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Proposal, Mayan City States [preclassic and classic]


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The Maya are an indigenous people of Mexico and Central America who have continuously inhabited the lands comprising modern-day Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas in Mexico and southward through Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. The designation Maya comes from the ancient Yucatan city of Mayapan, the last capital of a Mayan Kingdom in the Post-Classic Period. The Maya people refer to themselves by ethnicity and language bonds such as Quiche in the south or Yucatec in the north (though there are many others). The `Mysterious Maya’ have intrigued the world since their `discovery’ in the 1840's by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood but, in reality, much of the culture is not that mysterious when understood. Contrary to popular imagination, the Maya did not vanish and the descendants of the people who built the great cities of Chichen Itza, Bonampak, Uxmal and Altun Ha still exist on the same lands their ancestors did and continue to practice, sometimes in a modified form, the same rituals which would be recognized by a native of the land one thousand years ago.


Maya Cities were the centres of population of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization of Mesoamerica. They served the specialised roles of administration, commerce, manufacturing and religion that characterised ancient cities worldwide

Maya cities tended to be more dispersed than cities in other societies, even within Mesoamerica, as a result of adaptation to a lowland tropical environment that allowed food production amidst areas dedicated to other activities.

They lacked the grid plans of the highland cities of central Mexico, such as Teotihuacán and Tenochtitlan.

Maya kings ruled their kingdoms from palaces that were situated within the centre of their cities.[3] Cities tended to be located in places that controlled trade routes or that could supply essential products.[4] This allowed the elites that controlled trade to increase their wealth and status.[4] Such cities were able to construct temples for public ceremonies, thus attracting further inhabitants to the city.[4] Those cities that had favourable conditions for food production, combined with access to trade routes, were likely to develop into the capital cities of early Maya states



Middle Preclassic Period

During the Middle Preclassic Period (1000-400 BC), small villages began to grow to form cities.[25] By 500 BC these cities possessed large temple structures decorated with stucco masks representing gods.[26]Nakbe in the Petén Department of Guatemala is the earliest well-documented city in the Maya lowlands,[27] where large structures have been dated to around 750 BC.[25] Nakbe already featured the monumental masonry architecture, sculpted monuments and causeways that characterised later cities in the Maya lowlands.[27]

Late Preclassic Period

In the Late Preclassic Period (400 BC - 250 AD), the enormous city of El Mirador grew to cover approximately 16 square kilometres (6.2 sq mi).[28] It possessed paved avenues, massive triadic pyramid complexes dated to around 150 BC, and stelae and altars that were erected in its plazas.[28] El Mirador is considered to be one of the first capital cities of the Maya civilization.[28] The swamps of the Mirador Basin appear to have been the primary attraction for the first inhabitants of the area as evidenced by the unusual cluster of large cities around them.[29]

The city of Tikal, later to be one of the most important of the Classic Period Maya cities, was already a significant city by around 350 BC, although it did not match El Mirador.[30] The Late Preclassic cultural florescence collapsed in the 1st century AD and many of the great Maya cities of the epoch were abandoned; the cause of this collapse is as yet unknown.[26]

In the highlands, Kaminaljuyu in the Valley of Guatemala was already a sprawling city by AD 300.[31]

Classic Period


During the Classic Period (AD 250-900), the Maya civilization achieved its greatest florescence.[26] During the Early Classic (AD 250-600), cities throughout the Maya region were influenced by the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico.[32] At its height during the Late Classic, Tikal had expanded to have a population of well over 100,000.[24] Tikal's great rival was Calakmul, another powerful city in the Petén Basin.[33]In the southeast, Copán was the most important city.[33]Palenque and Yaxchilán were the most powerful cities in the Usumacinta region.[33] In the north of the Maya area, Coba was the most important Maya capital.[12]Capital cities of Maya kingdoms could vary considerably in size, apparently related to how many vassal cities were tied to the capital.[34] Overlords of city-states that held sway over a greater number of subordinate lords could command greater quantities of tribute in the form of goods and labour.[5] The most notable forms of tribute pictured on Maya ceramics are cacao, textiles and feathers.[5] During the 9th century AD, the central Maya region suffered major political collapse, marked by the abandonment of cities, the ending of dynasties and a northward shift of population.[32] During this period, known as the Terminal Classic, the northern cities of Chichen Itza and Uxmal show increased activity.[32] Major cities in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula continued to be inhabited long after the cities of the southern lowlands ceased to raise monuments.[35]



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Bat God



reddish building made with pale stone. civic building and military. the rest wood only.



The very first traces of Mayan civilization date back to around 1,800 BC in northern Guatemala. Most archaeologists agree that the Mayan civilization is the jewel of all ancient American cultures, and one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known. The Mayans were the only ancient American civilization with a recorded history of their own, and in fact they broadcasted their language on stone billboards (stelas), the loudest messages of all Mesoamerican cultures. They recorded on lithic monuments, pottery, papers, and skins, the notable events of their intricate culture.

Politic side.

Source: https://sites.google.com/site/ancientmayancivilization/mayan-politics


 The Ancient Maya were never united under one ruler or empire, but instead were divided into multiple states in which most had its own central government and were ruled as a state system, with the king as the main ruler. Some states were fully independent while others were led by larger governments, but each state was linked together through trade, political alliances, similar ideologies, and rituals. The picture to the left reinstates where the major Mayan cities were located. 

 As stated before, each state had a principle leader called the ‘Ahaw,' or king. The ‘Batab’ were rulers of small towns and had social, religious, and military duties. They were unpaid, but had power to preside over a local council of officials called the Ah Cuch Cabob. The Batab’s delegates called Ah Kuleloob were directly under the Batab, and whose main responsibilities were to ensure the Batabs orders were implemented. At the lower end of authority were the constables called Tupiles who were in charge of keeping the peace in the town. Under the king, nobles were subdivided into two groups called the ‘Ahkinoob’ that formed the clergy and the ‘Almehenob’ who were important warriors and wealthy farmers. The clergy had a surprisingly large role in government due to their advice giving and predictions about future events, in which all the rulers took heed in and the word of the clergy was rarely defied.

