1697 – The last Mayan city is defeated by the Spanish

Nojpetén (also known as Tayasal) was the capital city of the Itza Maya kingdom, located in what is now Guatemala. It was the last Mayan capital city to fall to the Spanish in their conquest of the Petén region. After the conquest, the Spanish recorded that it had 21 temples, including a step pyramid of similar size and design to the one in Chichen Itza. These were almost all destroyed, and the Mayan culture was largely eradicated by the conquerors.

The Spanish committed a form of cultural genocide – although we know that the Maya were a highly literate culture, only three books survived the fires made of them by missionaries who believed it was their holy mission to save these primitive heathens. The Maya also had a highly developed system of timekeeping, with a calendar that had been calculated as far in advance as 2012 – leading many to assume, wrongly, that the Maya believed history would end then, rather than that date simply being where the work had ended.

Referenced in:
People of the Sun — Rage Against The Machine

circa 900 CE — The earliest cigarettes are invented by the Maya

The scourge of the world, the cause of oh so many cases of lung cancer and emphysema, cigarettes were first invented by the Maya people of pre-Columbian Meso-America. They apparently used them in religious ceremonies, a use that was later taken up by the Aztecs and other peoples of the Americas. Famously, it was then introduced to the Court of England by Sir Walter Raleigh, and quickly spread to Europe as well.

The Maya and Aztec civilisations featured short enough lifespans to probably not notice the effects of long term smoking, and the ritual nature of their tobacco use kept it reasonably infrequent too. It would take the mass production and consumer culture of Western Civilisation to truly bring cigarettes to their full disease-causing potential.

Referenced in:

Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette) — Tex Williams