Where did the Mayans live?

Wikijunior:Ancient Civilizations/Mayans
August 4, 2017 – 10:46 am
Where did the Mayans live?

Temple of the Cross at Palenque in Southern Mexico.

The Maya were a Mesoamerican civilization. They had the most advanced writing system in the Americas prior to European contact. They used sophisticated mathematic systems and had complex and useful cyclical calendars. Spectacular art and monumental architecture were two other notable accomplishments of this civilization.

What country did they live in?

The ancient Mayans lived in what is now known as southern Mexico and northern Central America including Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Yucatán Peninsula and El Salvador. Their descendants still live there today, and many of them speak the Mayan languages.

What did their buildings look like?

The Mayans were master architects, building pyramids and even entire cities, many of which are still standing today.

Mayan pyramids were made of stone. The stone was carved to create a stair-step design. On the top of each pyramid was a shrine dedicated to a particular deity. Rituals thought to influence the Gods were held in these shrines.

Pyramid of Kulkulkán at Chichén Itzá

Mayan cities grew around the pyramids. They consisted of plazas connected together by sacbeob (whiteway) causeways. There appears to have been little planning in their design; the topography of the region influenced the type of buildings constructed. For example, cities in the hills had tall towers, while cities built on limestone grew into large municipalities.

The largest plazas were at the heart of Mayan cities. They contained governmental and religious buildings, such as the royal acropolis, great pyramid temples, and occasionally ball-courts. Temples and observatories were always constructed so they followed the Mayan interpretation of the orbits of the stars. Outside of this center were less important temples and shrines. At the outskirts lay the homes of the common people.

Building Materials

The Mayans lacked many tools, such as metal tools, pulleys, and perhaps even the wheel. They did, however, have an abundance of materials. The most common material was limestone, taken from local quarries. Limestone was easy to work, and only hardened once removed from its bed. In addition, it could also be used as mortar or stucco. Common homes used wooden poles, adobe (a mixture of straw and sandy clay), and thatch; however, houses made of limestone have been found as well. In the city of Comalcalco, fired-clay bricks have been found as a substitute for stone. The Mayan's used clay, stone, limestone, thatched hay, wooden poles, and metal to make common day houses.

What did they eat?

The Mayans grew a wide variety of crops, including corn (maize), Amaranth, manioc, and sunflower seeds. These crops were grown in permanent raised fields, terraces, forest gardens, and managed fallows. There was also harvesting of wild crops. The Mayans ground cacao and mixed it with water to make the first chocolate.

What did they wear?

The sculpture depicts a sacred ritual. The standing figure wears a headdress of Quetzal plumes. Mayan writing is seen at the top and right side.

When the king appeared in public, he wore white robes and a gold crown on top of his head, decorated with Quetzal (a type of bird) plumes.

During wartime, the Mayans wore masks, while commanders wore robes made of silver and gold. Some Mayan clothes were made of deer skin. Usually women made the clothes.

What did their writing look like?

The Mayans wrote using a series of glyphs (symbolic pictures), which were painted on ceramics, walls, or bark-paper codices (books), carved in wood or stone, or molded in stucco. Each glyph represented a word. Mayans wrote numbers vertically.

The Mayan script was used up until the arrival of the Spanish. Although many Mayan centers went into decline (or were completely abandoned) during or after this period, many Mayans still had the skill and knowledge of Mayan writing, and the early Spanish conquistadors knew of people who could still read and write the script. Unfortunately, the Spanish however believed that the Mayan books were evil so by the end of the 16th century, almost all knowledge of the Mayan script was lost.

Source: en.wikibooks.org
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