One of the most favored ceremonies were human sacrifices—a very popular tool for the rulers to show religious as well as social control within his people and towards rival states.

Even with the birth of a new heir to the throne, the current Ahaw would perform a blood-letting from his own body as an offering to his ancestors, and before installment of the new king the prospective heir must have taken a captive in war, in which that captive would be the sacrifice on his day of crowning. One became a sacrifice either by enslavement through enemy capture or by committing a crime.

Enslavement, various fines, and in rare occasions (since Maya did not have any prisons), imprisonment, were held for lesser acts of crime. However, the Maya were commonly merciful in punishment and even a citizen found guilty of murder could be punished by a mere fine.



 The ancient Maya considered flat foreheads and crossed eyes beautiful. To achieve these effects, children would have boards bound tight to their heads and wax beads tied to dangle before their eyes. Both men and women made cuts in their skin to gain much-desired scar markings, and the elites sharpened their teeth to points, and made incrustations with Jade and Pyrite, another mark of wealth and beauty.

Maya society was broken into a class structure with four main levels: the nobility (Almehenob'), the priesthood (Ah'kinob'), the common people (Ah'chembal uinieol'), and the slaves (Pencat'ob') At the top were the nobles with the King being the most powerful. The King's power was hereditary which means that the oldest son would become the King when he died. The next most powerful were the priests who helped the king and also lead religious ceremonies. The next level of people were the commoners. Most people were in this category and were farmers. The bottom of the system was the slaves. Slaves were caught during wars or if people broke a law like stealing they would become a slave.



fascinated scholars and the public, since 19th-century explorers began discovering "lost cities" was “How could one of the ancient world's great civilizations simply dissolve?” Early speculation centered on sudden catastrophe, perhaps volcanism or an earthquake or a deadly hurricane. Or perhaps it was a mysterious disease, untraceable today—something like the Black Death in medieval Europe or the smallpox that wiped out Native American populations at the dawn of the colonial age. Modern researchers have discarded these one-event theories, however, because the collapse extended over at least 200 years. Scholars have looked instead at combinations of afflictions in different parts of the Mayan world, including overpopulation, warfare, environmental damage, drought, and famine. It seems as if anything that could have possibly gone wrong, it did.


The Mayan economy was largely based on food and agriculture, this form is the same as the other earlier civil countries, like China and Egypt.

Farming was the main labor resources, and usually consisted of men. Every day they worked in the farm and brought in food, Farmers gave up portion's of each crop, or paid with other items such as salt, cloth, honey, fruit, and domestic animals to the government and also used them to buy and trade goods. In this way, they can support the family and meet their daily needs.

Agriculture is the basic form of the economy. The most important crop was corn and many scientists believed that that the Mayans depended heavily on the crop. The second form of the agriculture was raising animals. Mayan people raised a diverse group of animals.

he honey from the bees they raised was also used in trade. They often traded the animals or the crops for clothes or other items once or maybe twice a week in a market, which was often located in a plain beside the river, because of the advantage to plant the crops and raise the animals. As a result of fertile grounds, there was a large population, so that contributed to form a basic market. And the powerful people made the first rules to make sure that the trade and the agriculture can run smoothly.

This was the early form of the Mayan economy, it was simple yet left a big influence on the worlds economic development. Nowadays, many countries still follow the Mayan economics, agriculture and trade.

 The house was usually a one-room hut built of interwoven poles covered with dried mud. Meals of corn, squash and beans, supplemented with the occasional turkey or rabbit, were probably eaten on the run. Most of the Mayan people were farmers. The main staple of their diet was corn also known as maize. Other things that they grew were beans, squash, pear, avocado, sweet potato, guava, chili peppers, cocoa beans, vanilla beans, papaya and tomatoes, as well as a variety of fruit from various fruit trees. The Mayans used a farming technique called milpa, also known as slash and burn farming. They would clear the land by cutting down and burning all of the foliage in the spring before the summer rains. Then they would plant their crops by poking digging sticks into the ground and planting the seeds in the holes. The slash and burn technique meant that the fields would only be fertile for a few years. The Mayans practiced crop rotation to get more growing seasons out of the field. In addition to this type of farming, they also used the method of terracing; which involved building stone walls to level out the land in mountainous areas.

                Their planting methods supplemented their food, as well as dyes and medicinal herbs. The Mayans were one of the best at utilizing all of their resources wisely. In addition to farming, the Mayans raised dogs, turkeys and ducks for food and bees to make honey. They also used the feathers from the turkeys and ducks for clothes.In the wild they hunted deer, rabbits, boar, armadillos and they fished. They also ate turtles, iguanas and insects. The Mayans used every part of the animal for food, clothing and tools, which is is very similar to the Native Americans in our country.


the Milpa have very bad consecuences today, even in my country.


Milpa is a crop-growing system used throughout Mesoamerica. It has been most extensively described in the Yucatán peninsula area of Mexico. The word milpa is derived from the Nahuatl word phrase mil-pa, which translates into "cultivated field

The milpa cycle calls for 2 years of cultivation and eight years of letting the area lie fallow. Agronomists point out that the system is designed to create relatively large yields of food crops without the use of artificial pesticides or fertilizers, and they point out that while it is self-sustaining at current levels of consumption, there is a danger that at more intensive levels of cultivation the milpa system can become unsustainable.

thats why the famine.


