The Mayan Empire

NIcole C., Macie H., Ally L., & Caleb B.

Time Period

The Early Maya civilization lasted from 1800 BC to 250 CE, while the Classic Maya civilization lasted from 250 CE to 900 CE. The civilization had a mysterious decline from the late 8th century through the end of the 9th century.

Religion

It is a southeastern variant of Mesoamerican religion. It is the result of symbiosis with Roman Catholicism. The Mesoamerican religion is a polytheistic religion that has to do with the two universal faces; time and space. Time symbolizes the cycle of the sun because the sun separates night and day. They used enemy prisoners of war as human sacrifices. The religion's god of war was dissemated by the Spanish when they invaded and conquered the Mayans.
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Social Classes

  • Peasants were farmers
  • Women stayed home, making and raising children
  • Men fought and hunted
  • The ruler (Pacal) was to be descended from God
  • There was a hereditary ruling class

Economy & Trade

The Mayan Civilization had an advanced trade system, consisting of many different trade routes with a vast range of goods and materials.

Their economy didn't use money, because there was no universal form of currency within the civilization. All of their valuable items would vary in value from city to city.

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Art

Mayan art was not originally used to spruce up the Mayan culture. It was used as a major trade valuable. The art mainly consisted of paintings on paper, carvings in wood, bone shells, jade, and stone, clay and stucco models, and terracotta figurines. Metal working was also done, although the recourse was rare to the Maya at the time. They also created music, rituals, and chants. They carved etchings into the monarch's throne after a victorious battle.

Architecture

The Mayans had very complex and beautiful architecture. They created buildings in Limestone, plaster, and cement. These easy to retrieve materials allowed the Mayans to create great structures like the temples and stepping stone pyramids. They often made the houses with etchings and beautiful carvings.

Where the Mayan Empire was

  • In Central America
  • Maya comes from the Ancient Yycatan city of Mayapan
  • Inhabited the lands comprising modern day day Yycantan, Quintana, Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas in Mexico and Southward through Guatamala, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras

Agriculture

Mayans grew a whole variety of foods. They grew pumpkins, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, chili peppers, tomatoes, avocados, bread, papayas, cotton, tobacco, vanilla, cacao, and a variety of wild fruits. They grew all of the these things on pieces of land called "milpa". Milpa is usually around 19000 sq ft in size.

Mayans didn't use basic agricultural methods to grow crops such as crop rotation and irrigation. They simply used stone tools to break up the dirt and remove the underbrush.

Achievements

  • They were influenced by the Olmec
  • The writing system was based on hieroglyphics, written on bark that was folded like an accordian
  • The calendar was called long count, based on cycles of creation and destruction
  • Their houses built of adobe and thatch
  • The central pyramid topped by a shrine

Government

Rulers of the Maya government were thought to have been god-like. Each major Maya city was its own independent entity with its own political powers. Because of the belief in god-like rulers, it was very important to keep the line of power within the families, sometimes including women who became rulers. Due to the city states being ruled independently, there wasn't a certain way that they were lead, causing many different types of government within the empire.

Decline

During the late eighth century and the late ninth century, the Mayan civilization started to collapse, with major cities randomly being abandoned. Scholars have developed several theories while some believe that the Mayans just exhausted the resources that were around them.