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18 Weird and Amazing Facts About Ancient Civilizations

7. The Aztecs regarded childbirth as a form of battle. Women who died giving birth to a child were thought to rise to the highest of heavens, the same as the one male warriors go to when they die in battle.

Ancient Aztec Childbirth
Image Source: mexicolore

The act of childbirth had a special significance in Aztec civilization and treated it with the same seriousness as they treated battles. Each pregnant woman was assigned a midwife who would welcome the new mother as a triumphant winner of a battle. And if a woman died during childbirth she was give the same special honors a fallen warrior was given to join the honored dead who carried the Sun from the sky to the horizon in the evening. Like with most concepts of Aztec, there is also a dark side to it. They believed that these women could return to Earth and haunt the living.(source)

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8. Mayans cultivated stingless bees in Central America for thousands of years. They were regarded as sacred and treated as pets with hives hung in and around homes. Some hives have been recorded as lasting over 80 years, being passed down through generations. 

Mayan Stingless Bees
Image Source: mexiconewsdaily

The Mayans extensively cultured the stingless bees, which are now endangered, for honey. The bees were thought to be a symbol of their bee-god Ah-Muzen-Cab. The bees are gathered by cutting the log on which a wild hive is present to create a portable log that encloses the colony. The log is closed on either side using a piece of wood or pottery which allows them easy access to the honey causing minimal damage to the hive. Though inexperienced handlers could do irreplaceable damage, proper maintenance of the hives has been known to preserve the hives for as many as 80 years.(source)

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9. The ancient Aztecs and Incas invented peanut butter.

Aztecs and Incans Peanut Butter
Image Source: justalittlenutty

The much loved that has become so ubiquitous and part of our everyday lives had its origins in the times of ancient Aztec and Inca civilizations. The peanuts, back then, were roasted and mashed into a paste, though slightly different from and not as spreadable as the present day version of peanut butter. Later in 16th century, after the Columbian Exchange, the people in West Africa began making peanut butter as well and ate it with honey. Though historians did not give the due credit to the these ancient civilizations, the peanut butter certainly been invented around 3,000 years ago.(1, 2)

10. The pre-Columbian Aztec Empire used cacao beans as currency for small purchases. A small rabbit was worth 30 cacao beans, a turkey egg cost 3 beans and a man could sell his daughter for 500 beans as sexual slave or religious sacrifice . 

Aztec Empire - Cacao Currency
Image Source: breatheinlife

There were several types of currency, one of them being cacao beans, used in the commercial sector or market place during the ancient Aztec civilization. The cacao beans were imported from lowland areas, and used for small purchases. For larger purchases, cotton cloth called quachtli were used. Depending on the quality of quachtli, the equivalent cacao value ranged from 65 to 300. A gold statue weighing around 0.62 kg was worth 250 beans.(source)

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11. Around 1000 AD, the Incas had skull surgeons who performed “trepanation”, a procedure to relieve intracranial pressure in people with head trauma. By 1400 AD, the survival rates after the procedure were 90 percent. 

Ancient Inca Trepanation
Image Source: fertur-travel

In the event of severe head traumas, the brain swells inside the skull increasing intracranial pressure and depriving the brain of blood flow. To prevent any damage to the brain, surgeons cut open the skull giving the brain much needed space thus decreasing the pressure. The Incas, apparently, had a very detailed knowledge of cranial anatomy. They were even able to carefully avoid the portions of the skull that would likely result in any further brain injury, bleeding or infection. Though, the initial attempts were fatal, they standardized and perfected the surgical techniques over time with fatalities dropping down to just 10 percent.(source)

12. The Mayans used to play a ballgame in which those who lost would become a sacrifice. 

Mayan Ballgame
Image Source: jdellaer

The ballgame, known as ōllamaliztli, had ritual associations and important ritual aspects to it. In the game the players would strike a ball made of solid rubber and weighing almost 4 kg, with their hips, forearms, rackets or handstones. The games were often held at ritual events in which the human sacrifice is often featured, though they were also played for recreation by children and women. A newer version of the game called “ulama” is still played by the indigenous population.(source)

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