The word is also used for a small field, especially in Mexico or Central America, that is cleared from the jungle, cropped for a few seasons, and then abandoned for a fresh clearing. In the states of Jalisco, Michoacán, and other areas of central Mexico, the term milpa simply means a single corn plant (milpas for plural). In El Salvador and Guatemala, it refers specifically to the corn crop or corn field as a




It shows the amount of time the greenhouse gas remained stored in soils in Guatemala and the Yucatan Peninsula was shortened by deforestation undertaken by the Maya.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, suggest logging in rainforests today could affect the ability of the underlying soils to sequester carbon.

Mayans began farming around 4,000 years ago and the spread of agriculture and building of cities eventually led to widespread deforestation and soil erosion.

But the international team was shocked the soils in the region haven't fully recovered as carbon sinks in over a millennium of reforestation,They say it underlines the importance of protecting the rainforests as the soils could take thousands of years to recover.

Study lead author Professor Peter Douglas, of McGill University in Canada, said: "When you go to this area today much of it looks like dense, old-growth rainforest.

"But when you look at soil carbon storage, it seems the ecosystem was fundamentally changed - and never returned to its original state."

His researchers assessed changes in the lengths of time carbon persisted in soils in the Maya Lowlands over the last 3,500 years.

They did this by determining the ages of waxes produced by plant leaves and preserved at the bottom of three lakes in southern Mexico and Guatemala.

They found this decreased during periods of intensive land use - and began to recover as Maya population density fell and some regions began using soil management practices.



Study lead author Professor Peter Douglas, of McGill University in Canada, said: "When you go to this area today much of it looks like dense, old-growth rainforest.

"But when you look at soil carbon storage, it seems the ecosystem was fundamentally changed - and never returned to its original state."

His researchers assessed changes in the lengths of time carbon persisted in soils in the Maya Lowlands over the last 3,500 years.

They did this by determining the ages of waxes produced by plant leaves and preserved at the bottom of three lakes in southern Mexico and Guatemala.

They found this decreased during periods of intensive land use - and began to recover as Maya population density fell and some regions began using soil management practices.



It’s long been one of ancient history’s most intriguing mysteries: Why did the Maya, a remarkably sophisticated civilization made up of more than 19 million people, suddenly collapse sometime during the 8th or 9th centuries? Although the Mayan people never entirely disappeared—their descendants still live across Central America—dozens of core urban areas in the lowlands of the Yucatan peninsula, such as Tikal, went from bustling cities to abandoned ruins over the course of roughly a hundred years.
In the first study, published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Arizona State University analyzed archaeological data from across the Yucatan to reach a better understanding of the environmental conditions when the area was abandoned. Around this time, they found, severe reductions in rainfall were coupled with an rapid rate of deforestation, as the Mayans burned and chopped down more and more forest to clear land for agriculture. Interestingly, they also required massive amounts of wood to fuel the fires that cooked the lime plaster for their elaborate constructions—experts estimate it would have taken 20 trees to produce a single square meter of cityscape.



published by researchers from Columbia University and elsewhere this week in Geophysical Research Letters, applied quantitative data to these trends. Using population records and measurements from current forested and cleared lands in the region, they constructed a computer model of deforestation in the Yucatan and ran simulations to see how this would have affected rainfall.

Because cleared land absorbs less solar radiation, less water evaporates from its surface, making clouds and rainfall more scarce. As a result, the rapid deforestation exacerbated an already severe drought—in the simulation, deforestation reduced precipitation by five to 15 percent and was responsible for 60 percent of the total drying that occurred over the course of a century as the Mayan civilization collapsed. The lack of forest cover also contributed to erosion and soil depletion.

In a time of unprecedented population density, this combination of factors was likely catastrophic. Crops failed, especially because the droughts occurred disproportionately during the summer growing season. Coincidentally, trade shifted from overland routes, which crossed the heart of the lowland, to sea-based voyages, moving around the perimeter of the peninsula.

Since the traditional elite relied largely upon this trade—along with annual crop surpluses—to build wealth, they were sapped of much of their power. This forced peasants and craftsmen into making a critical choice, perhaps necessary to escape starvation: abandoning the lowlands. The results are the ornate ruins that stretch across the peninsula today.

The collapse is especially intriguing because it seemingly occurred at “a time in which developed a sophisticated understanding of their environment, built and sustained intensive production and water systems and withstood at least two long-term episodes of aridity,

For a present-day example, we can even look to another region where the ancient Maya lived, Guatemala, which is undergoing rapid deforestation. “There’s a tremendous amount of change going on in Guatemala,” said Oglesby. “They may be that much more vulnerable to a severe drought.”




by the way...


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Rainy forest, its very cold site. in the Higlands like my country, i love, feels like Florida in winter or Washington in October. but very rainy.


you can see, any tropical coconut tree.





Historical anthropologists used to believe the Maya were a peaceful people, who warred upon one another rarely if at all, preferring instead to dedicate themselves to astronomy, building, and other non-violent pursuits. Recent advances in the interpretation of stonework at Maya sites has changed that, however, and the Maya are now considered a very violent, warmongering society. Wars and warfare were important to the Maya for a variety of reasons, including subjugation of neighboring city-states, prestige, and capture of prisoners for slaves and sacrifices.

yes in 1940  or '40s they believed that...but.


There was ample evidence of a warlike tendency among the Maya — carved scenes of battle or sacrifice, walled compounds, stone, and obsidian weapon points, etc. — but the early Mayanists ignored this evidence, instead of sticking to their notions of the Maya as a peaceful people. As the glyphs on the temples and stelae began to yield their secrets to dedicated linguists, however, a very different picture of the Maya emerged.



