aztec, the end of a Calendar Round was a time of public panic as it was thought the world might be coming to an end.  

Maya 365?

The Maya may have had 365 days in the Haab year, but they also knew a year to be a bit longer than 365 days. If you noticed by now, a lot of the month names are associated with seasons. The name Yaxkin, means “new or strong sun” and, at the beginning of the “Long Count”, 1 Yaxkin was the day after the winter solstice, when the sun starts to shine for a longer period of time, and is higher in the sky. The “Long Count” was put into motion at, and 0 Yaxkin corresponded with midwinter, as it did at back in 3114 B.C. Evidence supports the Maya estimated that a 365-day year went through all the seasons twice in or 1,101,600 days.

The Maya divided 1,101,600 by 365, subtracting 2, and taking that number and dividing 1,101,600 by the result, that result is 365.242036 days. Interesting yes?

Well, now it’s time to call a wrap! I had a lot of fun with this one. Thank you for viewing. I shall be back with another article or art piece etc. I am always studying and creating. See you then. 

Explore The World!






 The Maya Voices in Stone

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