The Mayans of Mesoamerica
The ancient Mayans were a very well developed society with a very accurate calendar, skilled architects, artisans, extensive traders and hunters. They are known to have developed medicine and astronomy as well. All of this was developed while the Europeans were still in the Dark Ages.
Their empire covered an area of roughly 400,000 to 500,000 square kilometers. This area included the present day countries of Belize, Guatemala, western Honduras and El Salvador, and also southern portions of Mexico. These lands have a very diverse terrain, from the mountainous highlands to the tropical lowlands. The wide range of geographical features meant that the Mayans food sources varied depending on their location.
The Mayan hunters pursued large game like jaguars, wild boars, and snow leopards as well as small game like hares, rabbits, and squirrels. The three animals that seem to be the most prevalent in Mayan writings are the deer, iguana, and the quetzal bird. This has led archeologists to believe that these animals must have been more than just a food source. It is believed that the quetzal bird was not killed but only captured. While it was captured, they would pluck the feathers from it because they were considered very valuable. The Maya viewed hunting as more than just a food source, similar to the other native peoples we have studied. They had certain rituals that were performed before and after each hunting trip to honor the spirits of the animals they took for their food.
The Maya civilization can be divided into three main periods: Pre-Classic, Classic, and Post-Classic. Their greatest accomplishments most likely took place in the Classic period. This period occurred between 250 and 910AD. An extensive trade network was in place during this period that allowed the civilization to grow as large as sixty separate kingdoms. Other technological advances also took place during this time.
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