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The Mayas

The Mayas

The Mayas were a group of early people who settled in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize and extended all the way into Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula. The initial source centered itself in the Peten region, with the Tikal and Uaxactun agglomerations. Mayan religious centers or cities include: Bonampak, Chichen Itza, Copan, Palenque, Uxmal, and others.

The Mayas were a vast and large group and well civilized. The Mayas early culture and forms of learning have fascinated archaeologists, sociologists, and anthropologists. The records have shown that the Mayas used very detailed and scientific form of time keeping and a very complex alphabet.


The exact date of the Mayas appearance is not certain, but it is believed that they were settled as early as 1000 BC. Archaeologists believe it was during the mid-Preclassic period, around 600 BC, when some of the earliest known Mayan complexes were constructed. Mayans temples were built on gigantic stepped pyramids; each side of the structure had steps leading to the ornate stone temple located on its peak. The interior of Mayan temples were decorated with intricate mural paintings. Mayan hieroglyphics usually represented full words or syllabics.

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The Mayans were also known for their writings and calendar. The Mayan calendar tracked phenomena like the solar year, the lunar year and the synodic period of Venus. Their calendar may have been a product of their religion as their rituals and ceremonies were both associate with celestial cycles. It was the shaman of the tribe that interpreted the cycles and sacrifices would be performed if he said bad times were coming.


Between 200 and 900 AD, the Mayas were making some of the most beautiful art in the world. Carvings and stucco reliefs as well as statues show the human form in a very graceful and accurate way. Their architecture is also viewed as an art form. It spans thousands of years and there is still many examples of their architecture left such as the Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza, the most important capital of the Mayan civilization around 900 AD.


They also had other magnificent cities such as Tikal and Uxmal that were all cultural centers. In the city of Copan, there was a tomb recently discovered of one of the Mayans ancient rulers. Most Mayan cities also contained a ball court – a grand court for the ball game they loved to play.


Not much of the Mayan empire is remaining today: when the Spanish discovered them, they burned and destroyed most of the Mayan records. Yet what does remain testifies to the technological capabilities and advancements of these “primitive” people. Not only were the Mayas early builders, but they also had a well-structured formal government in place. Hieroglyphics and records kept by the early colonies show that their governments ruled and conquered neighboring people. The Mayas also traded with other tribes and many of their items of barter included salt, cacao, and the mineral Obsidian. It is also shown that the early Mayas were well advanced in other areas as well. It is believed that they were great farmers who had developed impressive systems and technologies that were well ahead of their time.

The most interesting fact about the Maya Indians has to be that no one knows for sure what happened to them. It is believed that at some time near 900-1000 AD the Mayas just disappeared. No one is sure what caused the ultimate collapse of the Mayan civilization, but the theories include several things such as a social uproar, hunger and war.

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