Egyptian and Mayan Similarities—Ginseng, Religion, and Hieroglyphics

Updated on December 27, 2017
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Cynthia is a writer, artist, and teacher. She loves studying language, arts, and culture, and sharing that knowledge.

I came across an article on American and Chinese ginseng and how they are considered to be the “yin” and “yang” of each other. This got me thinking. Suddenly, I was making other connections about similarities of other objects, people, and cultures across the world.

Have you ever thought about how there were pyramids in Egypt and in Mesoamerica, that two disparate cultures came up with the same idea? Or how religious doctrines in India and the Far East seemed similar to Native American beliefs?

Perhaps there is a global “yin” and “yang” at work here.

More About Mayan Pyramids

The Pyramids

The pyramids between the ancient Mayan civilization and the ancient Egyptian civilization are not related. But, it’s still interesting to think about how different cultures came up with the idea of constructing pyramids as part of their cultural identity.

The Mayan pyramids are newer than Egyptian pyramids. They were built around 100 BCE. They used their pyramids as temples and in ceremonies. Their pyramids weren’t designed to last millennia. In fact, the Mayans built them knowing they would want to rebuild them.They constructed their pyramids with staircases in the hearts of their cities for easy access. Although kings were sometimes buried inside, the functional usefulness of Mayan pyramids was fundamentally different than Egyptian pyramids.

The Egyptian pyramids were built about 2000 years earlier. The Egyptians built their pyramids not as a place of worship, but as a tomb. The sarcophagus (stone coffin) was placed inside, with the idea that it would last for eternity. So, the pyramid structures – with three layers of cut stone – were designed to last a very long time. There were no staircases or obvious entrances, either. They were a means to keep out would-be invaders and allow the pyramids to endure through the ages.

Despite the fact that the two types of pyramids are unrelated, it’s still remarkable that completely different cultures at different times employed their use.

The Mayans and the Egyptians Weren't the Only Ones Who Built Pyramids

Mayan and Egyptian Hieroglyphics

The Egyptians and Mayans both used symbols to convey meaning in written language. However, the similarity pretty much stops there. This is remarkable, though, considering the fact that these cultures – millennia and worlds apart – developed similar writing systems.

The Egyptian hieroglyphics didn’t have punctuation and they were written in long lines of script. They were found on everything from paper, to stone, to jewelry. Reading the glyphs, you go from left to right. Egyptian glyphs are divided into phonograms - representing sounds and ideograms - representing ideas or objects.

The Mayans’ system used picture blocks to convey meaning. Their glyphs were mostly on stone. Reading the glyphs is very different from reading Egyptian glyphs. You go left to right and read a “pair” of glyphs and then go down to the next line and read the next pair. They form a sort of a zig-zag pattern. Thus, if reading, you would read block 1A, then block 1B. Then you go to the next line and read 2A, then block 2B. Mayan glyphs are divided into logograms to express meaning or syllabograms to represent sounds.

As stated above, though these cultures were completely different in time and space, it’s amazing that they had such striking parallels with the construction of pyramids and the use of hieroglyphics.

Mayan Writing on Stone
Mayan Writing on Stone | Source

Languages of Siberia and Native Americans

Here’s a fact: Scientists have discovered that Native Americans and groups of Siberians share a same mother tongue.

Researchers have linked an old family of languages in Siberia (Yeniseic) with a family of Native American languages(Na-Dene) in the Americas. They have many cognates, or words that sound alike in different languages and carry similar or the same meaning.

It is notable that neither family of languages is the “mother tongue”. No one knows which came first.

This is significant, however, because this is strong evidence that humans crossed the Bering land bridge long ago and spoke a common language.

It also attests to the fact that humans have been around long enough to have migrated from continent to continent at very early stages of human existence and carried their languages and customs from place to place, tying early humanity together.

Did You KNow?

You can purchase ginseng (as the root) from one of the world's largest commercial planters - Chai-Na-Ta in British Columbia - for $126/lb.

US consumers spent over $100 million in 2008 on ginseng products.

Worldwide demand for ginseng continues to increase, and farmers are hard-pressed to meet this demand.

