The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. The Maya civilization extended throughout the present-day southern Mexican states of Chiapas, Tabasco, and the Yucatán Peninsula states of Quintana, Campeche and Yucatán. The Maya area also extended throughout the northern Central American region, including the present-day nations of Guatemala, Belize, western Honduras and extreme northern El Salvador.
The Maya area is generally divided into three loosely defined zones: the southern Pacific lowlands, the highlands, and the northern lowlands. The Maya highlands include all of elevated terrain in Guatemala and the Chiapas highlands. The southern lowlands lie just south of the highlands, and incorporate a part of the Mexican state of Chiapas, the south coast of Guatemala, Belize and northern El Salvador. The northern lowlands cover all of the Yucatán Peninsula, including the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo, the Petén Department of Guatemala, and all of Belize. Parts of the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas are also included in the northern lowlands.
The Mayas numbered in the millions, they created a multitude of kingdoms and small empires, built monumental palaces and temples, engaged in grandiose ceremonies, and developed an elaborate hieroglyphic writing system. The social basis of this exuberant civilization was a large political and economic intersocietal network (world system) extending throughout the Maya region and beyond to the wider Mesoamerican world. The political, economic, and culturally dominant ‘core’ Maya units of the Classic Maya world system were located in the central lowlands, while its corresponding dependent or ‘peripheral’ Maya units were found along the margins of the southern highland and northern lowland areas. But as in all world systems, the Maya core centers shifted through time, starting out during Preclassic times in the southern highlands, moving to the central lowlands during the Classic period, and finally shifting to the northern peninsula during the Postclassic period. In this Maya world system the semi-peripheral (mediational) units generally took the form of trade and commercial centers.
Like other civilizations, the Maya had rulers and a ruling class, and their political structure was complex. Their kings were powerful and claimed to be descended from the Gods and the planets. The Maya culture began around 1800 B.C. in the lowlands of the Yucatan and southern Mexico. For centuries, their culture slowly advanced, but as of yet they had no concept of kings or royal families. It wasn't until the middle to late preclassic periods(300 B.C. or so) that evidence of kings began to appear at certain Maya sites. The founding King of Tikal's first royal dynasty, Yax Ehb' Xook, lived sometime in the Preclassic period. By 300 A.D., kings were common and the Maya began building stelae to honor them: large, stylized stone statues which describe the King, or "Ahau," and his accomplishments. The Maya Kings claimed descent from the Gods and planets, laying claim to a quasi-divine status, somewhere between humans and Gods. A Maya king was groomed from birth to rule. A prince had to pass through many different initiations and rites. As king, he was supreme head of the military and was expected to fight and participate in any armed conflicts entered into by his city-state. He also had to participate in many religious rituals, as he was a conduit between humans and the Gods. Kings were allowed to take multiple wives.
Mayan's laws were very, very strict. It did not matter who you were but if you committed a crime you would be punished. Some of the punishments were things like a fine, or having all of your possessions sold or auctioned , or being sold into slavery or possibly getting thrown into a...
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