The Rich History of the Mayans


Who were the Mayans? The Mayan empire is one of the most well-known civilizations in history. Located in the highlands and lowlands of Mesoamerica, Mayan civilizations had unique plazas, temples, and pyramids. The Mayan empire lasted from 300 BC- 1519 AD. The Mayans made an important impact on history.

The Mayans had a large amount of land with many societies. Archaeologists divided Mayan territory into highlands and lowlands. Within the two locations, the Mayans had different societies, found in the lowlands during both Late Pre-Classic period (300 BC – 250 AD) and the Classic period (250 BC – 900 AD). The Late Pre-Classic period displayed social development and more societies appeared in the Mayan lowlands. The Classic period was characterized by great stone cities and monuments. They manufactured goods and created artwork to sell and trade. The dense Mayan population made it challenging to manage agricultural production. For the most part, however, the Mayans had a strategic system to feed the population.

During the Classic period, there were also many warfare tactics within the Mayan Empire. Different city-states moved to more prosperous areas such as the Yucatán peninsula. Some of the city-states later gained dominance in northern Yucatán peninsula as well as in other areas. After the Classic period, the Mayan empire was ruled by elite councils. This political structure allowed for outside influence, which ultimately led to warfare and the destruction of the society.

The Mayans wrote and communicated through hieroglyphs, a writing system that they, and other many ancient civilizations, used for communication. Mayans used six different hieroglyphs for the several major cities in the region. The calendar system they used was not the same as any modern calendar. They used the Long Count calendar, a combination of five calendric systems to calculate cycles of time up to 4,000 years.

Known for distinct agricultural practices, warfare, religion, and trade, the Mayan empire was a highly advanced civilization in Mesoamerica. The Mayans had to fight to maintain their territory where they built their famous temples and plazas. The Mayan civilization has had a strong influence on our society today; their legacy gained the Mayans worldwide recognition.

[Source: National Geographic]

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