All remnants of the distant past are romantic, but ancient Maya civilization has a special fascination. It is a "lost" civilization, whose secrets lie deep in the mysterious tropical forest. The style of Maya architecture and sculpture seems alien and bizarre. The breathtaking splendor of ornate cites, the beautifully constructed grand temples, and the ingeniously developed and advanced caledretics, mathematics, and astronomy easily mark one of the most interesting and prosperous periods in Latin American history. Over period spanning approximately six centuries, the Maya of Central America reached artistic and intellectual heights that no other group in the New World had seen or imagined possible. This period in Mayan culture is believed to be a time of relative peace and tranquility, the ultimate decline of their society is still a great mystery and the cause remains speculative in the minds of many archeologists and anthropologists. I order to categorize Mayan cultural development, most scientists divide Mayan civilization into three distinct periods: Pre-classic, Classic, and Post-classic. The Pre-Classic period is the birth of the Mayan civilization. It is shrouded in mystery, as researchers have a myriad of opinions on where the Mayan people originally migrated from. The first theories were that the Maya were either one of the Lost tribes of Israel or descendants of the lost city of Atlantis. Unfortunately, the most historians can agree on is that the Maya migrated across the Bering Strait from some part of Europe or Asia. In establishing their means of existence, the Maya utilized a system of agriculture and were primarily farmers rather than hunters. Their primary crops consisted of maize (which they considered to be the staff of life), beans, squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cotton, and tobacco; the later they grew for export to Europe. As the Maya became established in the processes of day-to-day living, the Classic period, which encompassed the period of A.D. 300–900, was born. This period is marked by rapid growth in which the Mayans erected their highest and most handsome temples, built their largest and most ornate cities and achieved success in their intellectual endeavors. Research on this period provides the principle source of insight into the Mayan people: the hierarchy of their society, their success and intellectual pursuits, and the origin of their religion. Even though some anthropologists disagree on the number of classes into which Mayan society was divided, most will agree that nobility and priests comprised what was considered to be the Mayan aristocracy who monopolized all positions of authority and is believed to have been the center of the Mayan government. The Maya created their civilization in the area that is now present day Guatemala, South Mexico, Honduras, Belize and Yucatan. Although, the civilization lasted for a very long time, it quickly fell with the coming of the Europeans.
Political and Social Organization
Maya civilization was not a united one, in the sense that it did not all exist in one geographical location nor did the different locations all respect one homogeneous ruling authority. In fact, the Mayan society consisted of a number of different city states. These city states consisted of many citizens with a social organization that relied on group associations. This meant that social groups were created within the society and each different group was allocated rights and responsibilities. Therefore, by belonging to a particular group the individual in Mayan society was allowed to enjoy different rights within society. Additionally, the city states themselves, existed with a large degree of political independence of each other. The result of this political independence was a powerful central authority, not created within the Mayan empire. This meant that there was no one capital for the entire empire. As a...