Mayan Mesoamerican civilization
The Maya were a mysterious ancient civilization with advanced writing, mathematics and astronomical systems, and who's predictions linger in todays headlines.
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. The Maya civilization shares many features with other Mesoamerican civilizations due to the high degree of interaction that characterized the region. Advances such as writing, and the calendar did not originate with the Maya; however, they fully developed them. Maya influence can be detected from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and as far as central Mexico, more than 1000 km from the Maya are. Many outside influences are found in Maya art and architecture, which are thought to result from trade and cultural exchange rather than direct external conquest.
The Maya civilization extended throughout the present-day southern Mexican states. The Maya area also extended throughout the northern Central American region, including the present-day nations of Guatemala, Belize, Northern El Salvador and western Honduras.
The Maya area is generally divided into three loosely defined zones: the southern Maya highlands, the central lowlands, and the northern lowlands. The southern Maya highlands include all of elevated terrain in Guatemala. The southern lowlands lie just north of the highlands, and incorporate the Mexican states of Campeche and Quintana Roo and northern Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador. The northern lowlands cover the remainder of the Yucatán Peninsula.
Like the Aztec and Inca who came to power later, the Maya believed in a cyclical nature of time. The rituals and ceremonies were very closely associated with celestial and terrestrial cycles which they observed and inscribed as separate calendars. The Maya priest had the job of interpreting these cycles and giving a prophetic outlook on the future or past based on the number relations of all their calendars. They also had to determine if the heavens were propitious for performing certain religious ceremonies.
The Maya practiced human sacrifice. In some Maya rituals people were killed by having their arms and legs held while a priest cut the person's chest open and tore out his heart as an offering. This is depicted on ancient objects such as pictorial texts. Much of the Maya religious tradition is still not understood by scholars, but it is known that the Maya believed that the cosmos had three major planes, the Earth, the underworld beneath and the heavens above.
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