Unlike the Aztecs of Central Mexico and the Inca of the Andes, the Maya were never a single, unified empire organized and administered from a central city. Instead, the Maya were a series of city-states in the same region, linked by language, trade, and certain cultural similarities, but often in lethal contention with one another for resources, power, and influence. Powerful cities like Tikal, Calakmul, and Caracol frequently warred upon one another or upon smaller cities. Small raids into enemy territory were common: attacking and defeating a powerful rival city was rare but not unheard of.

so they are city states.




Wars and major raids were led by the ahau, or King. Members of the highest ruling class often were military and spiritual leaders of the cities and their capture during battles was a key element of military strategy. It is believed that many of the cities, especially the larger ones, had large, well-trained armies available for attack and defense. It is unknown if the Maya had a professional soldier class like the Aztecs did.


Maya Military Goals

The Maya city-states went to war with one another for several different reasons. Part of it was military dominance: to bring more territory or vassal states under the command of a larger city. Capturing prisoners was a priority, especially high-ranking ones. These prisoners would be ritually humiliated at the victorious city: sometimes, the battles were played out again in the ball court, with the losing prisoners sacrificed after the “game.” It is known that some of these prisoners remained with their captors for years before finally being sacrificed. Experts disagree about whether these wars were waged solely for the purpose of taking prisoners, like the famous Flower Wars of the Aztecs. Late in the Classic period, when the warring in the Maya region became much worse, cities would be attacked, looted and destroyed.


Warfare and Architecture

The Maya penchant for warfare is reflected in their architecture. Many of the major and minor cities have defensive walls, and in the later Classic period, newly-founded cities were no longer established near productive land, as they had been previously, but rather on defensible sites such as hilltops. The structure of the cities changed, with the important buildings all being inside the walls. Walls could be as high as ten to twelve feet (3.5 meters) and were usually made of stone supported by wooden posts. Sometimes the construction of walls seemed desperate: in some cases, walls were built right up to important temples and palaces, and in some cases (notably the Dos Pilas site) important buildings were taken apart for stone for the walls. Some cities had elaborate defenses: Ek Balam in the Yucatan had three concentric walls and the remains of a fourth one in the city center.


Famous Battles and Conflicts

The best-documented and possibly the most important conflict was the struggle between Calakmul and Tikal in the fifth and sixth centuries. These two powerful city-states were each dominant politically, militarily and economically in their regions, but were also relatively close to one another. They began warring, with vassal cities like Dos Pilas and Caracol changing hands as the power of each respective city waxed and waned. In 562 A.D. Calakmul and/or Caracol defeated the mighty city of Tikal, which fell into a brief decline before regaining its former glory. Some cities were hit so hard that they never recovered, like Dos Pilas in 760 A.D. and Aguateca sometime around 790 A.D.


Effects of Warfare on Maya Civilization

Between 700 and 900 A.D., most of the important Maya cities in the south and central regions of the Maya civilization went silent, their cities abandoned. The decline of the Maya civilization is still a mystery. Different theories have been proposed, including excessive warfare, drought, plague, climate change and more: some believe in a combination of factors. Warfare almost certainly had something to do with the disappearance of the Maya civilization: by the late Classic period wars, battles and skirmishes were quite common and important resources were dedicated to wars and city defenses.




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10 minutes ago, (-_-) said:

(That skull reminds me of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”.)

I dont see the movie. but Crystal skulls exists but... werent Pre Columbinian... another fake from new world aventures.



Belize is called British Honduras, part of my Country was British. but im more Spanish... some of my countrymen are bilingual.


As the story goes ... One day in 1927, English adventurer, traveler, and writer, F.A. “Mike” Mitchell-Hedges, who had a talent for telling colorful stories, was clearing debris from atop a ruined temple at the ancient Mayan city of Lubantuun, located in British Honduras, now Belize. His seventeen-year old daughter Anna, who had accompanied him, suddenly saw something shimmering in the dust below. Anna found an exquisitely carved and polished skull made of rock crystal, with the jaw piece missing. Three months later, she located the jaw in an excavation about 25 feet from the first site.


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Check this..: -Mexican are good with marketing and Tourist...-


The entire morning of the 2016 Autumn Equinox will be centered around our beautiful beach area, where the white sand joins the waters of the Caribbean Sea. As always, we’ll begin with a meditation session on the beach at sunrise, followed by a Maya purification ceremony done by local Maya shamans. Afterwards, we’ll celebrate with a beach party called the “Sun Tribute”, an event that will include games, drinks and live music; after, we’ll host a traditional Mexican cuisine cooking class with the Sandos Caracol chefs.

we need learn a lot from them. i mean the rest of central americans.

More Culture: Clothing


We are sincerely grateful to Cara Grace Tremain, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, studying ancient Maya dress and identity, and Field Director of the Ka’Kabish Archaeological Research Project in Belize, where she has worked since 2010, for this illuminating introductory article on ancient Maya dress.

Pic 1: Maya noble, from lintel 24 at Yaxhilan; illustration by Krystyna Deuss (Click on image to enlarge)

What did the ancient Maya wear?
The ancient Maya are well-known for their exotic, vibrant, appearances and practice of unusual body modifications. They exploited the materials available to them in their tropical environments to manufacture colourful textiles and striking ornamentation. They produced a wide range of outfits for different occasions, including lavish dress for large public events; vibrant dance costumes; protective armour for conflicts; sporting attire; and simpler, yet no less sophisticated, clothing for everyday situations.

Pic 2: Stela H, Copan archaeological site, Honduras (Click on image to enlarge)

Public Events
During large public events, where the community would come together to witness the performance of rituals or other ceremonial duties, the ruling elite would wear large, lavish, outfits to reflect their important positions in society. These outfits would include large feathered headdresses, jade jewellery, and clothing made from the skins of dangerous animals (such as jaguars). Images of such lavish outfits are often seen on carved monuments set in public areas of ancient Maya sites, for all the community to see (see pic 2).

