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Without these cookies, we won't know if you have any performance-related issues that we may be able to address. These cookies help us understand user behavior within our services. For example, they let us know which features and sections are most popular. Maya civilization was part of this independent evolutionary process. Located in eastern Mesoamerica, the ancient Maya flourished in a diverse homeland in Mexico, Guatemala,.

Major construction ceases at most cities in the Maya heartland. May 4, CE 9. April 29, CE 9. Colony of New Spain established. August 8, CE 9.

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January 10, CE April 28, CE 9. February 8, CE 8. This date is recorded in both Western and Maya calendars. February 24, 37 CE 7. Ancient raised fields at Pulltrouser Swamp in Belize are shown in this aerial photograph. In Pre-Columbian times war captives were highly prized by the Maya. The Postclassic saw a revival of Maya civilization beginning by ca. Over this span, uncounted generations of Maya people lived in villages, towns, and cities from the southern coastal plain and mountainous highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala, to the tropical lowlands of northern Guatemala, Belize, and Yucatan.

The Maya created a sophisticated agricultural system, supplemented by forest, river, and seashore resources, to support a population that reached into the tens of millions. Archaeology has revealed this agricultural infrastructure, well adapted to varied highland and lowland environments. Excavated canals show that irrigation was employed in the highland Valley of Guatemala by the Middle Preclassic and expanded during the Late Preclassic.

The lowlands hold extensive remnants of raised fields and drainage canals that made swampy land productive, and expanses of terraces that did the same for hilly terrain. Research has identified the agricultural bounty from crops like maize, beans, squashes, manioc, chili peppers, and cacao, along with domesticated turkeys, and cotton for skillfully woven clothing and textiles. Ancient Maya society was founded on ties of kinship, class, and community.

Every Maya polity was composed of an array of communities, large and small. The largest cities served as the capitals of independent kingdoms, containing. Lowland cities were mostly constructed of masonry; highland cities favored adobe and timber. In all Maya cities, hundreds to thousands of houses of the common people were constructed of adobe or pole and thatch.

In peacetime, these capitals and their people prospered from trade networks that connected them with other kingdoms. Many polities were also linked by alliances, activated during times of war. Yet these alliances never spurred development of a Maya empire, for the winners seldom absorbed defeated capitals and their inhabitants. Maya warfare was all about humbling foes and their gods to gain prestige and tribute.

Capturing enemies was far more important than killing them. Families of the winners often adopted captives, although nobles and kings were sometimes sacrificed in ceremonies celebrating victories. With origins in the Middle Preclassic, the site of Kaminaljuyu—now mostly beneath Guatemala City—was the largest highland capital during the Late Preclassic.

It produced many beautifully carved monuments, some with hieroglyphic texts. The largest known lowland Preclassic capital was El Mirador, located in northern Guatemala. El Mirador had an extensive network of causeways and contained several of the largest temples ever built by the Maya.

Our knowledge of Classic lowland Maya kingdoms has been vastly increased by deciphered royal texts that allow us to combine historical and archaeological information. Classic Maya kings were members of royal houses and dynasties of successive ancestral rulers.

Glyphers: Deciphering Mayan Society

During the Terminal Classic period, overpopulation, reduced food production from depleted environments, warfare, and periodic droughts brought famine, disease, violence, and the abandonment of lowland cities by people seeking a better life elsewhere. These changes undermined the authority of traditional Maya kings and led to the collapse of most Classic kingdoms.

Yet some kingdoms hung on and even prospered in this changing environment. Chichen Itza in Yucatan was the paragon of this development, and for about two centuries this city headed one of the largest and most prosperous states in Mesoamerica. It did so by advancing the authority of an elite council over the king, since royalty was discredited by the failures of most Maya polities.

Yet Chichen Itza also ultimately failed, taking with it the last vestiges of the Classic era. The Postclassic period was ushered in by a series of new states with transformed economic, political, and religious institutions. The new economy was based on utilitarian commodities such as salt, cotton, and obsidian rather than traditional prestige goods.

The new political order was based on rule by councils instead of kings. The new religious order emphasized household ritual and pan-Mesoamerican deities that replaced monumental temples, mass spectacles, and the patron gods of Maya kings. Postclassic states prospered in the highlands and along the lowland coasts, controlling new seacoast trade. One of the most successful states was Mayapan, a less ostentatious northern capital that replaced Chichen Itza.

This spurred the growth of mercantile elites and the middle class that managed the new economy. Mayapan fell a century before the arrival of the Spaniards, who began conquering a mosaic of Postclassic polities in CE. After more than a century of bitter conflict, the Spanish defeated the last independent Maya states in CE. Although Maya kings and kingdoms have vanished, archaeologists and epigraphers have revealed much about their civilization.

During their heyday, Maya rulers advertised their achievements with carved portraits on monuments and ordered the construction of splendid palaces and temples. Carved texts provide evidence for the reconstruction of the Maya political system as it developed during the Classic period. The decipherment of these texts has revealed the events and histories of Classic Maya kingdoms, along with their creation myths and religious practices.

We know far more about the elites of ancient Maya society than the more numerous common people. Archaeological research has favored polity capitals, along with the elaborate artifacts produced for the elite—carved jades, painted pottery, mirrors, and scepters. Classic Maya inscriptions are even more exclusive to the upper echelons of society. Recently discovered murals at Calakmul are unique in depicting merchants and other non-elite individuals with glyphs labeling their activities e.

Otherwise Maya texts and portrayals are all about kings and elites, not other members of Maya society.


  1. Expedition magazine - The Special Maya Issue by Penn Museum - Issuu.
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  5. Fortunately today far more archaeology is devoted to non-elites. A more balanced view of Maya civilization comes from excavations of the settlements of the common people and smaller administrative centers without the trappings of royal power.

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    But the Maya did not vanish with the downfall of their Preclassic kingdoms, or from the more profound decline at the end of the Classic period. The Spanish Conquest ended Maya civilization, but the Maya people survived this trauma and years of subsequent oppression. Today, several million Maya people continue to live in their ancient homeland and have retained their culture, their Mayan languages, and many of their traditions. Princeton: Princeton University Press, Jones, Grant D. The Conquest of the Last Maya Kingdom. Stanford: Stanford University Press, Martin, Simon, and Nikolai Grube.

    Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens. Revised edition. London: Thames and Hudson, Sharer, Robert J. The Ancient Maya.

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    Death and the Classic Maya Kings - James L. Fitzsimmons - Google книги

    Sixth edition. El Castillo is shown here.

    The color of the murals is still vivid, as the paintings were buried for hundreds of years. Here, a participant in a public ceremony wears a jaguar headdress decorated with flowers, as he plays a flute. His face is decorated with black circles, perhaps imprinted with a modern container. The letter contained, among other things, his conclusion that ancient Maya numerals were formed from dots that represented the number one and bars that represented five. Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions are filled with numbers.

    The tall stone monuments we call stelae usually begin with a string.