Mayas: Mesoamerican Civilizations
Last Updated     11/7/2007      11/6/2007      11/5/2007     11/4/2007      11/3/2007

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An estimated 1.2 million Maya still live in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, and nearly 5 million more are spread throughout the Yucatan Peninsula and the cities and rural farm communities of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. 
They are derived from the same people who created the most exalted culture in Mesoamerica.  From the third to the ninth century, Maya civilization produced  temples and pyramids, highly accurate calendars, mathematics and hieroglyphic writing, and a complex social and political order.

2000 BC, Maya originated in Yucatan.
500 BC, Mayan civilization began in Middle America.
300 BC, Maya adopted a system of government with rule by nobles and kings
In 300 AD and 900 AD, Mayan civilization reached its peak.
900 AD Collapse of Mayan Empire.

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Common people lived in farming villages that surrounded religious cities.
Cities had temples and houses for priests and nobles.
Cities had marketplaces.
Mayan cities Tikal, Uaxactun, Caracol, Copan, Yaxchilan, Piedras Negras, Calkmul and Palenque.
The cities had a common culture but they were ruled like city-states.

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Had a two-headed crocodile scepter.
His head adorned with feathers.

Kings passed the power to their sons.
A new king required a human sacrifice.
It was required to be a captive taken in war by the king.

Mayan cities were linked by roads.
Roads were paved with white cement.
Canoes handled local trade.

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Mayan women rose at dawn to make tortillas.
Tortillas were a basic part of the Mayan diet.
Maya scavenged the forest for foods including deer turkey, peccaries, tapirs, rabbits, pecas.

Farming Villages
Mayas created arable land by using a "slash-and-burn" technique to clear the forests.
Grew tobaccoo.
Small villages consisting of household compounds occupied by extended families.
The men looked after building huts and caring for the cornfields.
The women prepared food, made clothing, and tended to the family's domestic needs.
House was usually a one-room hut built of woven poles covered with mud.
Huts were used primarily for sleeping.
Daily chores, such as cooking, took place outdoors in the central communal compound.


Maya built elaborate and highly decorated temple-pyramids, palaces and observatories.

Slightly crossed eyes were held in great esteem.
Parents attempted encourage this by hanging small beads over the noses of their children.
The Maya shaped their children's skulls.
The Mayas filed their teeth to a point ot "T-shaped."

Social Order
Maya had a large, prosperous "middle class."


Adapted their hieroglyphs from the Olmecs.
Inscriptions were in wood and stone and then built into the architecture.
Folding tree books were made from fig tree bark and but in the tombs of royalty.

Maya tombs were located in living areas.
Mayas were ancestor worshipers.
The role of priests was closely connected to the calendar and astronomy.
Priests controlled learning and rituals.
They were in charge of calculating time, festivals, ceremonies, cures for diseases, writing and genealogies.
The Maya clergy were not celibate, and sons often succeeded fathers.

Math and Science
Came up with the idea of zero.
Counting system was based on 20.
Astronomers could predict eclipses of the sun and moon.
Asrronomers were capable of measuring the movements of the sun, moon and planets, including Venus.

They developed a calendar based on the Olmec calendar.
Year had 365 days.

The art was composed of:
painting upon paper and plaster
carvings in wood and stone
clay and stucco models
terra cotta figurines from molds.

Mayas made paper and cotton cloth.

Mayas Disappear
About 900 AD, most Mayas abandoned their cities and disappeared.
Droughts occurred at times when archeological evidence reflects a collapse of the Maya culture.
Evidence shows abandonment of cities and slowing of building and carving activity.

Maya Time Line

11000 BC The first hunter-gatherers settle in the Maya highlands and lowlands.
3114/3113 BC The creation of the world takes place, according to the Maya Long Count calendar.
2600 BC Maya civilization begins.
2000 BC The rise of the Olmec civilization.
Village farming becomes established throughout Maya regions.
700 BC Writing is developed in Mesoamerica.
400 BC The earliest known solar calendars carved in stone are in use among the Maya.
300 BC The Maya adopt the idea of a hierarchical society ruled by nobles and kings.
100 BC The city of Teotihuacan is founded.
It is the cultural, religious and trading centre of Mesoamerica.
50 BC The Maya city of Cerros is built, with a complex of temples and ball courts.
50 AD Cerros is abandoned a hundred years later.
People return to fishing and farming.
400 AD The Maya highlands fall under the domination of Teotihuacan.
The disintegration of Maya culture and language begins in parts of the highlands.
500 AD The Maya city of Tikal becomes the first great Maya city
600 AD An unknown event destroys the civilization at Teotihuacan
Empire ends.
Tikal becomes the largest city-state in Mesoamerica.
500,000 inhabitants within the city and its hinterland.
751 AD Long-standing Maya alliances begin to break down.
Trade between Maya city-states declines.
Inter-state conflict increases.
869 AD Construction ceases in Tikal, marking the beginning of the city's decline.
899 AD Tikal is abandoned.
900 AD The Classic Period of Maya history ends, with the collapse of the southern lowland cities.
Maya cities in the northern Yucatán continue to thrive.
1200 AD Northern Maya cities begin to be abandoned.
1517 AD Spanish arrive under Cordoba at Yucatan.
1519 AD Hernado Cortés begins exploring Yucatan.
1524 AD Cortés meets the Itzá people.
The Itzá  are the last of the Maya peoples to remain unconquered by the Spanish.
The Spanish leave the Itzá alone until the seventeenth century.
1528 AD The Spanish under Francisco de Montejo begin their conquest of the northern Maya.
The Maya fight back.
They keep the Spanish at bay for several years.
1541 AD The Spanish are finally able to subdue the Maya and put an end to Maya resistance.
Revolt continues to plague the Spaniards off and on for the rest of the century.



Canadian Museum of Civilization (2004, March 29). Mayan Civilization. Retrieved Novemeber 7, 2007, from http:

(1998, September 9). Mayan Civilization. Retrieved November 6, 2007, from

University Of Florida (2001, May 18). Changes In Sun’s Intensity Tied To Recurrent Droughts In Maya Region. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 6,2007, from

University of Manchester (2007, February 12). Mummy's Amazing American Maize. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 6, 2007, from­ /releases/2007/02/070211202525.htm

Vanderbilt University (2002, September 20). Newly Revealed Hieroglyphs Tell Story Of Superpower Conflict In The Maya World. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 6, 2007, from­ /releases/2002/09/020920071859.htm

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