Ancient Origins of the Maya Civilization


The People

The Maya were a people of many different tribes who shared some common cultural and spiritual beliefs. Most lived in villages, which were small by modern standards. They had their own king and government, but these were not as powerful as the kings of Europe at that time.

The Maya were highly skilled mathematicians and astronomers, who developed one of the only accurate calendars in history. They were also skilled artisans who produced beautiful artworks from jade, pottery, gold and other materials. Their stone temples are still standing today and have been made into popular tourist attractions for thousands of visitors to see each year. The Maya also built huge cities on top of mountains in Central America with pyramids and palaces that are still being discovered today among the jungle trees and plants. Their cities had markets where they traded goods like seashells from far away lands; they used these shells as currency! The Maya also grew food such as corn (maize), beans and squash; they hunted animals such as deer or turkeys for meat; they fished with nets or spears to catch fish or turtles; they raised pet dogs that lived with families in homes like cats do today; they fought wars against rival groups using bows & arrows along with shields made out of animal skin called “rawhide” though sometimes these would wear down over time due to use so another type was needed later on throughout this era called “wickerwork” which lasted longer than rawhide shields did because it had more durability when fighting off enemies during combat situations.

The Language

The Mayans were one of the most advanced and sophisticated civilizations of their time, with an advanced writing system that was used for about 1000 years. Mayan art and architecture flourished in Central America from 300 A.D. until around 1200 A.D., when they disappeared during the Spanish conquest. The ancient Mayans had a highly developed social structure, complete with works of art depicting elaborate rituals, music, dance and storytelling as part of their culture (think Aztec Stadiums). Around 400 A.D., they developed a great deal of fine stone work which is still seen today at temples throughout the region and on stelae dedicated to Chac Mool, a deity that began as a god for merchants but evolved into the ruler of the gods by about 200 AD.

The Origins

After our visit to Belize, I was reminded that the Maya are still very much alive and well. But if you want to know more about their origins, then it’s time for a little history lesson.

The Maya civilization is so ancient it predates the Olmecs by 1,000 years. That’s something like four times as old as the Roman Empire! The Olmec culture flourished from 1500BC and 900BC in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico and were obviously a very important culture in their own right, but we’re talking about the ancient origins of the Maya civilization today.

The Maya civilization emerged around 2600BC with three cultural centres: Palenque, Copan and Tikal. They began growing crops and living in rudimentary structures during this period which is known as Preclassic or Formative Period (c. 2600–250 BC).

In addition to being highly skilled artists and architects, the Maya were known for their advanced mathematics and science.

Modern science has shown that these people were far more advanced than had ever been imagined. They were not only skilled architects and sculptors, but they were also mathematicians, astronomers, and writers.

In addition to being highly skilled artists and architects, the Maya were known for their advanced mathematics and science. Like many other Mesoamerican civilizations, they developed a number system composed of only three symbols: a shell-like glyph (meaning 0 or “nothing”), a dot (which stood for 1), and a bar (which represented 5). This numeral system was both simple in concept yet sophisticated enough for most mathematical needs. The Maya were the first civilization in the Western Hemisphere to develop the concept of zero. The Maya used their numerical system in their architecture by using different combinations of bars and dots on buildings to represent numerical dates important to the Maya culture such as dates of coronations or victories.

One of these advanced strains of thought is astronomy. In fact, it is believed that some pyramids were built as observatories that aided astronomers in tracking stars across the sky through various points each year so that they could accurately predict eclipses, planetary movements, seasons and even create an accurate calendar system with which they did not see any variance over time. Mayan astronomers calculated the length of the solar year to be 365 days with unprecedented accuracy -- several hundredths closer than our current calculations -- a result which modern scientists are still unable to fully explain today!

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