Non- European Study – 8b Mayan Civilisation
Who are the Maya?
The Mayan civilisation extended from what is now South East Mexico through Central America.This area included highland and lowland settlements and a variety of climate zones. Crops grown in the lowlands were traded for mineral ores and rocks from the mountainous areas.
Although the Mayans had metal-working skills, metal ores were scarce. Mayans used stone tools to carve the limestone that they used for their buildings.The Mayans did not use wheels or pulleys for their building projects.They did not have draught animals capable of heavy labour. Building materials were transported by human porters or canoes.Archaeological evidence suggests that Mayan settlement in Mesoamerica probably dates from the third millennium BC.
The Mayans of the classic period c200-900 CE adopted many aspects of the earlier Olmecculture and were also influenced by surrounding cultures such as that of the great city of Teotihuacan.Mayan religion was extremely bloodthirsty, demanding human sacrifices and blood-letting rituals. The Mayans believed in an afterlife and that those who were sacrificed, as well as those killed in war and women who died in childbirth, went to ‘the place of misty sky’.
Mayan society was formed of a number of city states each with their own ruler. Each city was surrounded by rural settlements. At the top of Mayan society was the King and Royal family who were believed to be closely linked to the gods. An educated elite of scribes, priests and nobles formed the ruling class. They occupied the finest buildings in the city.
The Mayans were sophisticated mathematicians who made use of the number zero. They used base 20 in their calculations. They were keen astronomers who were able to predict solar eclipses. Their complex calendar system was one of the most accurate of the ancient world.No one knows for sure why the Mayan civilisation went into decline. Possible explanations involve the overuse and exhaustion of farming land, prolonged drought, misrule, warfare and disease.
Who are the Maya?
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