The Mayan Civilization

The Mayan Civilization resided in parts of Southern Mexico (Yucatan Peninsula) and Central America (ex. Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras). The Geographic features were unlimited including mountains, volcanoes, jungles, coastal plains, and swampy lands.

Some of the typical physical characterstics of the Mayan were short in height from 4 ft. 8 in. to 5 ft. 2 in., straight black hair, painted bodies, tattoos, and flat foreheads. The time periods that they existed are Pre-Classic B.C.2500 to A.D.250 Classic, A.D.250 to A.D.900, and Post-Classic A.D.900 to A.D.1500

They worshipped many different gods representing nature and daily life. There was a variety of religious festival and celebrations including humans and animals. The ruler was the high priest or the living god. The priests had knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. They believed the gods created humans from corn. Once a ruler died, they believed that the ruler would become a god. That's why the pyramids were built over sacred remains of rulers.

The Mayan writing, mathematics, and astrology were very advanced. They used pictures to represent ideas, their alphabet was made of pictures not letters. Their mathematics were more advanced than the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Mayan civilization loved to study the movement of the sun, moon, stars, and planets. There were many observatories built. The Mayan had two calendars one was the Sacred calendar which consisted of 260 days and the Earthly calendar which consisted of 365 days.

The Early Maya were hunters and gatherers. They also used the slash and burn method which means they cut down trees, dried, and then burned them which made ashes which will fertilize the soil. The major food sources were maize, beans, chili, squash, tomatoes, avocado, pumpkin, and cacao. They also had fruit orchards and vegetable gardens. The Mayan agriculture could be considered the demise of the Mayan culture.

The most famous ruins of the Mayan cities are Tikal, the largest city, over 100,000 people with eight pyramids, Copan, the second largest city which still has a ballcourt, Chitchen Itza , which has an observatory tower and the "Well of Human Sacrifice". The cities included a ceremonial center, tall pyramids, large open plazas, and don't forget the palaces. The ruler and priests lived in the center, upper and middle class houses surrounded the center, and the peasants lived in huts on the outer edge of the city. They built raised roads otherwise known as causeways. The buildings were made of stone and cement.

Around 850 A.D. The Mayan suddenly and mysteriously abandoned their cities. There are many theories on this subject. The cause could have been from disease, natural disaster, deforestation, or even revolt.

On the following page you will find a compilation of a lot of links that are great tools to learn more about the Mayan culture. Pay particular attention to the Mayan Agricultural sites.

Mayan Links

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