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 The Maya

 

 

 

 

Map of Mayadom

 

The Mayans were famous for with their amazing art , architecture, glyph writing system and astronomical knowledge . By the close of the Pre-Classic period, around 250 A.D., the Mayans were already building their famous stepped temple pyramids in cities such as Uxactum and Tikal .

 

Facade of the Codzpop Building, Kabah, 800-1200 AD. Elaborate Mayan facade made up of masks of the rain god Chac .

 

Breaking the Maya Code

How a diverse group of people were able to unlock the 200 year old mystery of the Mayan glyphs

 

The Maya area is generally divided into three loosely defined zones: the southern Maya highlands, the southern (or central) Maya lowlands, and the northern Maya lowlands. The southern Maya highlands include all of elevated terrain in Guatemala and the Chiapas highlands. The southern lowlands lie just north of the highlands, and incorporate the Petén of the Mexican states of Campeche and Quintana Roo and northern Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador. The northern lowlands cover the remainder of the Yucatán Peninsula, including the Puuc hills .

 

 

The Maya: Engineering an Empire

 

Pyramid in Tikal

 

 

 Archaeological documentary about the Red Queen, found

next to Lord Pacal's tomb at Palenque

 

 

 

They reached their greatness in the Classic period from 600 to 900 A.D.The Classic Maya were divided among many often warring city states. they appeared to have grouped themselves into military alliances, those that supported Tikal in Guatemala and Calakmul in Campeche, Mexico . Tikal is believed to have conquered Calakmul in 695 A.D., but was unable to exert imperial control over all of the Mayan cultural area .They developed an agriculturally intensive, city-centered empire consisting of numerous independent city-states. This includes the well-known cities of Tikal, Palenque, Copán and Calakmul, but also the lesser known Dos Pilas, Uaxactun, Altun Ha, and Bonampak, among others.The major Mayan city of the classic period was Tikal, in Guatemala, which is estimated to have had a population of 100,000.

  

The Ancient Maya

Robert Sharer

The most comprehensive and most lavishly illustrated book on its subject

Journal of Latin American Studies

 

Popol Vuh, the Mayan book of creation Originally written in Mayan hieroglyphs, it was transcribed into the Roman alphabet in the sixteenth century

 

The Popol Vuh : Mayan Creation Myth Animated Full Version

 

Palenque

 

 

Video on Palenque

 

There is no common cause for the downfall of all the Mayan centers . In the second half of the 700s, trade between the Mayan city states began to decline and conflicts grew .By the early 900s , many of the major cities were abandoned .This decline was coupled with a cessation of monumental inscriptions and large-scale architectural construction.Although there is no universally accepted theory to explain this “collapse,” current theories fall into two categories: non-ecological and ecological.

 

Non-ecological theories of Maya decline are divided into several subcategories, such as overpopulation, foreign invasion, peasant revolt, and the collapse of key trade routes. Ecological hypotheses include environmental disaster, epidemic disease, and climate change. There is evidence that the Mayan population exceeded carrying capacity of the environment including exhaustion of agricultural potential and erosion and overhunting. The Mayan heartland underwent a population explosion between 600 and 900 A.D.Some scholars have recently theorized that an intense 200 year drought led to the collapse of Mayan civilization based on soil samples .

 

A Forest of Kings

The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya

Linda Schele and David Freidel

 

Mayapan

 

In the early 900s, an army of Mayan speaking Toltec invaders, conquered much of the Yucatan with a leader called Kukulcan, the Mayan translation for Quetzalcoatl .they came upon Chihen Itza, which had been abandoned in 692, they rebuilt it and it became their capital. These people formed a league of Mayan states and erected a capital called Mayapan .Some believe this leader to be Topiltzin-Quetzalcoatl mentioned in the Toltec page. The invaders invigorated Mayan culture and forged a new culture in the Mayan areas .According to Mayan chronicles , the League of Mayapan endured from 987 to 1194 . Under the Toltec system a military caste seized power and human sacrifice became common .The ruins of Chichen Itza are evocative of Tula as are the reclining Chacmool statues for holding sacrificial human hearts which become common in this era .The Toltecs were gradually absorbed into Mayan culture .Sacrificial victims were also thrown into sacred cenote or sinkholes, believing that they were gateways to another world .

 

          

   Chacmool statue

 

    

   Cenote

 

Thereafter occurred a civil war between Mayapan and Chichen Itza. In 1441, civil war broke out again and Mayapan was sacked , resulting in the decentralization of the Yucatan Maya .Anarchy became widespread and cities fell into ruin .when the Spanish arrived they found only the impoverished descendants of the glory that was Mayan civilization .Yet the Mayans were able to fight off the Spanish for over a hundred years. The last independent Maya kingdom of Tayasal, fell as late as 1697. However, the Maya survived and there is estimated to be at least one million Mayas living in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras today.

