Maya Civilization

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 164
  • Published : January 5, 2009
Open Document
Text Preview

Maya civilization is an ancient American culture. It's one of the most developed civilizations in the western hemisphere before the arrival of Europeans. People called the Maya lived in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. Those people built massive stone pyramids, temples, and sculpture; developed a system of writing using hieroglyphs; and recorded their achievements in mathematics and astronomy. Most archeologists said that the Maya culture attained its highest level of development from AD 300 to 900; this period was called the Classic period. Archeologists have found in northern Guatemala highly developed cities sophisticated art, and examples of Maya writing that date from 600 years before the Classic period began. After 900 the Maya declined in the southern lowlands of Guatemala and then reappeared later in the north of Yucatan peninsula and continued to diffuse until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Descendants of the Maya still form a large part of the population of the region. Many of the have adopted Spanish traditions but a significant number still practice the traditional culture.

Geography and landscape

The ancient Maya civilization occupied the Eastern third of Mesoamerica. The topography of the area greatly varied from volcanic mountains to a porous limestone shelf, known as the Lowlands. The southern Lowlands was covered by a rain forest with an average of 150 feet. The northern lowlands also contained forest but they were drier than their southern counterparts. February to May was the dry season with a hot air. At this period, fields had been cut and burned. The skies filled with a smoky grit, making the air more and more uncomfortable. Until the rains came in late May to clear the murky atmosphere.

This region contains may dangerous animals including the jaguar, the caiman (a fierce crocodile), the bull shark, and many species of poisonous snakes. These animals had to be avoided as the Maya scavenged the forest for foods including deer turkey, peccaries, tapirs, rabbits. The highlands climate and air contrasted with that of the Lowlands as it was drier, fresher and cooler. Both the Highlands and the Lowlands were important to the presence of trade within the Mayan civilization. The lowlands produced crops and the principle cultigens being maize. They also produced chili peppers, manioc, cacao, cotton…The lowlands played an important role as the origin of the transportation routes. The rainfalls in the lowlands and the water that collected drained towards the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico in great river systems. These rives were a form of transportation for people and materials. The volcanic highlands were the source of obsidian, jade and other precious metals.

The Maya culture
Contrary to popular belief, the Mayan civilization was, like Greeks, multitude ofseparate entities with a common cultural background. They were religiously and artistically a nation, but politically sovereign states. As many as twenty such states existed on the Yucatan Peninsula, but although a woman has, on rare occasions, ascended to the ruling position, she has never acquired the title of "Mah kina".

Society and economy
Classic Maya kings carried the title K ’ul Ahau. In the classic period, kings took the decisions in religious and political situations. But in the post classic (AD 900 to 1521) period the king’s religious power declined because the institution of priesthood appeared. Merchants were important to Maya society because of the significance of trade. All the great Classic lowland centers were connected by the principle interior trade routes which also controlled the flow of good such as salt, obsidian, jade, cacao; animal pelts tropical bird feathers, and luxury ceramics. In the early classic period Teotihuacan was the greatest city in Mesoamerica. The religious and political power of Teotihuacán radiated throughout Mesoamerica. One result of Teotihuacán’s...
tracking img