We have been learning all about the Maya Civilisation!
The first Mesoamerican civilisation to develop writing, the Maya lived in central America around 4000 years ago (2000 BC) and developed a sophisticated culture of city states with fine monumental buildings and characteristic stepped pyramids.
The Maya were advanced in their use of mathematics and renowned for the accuracy of their calendar.
- The Maya civilisation extended from what is now South East Mexico through Central America.
- This area included highland and lowland settlements and a variety of climate zones, including rainforest. Crops grown in the lowlands were traded for mineral ores and rocks from the mountainous areas.
- Although the Maya had metal-working skills, metal ores were scarce. The Maya used stone tools to carve the limestone that they used for their buildings.
- The Maya did not use wheels or pulleys for their building projects.They did not have draught animals capable of heavy labour. Building materials were transported by human porters or canoes.
- Archaeological evidence suggests that Maya settlement in Mesoamerica probably dates from the third millennium BC. The Mayans of the classic period c200-900 AD adopted many aspects of the earlier Olmec culture and were also influenced by surrounding cultures such as that of the great Aztec city of Teotihuacan.
- Maya religion was extremely bloodthirsty, demanding human sacrifices and blood-letting rituals. The Maya believed in an afterlife and that those who were sacrificed, as well as those killed in war and women who died in childbirth, went to ‘the place of misty sky’.
- Maya society was formed of a number of city states each with their own ruler. Each city was surrounded by rural settlements.
- At the top of Maya society were the King and Royal family who were believed to be closely linked to the gods. An educated elite of scribes, priests and nobles formed the ruling class. They occupied the finest buildings in the city.
- The Maya were sophisticated mathematicians who made use of the number zero. They used base 20 in their calculations. They were keen astronomers who were able to predict solar eclipses. Their complex calendar system was one of the most accurate of the ancient world.
- No one knows for sure why the Maya civilisation went into decline. Possible explanations involve the overuse and exhaustion of farming land, prolonged drought, misrule, warfare and disease.