The Crocodile

The American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) can grow up to 4.8 m (16 ft) in length and weight up to 400 kg (880 lb).

Watch the video showing the crocodile retreat back into the water.
Video by Francisco Asturias.

With its Asian relative the Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), the American crocodile is the only species to commonly live in salt water and they are often found in the “cayes” (small islands on the coastline of Belize) and in the Caribbean sea.

Although dangerous to humans, American crocodiles are not very aggressive and attacks are rare.

Morelet’s crocodiles (Crocodylus moreleti) are usually smaller than American crocodiles. They grow up to 3 m (exceptionally over 4 m). Thick scales cover the body. Morelet’s crocodiles prefer fresh water habitats such as lakes, ponds, rivers, and swamps.

The Spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) is the smallest crocodilian in Central America but also the most common. It lives in a wide range of wetland and riverine habitats.

Want to see the crocodile snacking…keep your eye on it….
Video by Francisco Asturias.

The Maya used the same word for various species of crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus and Crocodylus moreleti) and caimans (Caiman crocodilus): A’ayin or Ahiin.

The glyph for Ahiin is the stylised head of a crocodile with a cross in the eye:

Maya ghieroglyph for crocodile
Maya glyph for crocodile

Crocodiles in the Maya World

Rulers often took the name of a crocodile in their title, for example a ruler of Tikal, was named Yax Nuun Ahiin I (Blue-Green Knot Crocodile). He came to the throne on 12th September 379.

Can you spot the crocodile in this painted vase?

In Maya creation myths it is mentioned that the earth arose out of the sea and so the crocodile could be used in comparison, in the way it rises slowly to the surface of the water.

The Maya often made crocodiles out of clay such as the ones seen below.

Found at Santa Rita Corozal, Belize
Found at Comalcalco, Mexico

They even made clay crocodile rattles and whistles, why don’t you try making your own?

You can use the instructions for making a bird clay whistle and just shape the clay as a crocodile instead.

An example of a whistle, from Jaina Island, Mexico

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