Participants in celebratory dance events are often portrayed with very large costumes that encompass the body with an extravagant costume made of jade, feathers, and other exotic materials. In addition to large headdresses, dance participants often wore large backracks with long feathers. Despite the size of these costumes, they were designed to be light enough to move around with, so it is likely they had a light wooden frame onto which materials were attached.

Protective Armour
The ancient Maya regularly participated in wars and conflicts and developed protective clothing as a means of defense. These outfits involved a padded mantle (perhaps made from twisted cotton or thick leaves), often covered with animal skin, and accoutrements such as shields decorated with animal hide or feathers. Interestingly, ancient Maya scenes show war captives and prisoners stripped of much clothing and their ear jewellery replaced with strips of bark paper—which archaeologists take to be a sign of humiliation and defeat.

Pic 4: Ballgame scene, from a ceramic Maya vase (K1209) (Click on image to enlarge)

Sporting Attire
The ballgame is a well-known Mesoamerican sport, and ballplayers wore specific and distinct attire. To reduce injury to the parts of the body which regularly came into contact with the hard rubber playing ball, a horseshoe-shaped yoke was worn around the waist and padding was worn around the knees and elbows. Scenes on painted pottery often show distinctive headdresses being worn to indicate which team a ballplayer belonged to (see pic 4).

How did they make their clothes?
Fabrics and Textiles
To make fabric from agave plants the Maya had to extract fibres from the leaves. To do this they had to soak or cook the leaves to tenderize them, which allowed fibres to be extracted and then dried in the sun. The fibres could be spun into threads of different thicknesses. Thicker threads may have been used to create a fabric that acted as a stiffener for belts or head ribbons. To make fabric from cotton plants, the cotton fibre has to be hand-picked from the plant and cleaned so it is clear and uniform. Then it must be prepared for spinning, in a process known as ginning, by beating the fibre to loosen it. Both cotton and agave fibres had to be spun into thread so that they could be woven into textiles. The ancient Maya used spindles and spindle whorls to do this (see pic 11). The spindle is a long stick that has a whorl attached to the end. Whorls could be made from clay, bone, or wood, and they are used to maintain or increase the speed of the spin. The spindle is turned with one hand while the other hand feeds the raw fibre to it with the supply over the shoulder or from a container on the ground.

Pic 12: Backstrap loom, San Juan Chamula, Mexico

Once spun, thread was woven into textiles using a backstrap loom like those that are still used by modern Maya today (see pic 12). The upper part of the loom can be tied to a stationary object such as a tree, and the lower part has a belt which is tied around the weaver’s waist. They are very light and portable and can be taken with the weaver wherever he/she travels. The looms are not very wide however so broad strips of cloth cannot be woven on them and several widths of cloth may have to be sewn together to create one piece of clothing. Similar to modern clothing worn by Maya women, ancient Maya textiles were not cut to shape and did not fit snugly to the body but were instead loosely draped around the body.

Pic 5: Male and female Maya clothing (Click on image to enlarge)

Everyday Clothing

Basic components of everyday dress included a loincloth or short skirt for men and a huipil or long skirt (perhaps paired with a quechquemitl) for women (see image to right). These outfits would often be embellished with jewellery such as bracelets and anklets, necklaces, and ear jewellery. Hairstyles were given much attention, and would be tied up (almost never left loose) and decorated with bands of fabric and long feathers. The ancient Maya show neatly maintained hairstyles in their art, suggesting that they may have put a stiffener in their hair to keep it in place.

Archaeologists often recover pieces of jewellery such as earrings, necklaces, and rings made from durable material such as shell, bone, precious stone, and even metal (see pic 6). Additionally, body modifications such as elongated heads and shaped and decorated teeth are recovered from ancient Maya burials (see pic 7). Unfortunately archaeologists rarely find evidence of textiles or attire made from perishable materials because the hot, humid, environment of the Maya region causes them to disintegrate. Fortunately, information about clothing that does not survive in the archaeological record can be seen in a wide range of Maya art including murals, ceramics, sculpture, figurines, and books (known as codices). These images show many elite Maya individuals but there is little information about the dress of lower classes, because they are not often portrayed in the art. Nevertheless, archaeologists assume that non-elites wore plainer clothing and did not have access to the full range of exotic materials seen in elite outfits.

Ear jewellery made from shell, jade and ceramic. Photo taken at the Maya Hidden Worlds Revealed Exhibit, Denver Museum of Art and Science, Colorado (Click on image to enlarge)


What evidence do we have for Maya dress?
Archaeologists often recover pieces of jewellery such as earrings, necklaces, and rings made from durable material such as shell, bone, precious stone, and even metal (see pic 6). Additionally, body modifications such as elongated heads and shaped and decorated teeth are recovered from ancient Maya burials (see pic 7). Unfortunately archaeologists rarely find evidence of textiles or attire made from perishable materials because the hot, humid, environment of the Maya region causes them to disintegrate. Fortunately, information about clothing that does not survive in the archaeological record can be seen in a wide range of Maya art including murals, ceramics, sculpture, figurines, and books (known as codices). These images show many elite Maya individuals but there is little information about the dress of lower classes, because they are not often portrayed in the art. Nevertheless, archaeologists assume that non-elites wore plainer clothing and did not have access to the full range of exotic materials seen in elite outfits.

Pic 7: Modified Maya skull, Museo Regional de Antropología, Palacio Canton, Mérida, Yucatán
Pic 7: Modified Maya skull, Museo Regional de Antropología, Palacio Canton, Mérida, Yucatán (Click on image to enlarge)

What materials did the ancient Maya use?
Animal Skins
Skins from various animals were turned into hides to decorate clothes and produce footwear. Jaguar hides were a favoured form of decoration because they were a reflection of wealth and power. The bones of animals were also used in the manufacture of various ornaments and jewellery.


