Ancient Maya Civilitation learning resources
The ancient Maya civilization inhabited the area known today as southern Mexico, specifically the areas of the modern-day countries of Belize, Guatemala, western Honduras, and northern El Salvador, from around 2000 BC to 900 AD. Discoveries show that the Maya were an incredibly advanced people who made important progress in areas such as writing, language, mathematics, astronomy, religion and architecture. The Maya are now known as a classical civilization of Mesoamerica for their skills and astounding progress as a civilization. By 900 AD, the Maya abandoned their living areas in droves; the reason for this is still shrouded in mystery.
The earliest traces of human civilization in the Maya region dates to 9000 BC, with villages forming around 2000 BC. The Maya only progressed towards more advanced types of skills and development around 200 BC. During the Protoclassic era, (100 AD to 250 AD), the population soared. Until 600 AD, they advanced tremendously in terms of architecture, literature and science. Their progress continued until 800 AD, after which began the mass withdrawal from the Mayan cities.
Politics and Warfare
The ancient Maya developed a system of structured government that used kings, law-makers and priests. Socially important people were appointed to government posts. Political power was passed down within families or granted by nobles. Towards the second half of its existence, the ancient Mayas split into sovereign states, at which point warfare became a common feature of everyday life.
Religion and Ritual
The Maya were extremely religions and superstitious Their gods were related to aspects of daily life such as fire, rain, hunting, fishing, war, and music. The Maya were very conscious of pleasing their gods. The priests, considered to be a direct link to the gods, taught religion and led ritual ceremonies. The Maya actively practiced religion in their daily lives by praying, preparing offerings and sacrifices for the gods, practicing celibacy, fasting and using incense.
Classic Maya Religion (PDF)
Astronomy and Calendar System
The Maya were engrossed with understanding time and astronomy and closely tied both of these subjects to religion. They were incredibly intelligent in their calculations and accurately predicted the cycles of planets and moons thousands of years before European astronomers could even grasp the subject. Their discoveries were methodically documented and show that they understood the concept of other galaxies in space as well as black holes. Their calendar was based on a 365-day cycle around the sun and astronomy and religious beliefs were used to create months and lucky days.
The Maya created a system of picture writing, which can be compared to the hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt. It was extensively developed, was used until the 16th century and could also be read aloud. There was no single Maya language. Instead, they employed various dialects, since the people originated from different communities.
The Maya were accomplished builders and created impressive stone structures that still stand today. Their buildings ranged from huts to ceremonial temples used to communicate with the gods. They used mud and limestone and cut the stone to suit their purposes. Most dwellings featured sloping roofs and the structure was completed with a wash of lime stucco on the outside to make the building more durable.