Maya Civilisation Leaves a Great Cultural Legacy Behind

Brief History of the Mayan Civilisation


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The Maya civilisation is perhaps one of the most interesting ones, alongside the Inca, Egyptian, Chinese and Mesopotamian. Unlike the other scattered indigenous populations of Mesoamerica, the Maya were centred in one geographical block covering all of the Yucatan Peninsula and modern day Guatemala, Belize, and parts of the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas.

One of the many intriguing things about the Maya was their ability to build a great civilisation, not in plain sight, but in a tropical rainforest. These ancient people had a flourishing civilisation in dry climates as well, where the centralised management of water resources formed the basis of society.

The Mayas had a mysterious decline between the eights through the end of the ninth century. Researchers have come up with three theories:

  • The Mayas might have exhausted the environment around them to the point it could no longer sustain a very large population.
  • Another theory claims that population disappeared due to large warfare. As the stature of the holy lords diminished, their complex system of traditions dissolved into chaos.
  • A catastrophic event, such as environment change consisting in a long period of drought may have been the contributing factor to the total wipe out of the Mayas.

Maya Architecture and Urban Design

Maya architecture spans many thousands of years. Yet, the most easily recognisable landmarks are the stepped pyramids from the Terminal Pre-classic period and beyond. As the Maya cities spread all throughout the varied geography or Mesoamerica, site planning appears to have been minimal. Since they lives in rainforests, their architecture tended to integrate a great degree of natural features. Hence, their cities were built somewhat dictated by the topography of each independent location.


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Classic era Maya urban design could easily be described as the division of space by great monuments and causeways. Open public plazas were the gathering places for people and the focus of the urban design. At the heart of the Mayan city was the plaza, surrounded by the most important governmental and religious buildings, such as the royal acropolis, great pyramid temples and occasionally ball-courts.


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Maya Astronomy

Just like Egyptians were astronomers, the Mayas are also known for being very knowledgeable in the field. They seem to be the only pre-telescopic civilisation to demonstrate knowledge of the Orion Nebula as being fuzzy. Their traditional hearths include in their middle a smudge of glowing fire that corresponds with the Orion nebula. They Mayas have left behind the Dresden Codex. This work contains the highest concentration of astronomical phenomena observations and calculations of any of the surviving texts. Scientists who have deciphered the content, have came to the conclusion that for the Mayas, the most important star was Venus.


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Maya Religion

Like the Aztec and Inca who came to power later, the Maya believed in a cyclical nature of time. The rituals and ceremonies were closely associated with the celestial and terrestrial cycles which they observed. According to the heavens, they performed certain religious ceremonies or human sacrifices. Maya gods had affinities that caused them to merge with one another in ways that seem unbounded. The Maya religion had a wide array of supernatural gods, who combined both human and animal features, as shown in the picture below.


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Mayas are a very interesting people who has still got a lot of amazing things to offer. Although most of the vestiges have become overgrown by the jungle, becoming dense enough to hide structures just a few metres away. Researchers and historians have resorted to technology, more specifically satellite images, to discover these lost worlds.