Bird Feathers
The feathers of different birds were used to decorate headdresses and other items. Sometimes birds were trapped and bred and other times they were hunted and released. The Resplendent Quetzal was revered for its long iridescent green tail feathers, which were often used to decorate headdresses and backracks (see pic 8).



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Maya City-States

Unlike the Aztecs in Mexico or the Inca in Peru, the Maya were never a unified empire ruled by a single ruler from a single place. Rather, they were a series of smaller city-states who ruled the immediate vicinity but had little to do with other cities if they were far enough away. These city-states traded with and warred upon one another frequently, so cultural exchange, including architecture, was common. Some of the more important Maya city-states were Tikal, Dos Pilas, Calakmul, Caracol, Copán, Quiriguá, Palenque, Chichén Itzá and Uxmal (there were many others). Although every Maya city is different, they tended to share certain characteristics, such as general layout.

Layout of Maya Cities


Maya tended to lay their cities out in plaza groups: clusters of buildings around a central plaza. This was true of the impressive buildings in the city center (temples, palaces, etc) as well as smaller residential areas. These plazas are rarely neat and orderly and to some, it may seem as if the Maya built anywhere they pleased. This is because they Maya built on the irregularly-shaped higher ground to avoid floods and dampness associated with their tropical forest home. In the center of the cities were the important public buildings such as temples, palaces, and the ball court. Residential areas radiated out from the city center, growing sparser the further they got from the center. Raised stone walkways linked the residential areas with each other and the center. Later Maya cities were built on higher hills for defense and had high walls surrounding most of the city or at least the centers.

Maya Homes



The Maya kings lived in stone palaces in the city center near the temples, but the common Maya lived in small houses outside the city center. Like the city center, the homes tended to be bunched together in clusters: some researchers believe that extended families lived together in one area. Their modest homes are thought to be much like the homes of their descendants in the region today: simple structures constructed mostly of wooden poles and thatch. The Maya tended to build up a mound or base and then build upon it: as the wood and thatch wore away or rotted they would tear it down and build again on the same foundation. Because the common Maya were often forced to build on lower ground than the palaces and temples in the city center, many of these mounds have been lost to flooding or encroaching wilderness.

The City Center

The Maya built great temples, palaces, and pyramids in their city centers. These were often mighty stone structures, over which wooden buildings and thatched roofs were often built. The city center was the physical and spiritual heart of the city. Important rituals were done there, in the temples, palaces, and ball courts.


Many temples are graced by elaborate stone carvings and glyphs. The most magnificent example is the famous Hieroglyphic Stairway at Copán. Temples were often built with astronomy in mind: certain temples are aligned to the movements of Venus, the sun or the moon. In the Lost World Complex at Tikal, for example, there is a pyramid which faces three other temples. If you're standing on the pyramid, the other temples are aligned with the rising sun on equinoxes and solstices. Important rituals took place at these times.


this is a replica in my country. o Rosa Lila temple.




Ball Courts

The ceremonial ball game was an important part of Maya life. Common and noble people alike played for fun and recreation, but some games had important religious and spiritual significance. Sometimes, after important battles in which important prisoners were taken (such as enemy noblemen or even their Ahau, or King) these prisoners would be forced to play a game against the victors. The game represented a re-enactment of the battle, and afterward, the losers (which were naturally the enemy nobles and soldiers) were ceremonially executed. Ball courts, which were rectangular with sloped walls on either side, were prominently placed in Maya cities. Some of the more important cities had several courts. Ball courts were sometimes used for other ceremonies and events.


Surviving Maya Architecture

Although they were not on a par with the legendary Inca stonemasons of the Andes, Maya architects built structures which have withstood centuries of abuse. Mighty temples and palaces at places like Palenque, Tikal, and Chichen Itza survived centuries of abandonment, followed by excavation and now thousands of tourists walking and climbing all over them. Before they were protected, many ruin sites were scavenged by locals looking for stones for their homes, churches or businesses. That the Maya structures have survived so well is a testament to the skill of their builders.


The Maya temples and palaces that have withstood the test of time often contain stone carvings depicting battles, wars, kings, dynastic successions and more. The Maya were literate and had a written language and books, of which only a few survive. The carved glyphs on temples and palaces are therefore important because there is so little remaining of the original Maya cultur




The ancient Maya were very interested in the movement of the sun, the planets, and the stars. They planned their buildings to align with the angles created as the sun crossed the sky on certain days of the year – such as the zenith passage, when the sun is directly overhead – and with the points on the horizon where the sun and the planets, especially Venus, rose and set as they move through the sky over time. When archaeo-astronomers, people who study the astronomy of ancient peoples, examined the orientation of the different parts of the Caracol they discovered that each part of the building had alignments to astronomical events. For example, the lower platform faces the northernmost point where Venus sets, a point that is reached every eight years; while the upper platform faces the point where the sun sets on the day of the zenith passage on May 20. The Maya created sight lines using the corners of the doors and windows that point to the northern and southern extremes of Venus’s setting point on the horizon as well as identifying the position of the sun on the equinoxes.

The Maya were interested in marking the position of the sun and the planets on the horizon for both practical and ritual reasons. On the practical side, the rainy season begins shortly after the sun crosses the zenith in May, and it was important to know in advance so people could have their fields and their seeds ready when the rains arrived. And on the ritual side, the sun, the moon, and the planets were the physical manifestations of some of the Maya gods. Orienting the buildings to astronomical events associated with the planets helped to tie those buildings to the gods themselves.


The Maya and the Sky

The Maya believed that the Earth was the center of all things, fixed and immovable. The stars, moons, sun, and planets were gods; their movements were seen as them going between the Earth, the underworld, and other celestial destinations. These gods were greatly involved in human affairs, and so their movements were watched closely. Many events in Maya life were planned to coincide with certain celestial moments. For example, a war might be delayed until the gods were in place, or a ruler might ascend to the throne of a Mayan city-state only when a certain planet was visible in the night sky.