 

 

The Mayans built great sea going canoes that held as many as forty people, the one great New World cultures to do so .Columbus himself saw one of these canoes of the coast of Honduras.A few years later, a Spanish navigator on the Yucatan noticed some well constructed buildings and inquired in Spanish the natives who they were . The answer was ' Ci-u-than', which meant, ' we don't understand you .' and brought us the name Yucatan .The Mayans as far as the Nicaraguan Lakes and made contact with the Caribs on Cuba and Jamaica .

 

 

The Maya writing system (often called hieroglyphs from a superficial resemblance to the Ancient Egyptian writing) was a combination of phonetic symbols and logograms. It is most often classified as a logographic or (more properly) a logosyllabic writing system, in which syllabic signs play a significant role. It is the only writing system of the Pre-Columbian New World which is known to completely represent the spoken language of its community. In total, the script has more than a thousand different glyphs, although a few are variations of the same sign or meaning, and many appear only rarely or are confined to particular localities. At any one time, no more than around 500 glyphs were in use, some 200 of which (including variations) had a phonetic or syllabic interpretation .

 

corbelled arch

 

Mayan architecture was characterized by false fronts and pyramids that were steeper than in the other cultures .The detail in Mayan art gives it a baroque quality.These pyramids relied on intricate carved stone in order to create a stair-step design. Each pyramid was dedicated to a deity whose shrine sat at its peak.

 

Uxmal Pyramid of the Magician

 

During this "height" of Maya culture, the centers of their religious, commercial and bureaucratic power grew into incredible cities, including Chichen Itza, Tikal, and Uxmal.At the heart of the Maya city existed the large plazas surrounded by their most valued governmental and religious buildings such as the royal acropolis, great pyramid temples and occasionally ball courts.

 

Facade of the Codzpop Building, Kabah, 800-1200 AD. Elaborate Mayan facade made up of masks of the rain god Chac

 

They most often utilized limestone, which remained pliable enough to be worked with stone tools while being quarried, and only hardened once removed from its bed. In addition to the structural use of limestone, much of their mortar consisted of sascab, a substance made from crushed, burnt, and mixed limestone that mimicked the properties of cement and was used just as widely for stucco finishing as it was for mortar. The corbeled arch, was often utilized to mimic the appearance and feel of the simple Maya hut.

 

Mayan story cup

 

 

 Cracking the Mayan Code

 

The Mayan Calendar

 

The Mayan calendar had 365 days and established theirs at 3,133 B.C for mythical reasons. the Mayan writing system was deciphered in the 1980s leading to huge advances in understanding Mayan culture .

 

 

Video on the Mayan calendar

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Dresden codex, one of the few Mayan books that have survived burning by the Spanish

Religion permeated all aspects of Mayan life. To win the gods' favors they carried out elaborate rituals involving rituals to enter a trancelike state by drinking alcoholic balche, self mutilation, dancing and sacrifices . Human sacrifice was practiced on a small scale, unlike with the Aztecs and Toltecs .There were many layers of heavens and hells. The earth itself was on a giant reptile in a pond .Mayan gods included itzamma, the creator, Chac, the rain god and Yum Kaxx, the maize and vegetation god.Quetzalcoatl was worshipped as Kukulcan

 

The Caracol, Chichen Itza 800- 1200 AD.A famous example of Toltec-Mayan architecture. Here, Mayan astronomers could determine the equinox . View larger image here .

 

 

Invading Guatemala: Spanish, Nahua, and Maya Accounts of the Conquest Wars 

 First time English translations of firsthand accounts by Spaniards, Nahuas, and Mayas on the Mayan conquest, which took much longer than the Aztec conquest .

 Between the 3rd and 10th centuries A.D., the Mayan civilization ruled much of Central America. Travel back to the magnificent Mayan cities of Uxmal, Tulum, Chichén Itza and the capital Palenque, with its breathtaking pyramid built by master mathematicians. Being that it is located on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, it is, to this day, one of the most picturesque places in the world.

 

Temple of the Warriors, Chichen Itza 800-1200 AD. The Toltecs invaded the Yucatan at the end of the 11th century and recreated the institutions of their former capital, Tula .This temple unites Toltec and Mayan forms .The Toltec Lord of the Dawn and the Mayan rain God Chac, appear in the temple.

 

Entrance to the Temple of the warriors, Chichen Itza 800-1200 AD. Two serpent columns in the form of a rattlesnake stand behind a Chacmool, the supernatural bearer of the offering to the gods, often human hearts . View larger image here .

 

 

  

 

Molded face, Late classic 550-950 AD, perhaps the face of a ruler Palenque

 

Tomb lid of Pacal the Great 603-683, ruler of Palenque and appeared in Erich von Däniken's movie "Chariots of the Gods?" as a depiction of an ancient astronaut

 

 

World's Largest Pyramid Discovered, Lost Mayan City Of Mirador Guatemala CNN

 

Temple scene from Apocalypto

Apocalypto

 

 

 

 

 

 

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