Mayan tribes history
The Mayans have a very historical inheritance in the many ruins scattered throughout the world. Tourists from all over are experiencing first hand a part of history that just inexplicably baffles the mind, as even today, historians cant seem to agree on the precise cause of the demise of the Maya Indians. There are various tribes that comprise the Mayan community, of which their language is still spoken, although English is also practiced.
All inhabitants of the Americas are thought to have originally migrated across the Bering Straits when the level of the oceans dropped enough to form a land bridge between Alaska and Siberia. These foraging nomads migrated throughout North America and eventually down through Central and South America.
The archaeological record shows evidence of the first Maya people as early as 1100 BC. These pioneers descended into the Copan Valley in Honduras from either the Guatemala highlands or another nearby mountainous region and made temporary camps in the known Maya region. Early Maya inhabitants hunted local game and developed agricultural subsistence techniques until about 900 BC. Around this time, the first true farmers of the Maya people built permanent residences in the valley (Schele and Freidel 1990: 306-307).
About 4000 BC, these people had spread out over the highland areas of Central America and soon reached a population size where they began to form small settlements and domesticate plants.
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Archaeologists are able to date finds and sites of the Mayan civilization using artifacts of ceramic, stone, shells and bone. They also use the Mayans own calendar. The Mayans used a rather complex calendar system. Monumental stone inscriptions were carved using a hieroglyphic script and a method of reckoning the passage of time called the Long Count. The most striking feature of this system is that the Mayans dated events to the exact day.
Archaeologists have devised numerous correlations with our own Gregorian calendar to accurately place any event recorded in these Mayan inscriptions. Devised by three well known archaeologists, the most accepted interpretation of the Mayan dates is known as the G-M-T correlation. Using these dates, Archaeologists have been able to decipher three major periods of Mayan Civilization - the Preclassic, Classic and Postclassic periods. For perspective, the flowering of the Mayan civilization corresponds to the later years of the Roman Empire
This chronology of the Mayan civilization is rather simple. Simply put, it started in the Preclassic period, rose to dominance in the Classic period, and declined and disappeared in the Postclassic period.
The beginning of Mayan life in Central America (known as Mesoamerica to archaeologists) occurred around 5000 BC, when wandering nomads from the north found they could settle down and domesticate plants. These early crops consisted of corn, beans and other plants. The domestication of plants required that people stay in one location to tend the fields. Thus were born the first Mayan settlements.
With the growth of settlements and farming, so came innovations to make life easier. Some of the more important inventions include pottery vessels for storage, cooking and serving of food. Because of its weight and fragility, pottery is not often used by nomads. The presence of pottery normally indicates a tendency to long term settlement. Much of what archaeologists know of the early Preclassic period in Belize comes from the Mayan site of Cuello, outside of Orange Walk Town. Radiocarbon dating from a series of buildings and trash dumps (archaeologists love places where people threw their trash) reveal occupation from about 2500 BC. These structures were small buildings with clay platforms and fired clay hearths.
Other items of preclassic origin that were identified include stone utensils for grinding corn and a fluted stone projectile point. During the preclassic time, corn progressed from being a small cobbed, low yielding crop to larger cobbed, high-yielding varieties. The farmers were learning how to maximize their efforts, and passed on what they learned to succeeding generations.
With the improvement in farming, the invention of more sophisticated tools, and the growth in size of settlements, the Maya culture became associated with a civilization with larger cities containing ceremonial centers.
As time progressed, the sites became more numerous and larger. The sites exhibited more organization with public buildings, elaborate burials, and jade jewlerly. Jade became a spectacular marker of the elite, both in quantity owned and in the quality of the workmanship.
Near the end of the Preclassic Period, trading flourished as networks formed between the growing settlements. Most of the major ceremonial centers were started about this time.
The Classic Period is the Mayan Golden Age. Mesoamerica became adorned with massive, ornate and brightly colored architecture. Exquisite works of art and advances in astronomy and mathematics are hallmarks of this Period. This was the age of the development of one of the most sophisticated systems of writing ever devised in the Western Hemisphere.