The Maya and the Sun

The sun was of utmost importance to the ancient Maya. The Mayan sun god was Kinich Ahau. He was one of the more powerful gods of the Mayan pantheon, considered an aspect of Itzamna, one of the Mayan creator gods. Kinich Ahau would shine in the sky all day before transforming himself into a jaguar at night to pass through Xibalba, the Mayan underworld. In the Popol Vuh, the hero twins, Hunaphu and Xbalanque, transformed themselves at one point into the sun and the moon. Some Mayan dynasties claimed to be descended from the sun. The Maya were expert at predicting solar phenomena, such as eclipses and equinoxes and when the sun reached its apex.


The Maya and the Moon

The moon was nearly as important as the sun for the ancient Maya. Mayan astronomers analyzed and predicted the moon’s movements with great accuracy. As with the sun and planets, Mayan dynasties often claimed to be descended from the moon. Mayan mythology generally associated the moon with a maiden, an old woman and/or a rabbit. The Maya moon goddess was Ix Chel, a powerful goddess who battled with the sun and made him descend into the underworld every night. Although she was a fearsome goddess, she was the patroness of childbirth and fertility. Ix Ch’up was another moon goddess described in some of the codices; she was young and beautiful and may have been Ix Chel in her youth.


The Maya and Venus

The Maya were aware of the planets in the solar system and marked their movements. The most important planet by far to the Maya was Venus, which they associated with war. Battles and wars would be arranged to coincide with the movements of Venus, and captured warriors and leaders would likewise be sacrificed according to the position of Venus in the night sky. The Maya painstakingly recorded the movements of Venus and determined that its year, relative to Earth, not the sun, was 584 days long, amazingly close to the 583.92 days that modern science has determined.


The Maya and the Stars

Like the planets, the stars move across the heavens, but unlike the planets, they stay in position relative to one another. To the Maya, the stars were less important to their mythos than the sun, moon, Venus and other planets. However, the stars shift seasonally and were used by Mayan astronomers to predict when the seasons would come and go, which was useful for agricultural planning. For example, the rise of the Pleiades in the night sky occurs at about the same time that the rains come to the Mayan regions of Central America and southern Mexico. The stars, therefore, were of more practical use than many other aspects of Mayan astronomy.


Mayan Architecture and Astronomy

Many important Mayan buildings, such as temples, pyramids, palaces, observatories and ball courts, were laid out in accordance with astronomy. Temples and pyramids, in particular, were designed in such a way that the sun, moon, stars, and planets would be visible from the top or through certain windows at important times of the year. One example is the observatory at Xochicalco, which, although not considered an exclusively Mayan city, certain had Mayan influence. The observatory is an underground chamber with a hole in the ceiling. The sun shines through this hole for most of the summer but is directly overhead on May 15 and July 29. On these days the sun would directly illuminate an illustration of the sun on the floor, and these days were held importance for Mayan priests.


Mayan Astronomy and the Calendar

The Mayan calendar was linked to astronomy. The Maya basically used two calendars: the Calendar Round and the Long Count. The Mayan Long Count calendar was divided into different units of time that used the Haab, or solar year (365 days), as a base. The Calendar Round consisted of two separate calendars; the first was the 365-day solar year, the second was the 260-day Tzolkin cycle. These cycles align every 52 years.


The Observatory

The most striking building at Mayapan is the circular tower of the observatory. The Maya were talented astronomers. They were particularly obsessed with the movements of Venus and other planets, as they believed they were Gods going back and forth from the Earth to the underworld and the celestial planes. The circular tower is built on a base which was divided into two semi-circular areas. During the city's heyday, these rooms were covered in stucco and painte.



The Castle of Kukulcan

Known to archaeologists simply as “structure Q162,” this impressive pyramid dominates Mayapan’s central plaza. It is likely an imitation of the very similar Temple of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza. It has nine tiers and stands about 15 meters (50 feet) tall. Part of the temple collapsed at some point in the past, revealing an older, smaller structure within. At the foot of the Castle is “Structure Q161,” also known as the Room of the Frescoes. There are several painted murals there: a precious collection, considering those very few examples of painted Mayan art remain.









Culturally the area is divided into three sections: the northern, central and southern regions. The earliest evidence of the Maya civilization is found in the southern region. At Izapa carvings depict gods that were the precursors of the Classic deities and at Kaminaljuyu glyphs on stelea foreshadow the Maya writing system. The area was clearly influenced by the Olmec.

The central region includes the southern lowlands, from Tabasco in the Northwest to Belize and Guatemala's Motagua River region in the southeast. Here is where the Classic Maya flourished, along the Usumacinta River and throughout the Peten.

The northern region, which encompasses the northern lowlands, was populated by the Maya in the Late Classic period, when influence from central Mexico created a hybrid Maya/Toltec culture, and was home to the Maya well into the Post-Classic period.


The Maya Economy and Currency



The Maya did not use "money" in the modern sense: there was no universally accepted form of currency which could be used anywhere in the Maya region. Even valuable items, such as cacao seeds, salt, obsidian or gold tended to vary in value from one region or city-state to another, often rising in value the farther away these items were from their source. There were two kinds of goods commercialized by the Maya: prestige items and subsistence items. Prestige items were things like jade, gold, copper, highly decorated pottery, ritual items, and any other less-practical item used as a status symbol by upper-class Maya. Subsistence items were those used on a daily basis: food, clothing, tools, basic pottery, salt, etc.