American ginseng - without the berries.
American ginseng - without the berries. | Source

American Ginseng and Chinese Ginseng

The Chinese consider Chinese ginseng the “yang” and American ginseng the “yin”. Yang is the male counterpart to the female yin. Chinese ginseng, therefore, is “warm” and increases virility. American ginseng, on the other hand, is “cool” and relaxing. Asians consume both versions of this plant for improved well-being of the body.

It’s interesting that ginseng itself grows on virtually opposite continents. The Iroquois Native American Indians are known for smoking or chewing their ginseng. The Chinese, however, prefer theirs in tea.

This is quite a valuable plant, with the Chinese Qing Dynasty funding its rise to power from being an exclusive trader for ginseng.

Another interesting fact is that scientists have concluded that about half of the flora and fauna in Asia and North America are related. This gives credence to the fact that long ago these continents were connected.

Thus, seemingly disparate areas and cultures can be related in more ways than one!

Native American and Eastern Philosophies

Native American religious practices and Eastern philosophies are not related in their origins or ways of conveyance. However, I wanted to illustrate the idea that across cultures and histories, these two groups of people have parallels in their approach to life and living.

Many Native American groups are fundamentally intertwined with a deep respect for nature and Mother Earth. They do not have a “religion” in the same way as Christians, for example, do. Native Americans had, as part of their culture, a system of beliefs that pervaded their existence and ways of living.

Panentheism is often used to describe Native American spirituality – a belief that spirits exist in the present and in all things across the universe. There is a Great Spirit that pervades all things. They spend a lot of time in reverence and silence in honor of nature – a kind of meditation. They live their lives out in pursuit of high moral values and ethics of honesty, truth, and giving of oneself.

Similarly, in Hindu teachings, there is an inherent respect for all living things. Hinduism could be described as panentheistic, as well. It recognizes a Supreme Being, but that this being is present in all things and transcends the universe in place and time. (One could argue that it’s also monotheistic, pantheistic and Trinitarian, depending on the perspective.)

Buddhism and Hinduism both use meditation as a cornerstone for spiritual access. Both religions place high value in high moral character of the individual, including leading an honest life, living truthfully and being generous. The fact that Buddhism and Hinduism recognize the idea that everything is intertwined is similar to Native American philosophies.

References

http://anth507.tripod.com/pyramids.htm

http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/out-of-egypt-explore-a-mayan-pyramid.html

Werner, Louis. “An Enduring Panacea.” Americas. 4/2008. Pp. 37-43.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/03/080326-language-link.html

http://www.ancientscripts.com/maya.html

http://www.angelfire.com/realm/shades/egypt/hierogl.htm

http://www.religioustolerance.org/hinduism2.htm

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Cynthia Calhoun

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      • profile image

        DAVID 

        4 months ago

        I HAVE BEEN THINKING ALOT ABOUT THIS LATELY AND WHAT IF.... IN 2000 BC WHEN THE MAYAN EMPIRE IS SAID TO OF STARTED IS ACTUALLY A GROUP OF EGYPTIANS WHO MIGRATED TO THE AMERICAN CONTINANT AND STARTED A WHOLE NEW EMPIRE OVER HERE, BRINGING ALONG WITH THEM ALOT OF KNOWLEDGE AND ADAPTING IT TO THE NEW SETTINGS. THE EGYPTIAN EMPIRE IS SAID TO OF STARTED IN 3100 BC SO THAT WOULD OF GIVEN THEM A LOT OF TIME TO LEARN TRAVEL AND NAVIGATION THROUGH THE ASTROS. JUST A WILD IDEA/THEORY THATS BEEN ON MY MIND LATELY

      • profile image

        Alexis Semsich 

        5 months ago

        This just helped me write my whole English paper! No plagiarism used tho:) Thank you for this helpful and very interesting article!:) God Bless!

      • profile image

        PRANAV.G 

        12 months ago

        This is a good website as i got a lot of information. Thanks.

      • profile image

        Big Daddy 

        16 months ago

        I believe that the pyramids were built by the illuminati

      • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

        Cynthia Calhoun 

        5 years ago from Western NC

        Griggs - will look into that. Thanks.

