I am aboard the cruise ship "Yorktown," once again. Last summer we took an amiable crowd of National Review and American Spectator readers on a tour of the Great Lakes. This winter we have taken mainly AmSpec readers on a tour of the Mayan ruins in Belize and Guatemala with stops along the way to inspect the barrier reefs, fish life and even to partake in snorkeling. Also, we are doing a good bit of basking in the sun and snickering at our friends up north.
Of particular interest is the Mayan civilization. It flourished in the jungles of these parts from roughly 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1521, whereupon it ceased. Gone, fini, vanished -- just like that! Neither war nor pestilence nor plague has been detected by modern scholars seeking to explain its passing. There remain great stone edifices: temples, palaces, living quarters -- even evidence of sacred altars for human sacrifice. However, there is no extant evidence as to why Mayan civilization ceased. It was highly advanced with a written language and astronomical literacy. Yet no word has been found that anything was amiss before A.D. 1521 when it utterly ceased to function. There are Mayans around today, but none seems to know why he is not living atop a ruin in the jungle, perhaps with colorful feathers sticking in his hair and a fancy wand or whatever those sticks are that his ancestors are pictured carrying. I doubt it has occurred to a modern-day Mayan to reclaim a palace or one of the splendid temples in the jungle even for an occasional ritual sacrifice. Perhaps they are too polite.