mayanfeaturedThe Mayan civilization was a group dating back over 2,700 years. Many people believe that they were simply normal people for their time, while others believe that there was something both mysterious and perhaps mystical about them. Whether it is the El Castillo Pyramid at Chichen Itza, or their unique calendar which came to a mysterious end on December 21, 2012, there is something about this civilization that is just absolutely fascinating.

mayan8bHow in the world did they build these elaborate pyramids and temples, which even modern day engineers say would be nearly impossible to replicate today? How could people who lived so long ago seemingly be so advanced? These questions may never be answered, but it is always fun to contemplate.

Some scientists have come up with explanations for the Mayans’ incredible building techniques, while there are other theorists who believe that perhaps they had help from creatures from outer space. Some say that perhaps this civilization was far more advanced than even we are today, but somehow all of that knowledge and technology was lost, when the civilization of over 19 million people collapsed sometime in the 8th or 9th centuries AD. Again, there may never be answers to these theories, but some people will continue to search for them.

Gold pendants of what appear to be aircraft

Gold pendants of what appear to be aircraft

Another great mystery that has caused many researchers to scratch their heads, are a group of 1,000-year-old gold pendants which have been unearthed within the Mayan ruins. These pendants measure just 150mm x 125mm in dimension, but they resemble objects that look almost exactly like modern-day airplanes. Some people debate the possibilities that these pendants are actually supposed to be flying insects or animals, but others bring up evidence that seems to prove that this is not the case. Airplanes, you see, require a part called a “vertical stabilizer”, which all of these pendants happen to feature, yet not a single animal on earth possesses. The question that remains is, “Could these aircraft actually fly?”

Thanks to 3D printing, we have found out. A group of researchers a the Tongji University College of Aerospace Engineering and Applied Mechanics, decided to test the feasibility of flying these aircraft, by utilizing a combination of 3D printing and laser cutting.

The team first modeled the pendants in CAD before printing them out on an FFF-based 3D printer at a 10:1 scale. Then using laser cutters, they were able to create an interior skeleton for the aircraft. The final model measured 25 times the size of the pendants, still much smaller than a full-sized aircraft though. They then ran all sorts of diagnostic tests to figure out where the models needed to have the most structural strength.

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The final model featured a wingspan of 1.5 meters, a remote control to fly it from land, a 18.5V lithium battery for power, and a two-blade wooden propeller which was powered by a brushless motor.  It was then ready for the ultimate test flight to see if it could actually fly.

“The results show that this aircraft has a very good aerodynamic performance and stability,” lead researcher, Shen Haijun stated. “We have carried out this project with the intentions of tracing the true origins of human spacecraft, to showcase the magical charm of ancient human civilization and get design inspiration and enlightenment.”

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Is it coincidence that the Mayans created pendants that look very similar to modern day airplanes, which also happen to feature the aerodynamics needed for flight, or did aircraft actually exist in the times of the Mayans and then somehow vanish off of the face of the earth along with the civilization? I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any means, and I try to avoid such conversations, but 3D printing may have just helped support theories that the Mayans were a much more advanced civilization than they get credit for….. unless of course these were alien spacecraft, but that’s an entirely different conversation for another day.

What do you think? Did the Mayan civilization actually have aircraft? Has 3D printing provided enough proof or do you still need convincing? Discuss in the 3D Printed Mayan Aircraft forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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