      • profile image

        Griggs 

        5 years ago

        You should watch 'spirit science" like the whole thing, it's on youtube.

      • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

        Cynthia Calhoun 

        5 years ago from Western NC

        Janesix - awesome! Thank you for stopping by!

      • janesix profile image

        janesix 

        5 years ago

        one of the best hubs I've read so far. awesome

      • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

        Cynthia Calhoun 

        6 years ago from Western NC

        Bretsuki - great to know! :) Thanks for sharing that! I will look into that more for sure! I hope you have a great day!

      • Bretsuki profile image

        William Elliott 

        6 years ago from California USA

        Thanks for an interesting hub cclitgoirl.

        One thing though about Egyptian Hieroglyphs. The have no fixed direction of being read. They can be read left to right as you say, or up and down or right to left.

        When reading the hieroglyphs the reader must follow the direction of the facing direction of objects or animals which form the glyph. So for instance if a bird faces right one would read left to right. If that same bird faces left then one reads right to left.

        For up and down it is harder to recognise the direction of reading unless the writer or carver placed nice vertical lines on the text or wrote down individual strips of papyrus

      • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

        Cynthia Calhoun 

        6 years ago from Western NC

        Simba - thank you so much. :D I write about a lot of different things, but the anthropology stuff is truly fascinating. Cheers!

      • Simba73 profile image

        Jon 

        6 years ago from UK

        Love it !!! this is right up my street, keep hubbing going to check your hubs out a lot I think :)

        Simba

      • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

        Cynthia Calhoun 

        6 years ago from Western NC

        Kelley - Yeah, pyramids and hieroglyphics always fascinated me and until I finally did research for this, I always wondered if they were related - with the Egyptians and Mayans. I still wonder a little bit, hehe.

        Thebookmom - what fun! Thank you so much for stopping by and I'm glad you enjoyed the read. Have a great day and enjoy your studies of the ancient world. :)

      • thebookmom profile image

        thebookmom 

        6 years ago from Nebraska

        Oh my goodness, so much interesting information in one hub. Well done. We will use the pyramid info in our study of the ancient world.

      • profile image

        kelleyward 

        6 years ago

        This is so interesting. I love uncovering more about what makes people tick. Hieroglyphics has always been so interesting to me, yet also very mysterious. Voted up and shared. Kelley

      • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

        Cynthia Calhoun 

        6 years ago from Western NC

        rLcasaLme - I'm glad you found this interesting. I love this stuff - I studied anthropology in college, so peoples' actions - from the earliest dates to the present are very interesting indeed. Thanks for stopping by!

      • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

        Cynthia Calhoun 

        6 years ago from Western NC

        alocsin - I completely agree! Plus, it's easier to create the geometry of a pyramid than it is to create a box or rectangular structure - the walls tend to fall down after awhile.

        True about hieroglyphics, too. Interestingly enough, when you look at the individual shapes of the Mayan glyphs, they do get pretty complicated. Of course, the Eygptian ones were too.

        Thanks for the votes. Here's to lots more hubs for both of us! :)

      • rLcasaLme profile image

        rLcasaLme 

        6 years ago from Dubai, United Arab Emirates

        This is the statement that caught me:

        "This is significant, however, because this is strong evidence that humans crossed the Bering land bridge long ago and spoke a common language.

        It also attests to the fact that humans have been around long enough to have migrated from continent to continent at very early stages of human existence and carried their languages and customs from place to place, tying early humanity together."

        Interesting!

      • alocsin profile image

        alocsin 

        6 years ago from Orange County, CA

        I'm a language nut so I appreciate these types of hubs. A couple of things about the pyramids -- the reason pyramids around the world are similar is that if you want to make a tall structure, that's the easiest way to do it. You can see the same thing with kids in a sandbox, when they want to make something tall, they pile sand or stones together to look like a pyramid.

        As for hieroglyphics, there are only so many geometric shapes to go around. So many writing systems will have the circle as part of their collection at the simplest level. It's when you get to more complex shapes that you start noticing radical differences.

        Voting this Up and Interesting.

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