Subsistence Items and Trade


Early Maya city-states tended to produce all of their own subsistence items. Basic agriculture — mostly production of corn, beans, and squash — was the daily task of the majority of the Maya population. Using basic slash-and-burn agriculture, Maya families would plant a series of fields which would be allowed to lie fallow at times. Basic items, such as pottery for cooking, were made in homes or in community workshops. Later on, as the Maya cities began to grow, they outstripped their food production and food trade increased. Other basic necessities, such as salt or stone tools, were produced in certain areas and then traded to places that lacked them. Some coastal communities were involved in the short-range trade of fish and other seafood.

The Obsidian Trade

Obsidian was a precious commodity to the Maya, who used it for adornments, weapons, and rituals. Of all of the trade items favored by the ancient Maya, obsidian is the most promising for reconstructing their trade routes and habits. Obsidian, or volcanic glass, was available at a handful of sites in the Maya world. It is much easier to trace obsidian to its source than other materials like gold: obsidian from a particular site not only occasionally has a distinct color, like the greenish obsidian from Pachuca, but an examination of the chemical trace elements in any given sample can nearly always identify the region or even the specific quarry from which it was mined. Studies matching obsidian found in archaeological digs with its source have proven very valuable in reconstructing ancient Maya trade routes and patterns.


Recent Advances in the Study of Maya Economy

Researchers continue to study the Maya trade and economy system. Studies are ongoing at Maya sites and new technology is being put to good use. Researchers working at the Yucatan site of Chunchucmil recently tested the soil in a large clearing long suspected of having been a market: they found a high concentration of chemical compounds, 40 times greater than in other samples taken nearby. This suggests that food was extensively traded there: the compounds can be explained by bits of biological material decomposing into the soil, leaving traces behind. Other researchers continue to work with obsidian artifacts in their reconstruction of trade routes.


Lingering Questions

Although dedicated researchers continue to learn more and more about the ancient Maya and their trading patterns and economy, many questions remain. The very nature of their trade is debated: were the merchants taking their orders from the wealthy elite, going where they were told and making the deals they were ordered to make or was there a free market system in effect? What sort of social status did talented artisans enjoy? Did the Maya trade networks collapse along with Maya society in general around 900 A.D.? These questions and more are debated and studied by modern scholars of the ancient Maya.


Importance of the Maya Economy and Trade

Maya economy and trade remains one of the more mysterious aspects of Maya life. Research into the area has proven tricky, as the records left behind by the Maya themselves in terms of their trade are scarce: they tended to document their wars and the lives of their leaders much more completely than their trading patterns.


Nevertheless, learning more about the economy and trading culture of the Maya can shed much light on their culture. What sort of material items did they value, and why? Did extensive trading for prestige items create a sort of "middle class" of traders and skilled artisans? As trade between city-states increased, did cultural exchange — such as archaeological styles, worship of certain Gods or advances in agricultural techniques — also take place?


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Mayan stone hut with thatched roof

Very similar to Iberian.


Descendants of the Maya still live and work near where their ancestors built great cities on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. Working with earth, stone, and straw, early Mayan builders designed structures that shared striking similarities with architecture in Egypt, Africa, and Medieval Europe. Many of the same building traditions can be found in the simple, practical dwellings of modern-day Mayans. Let's look at some of the universal elements found in homes, monuments, and temples of the Mexican Maya, past and present.

Some Maya live in houses today that were built from the same mud and limestone used by their ancestors. From roughly 500 BC to 1200 AD Mayan civilization flourished throughout Mexico and Central America. In the 1800s, explorers John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood wrote about and illustrated the ancient Maya Architecture they saw. The great stone structures survived.




Many ancient ruins have been partially rebuilt after careful study and examination by archeologists and historians. Like Mayan huts of today, ancient cities at Chichén Itzá and Tulum in Mexico were built with mud, limestone, stone, wood, and thatch. Over time, wood and thatch deteriorate, pulling down pieces of the more sturdy stone. Experts often make educated guesses about how ancient cities looked based on how the Maya live today. The Maya of ancient Tulum may have used thatched roofing as their descendant do today.

How did the Maya build?

Over many centuries, Mayan engineering evolved by trial and error. Many structures have been discovered built over older structures that inevitably had fallen. Mayan architecture typically included corbeled arches and corbeled vault roofs on important buildings. A corbel is known today as a type of ornamental or support bracket, but centuries ago corbeling was a masonry technique. Think of feathering a deck of cards to create a stack where one card is slightly edged over another. With two stacks of cards, you can build a type of arch. Visually a corbeled arch looks like an unbroken curve, but, as you can see from this Tulum entrance, the top frame is unstable and quickly deteriorates.

Without continued repair, this technique is not a sound engineering practice. Stone arches are now defined by a "keystone," the top stone at the arch center. Nevertheless, you will find corbeled construction techniques on some of the world's greatest architecture, such as the Gothic pointed arches of medieval Europe.


Ancient Skyscrapers

El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza
El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza. Photo ©2009 Jackie Craven

The Pyramid of Kukulcan El Castillo at Chichén Itzá was the skyscraper of its day. Centrally located within a large plaza, the stepped pyramid temple to the god Kukulcan has four staircases leading to a top platform. Early Egyptian pyramids used a similar terraced pyramid construction. Many centuries later, the jazzy "ziggurat" shape of these structures found their way into the design of art deco skyscrapers of the 1920s.

Each of the four staircases has 91 steps, for a total of 364 steps. The pyramid's top platform creates the 365th step—equal to the number of days in the year. The height is achieved by layering stones, creating a nine-stepped terraced pyramid—one terrace for each Mayan underworld or hell. Adding the number of step layers (9) to the number of pyramid sides (4) results in the number of heavens (13) symbolically represented by the architecture of El Castillo. Nine hells and 13 heavens are intertwined in the spiritual world of the Maya.

Acoustical researchers have found remarkable echo qualities that produce animal-like sounds from the long stairways. Like the sound qualities built into the Mayan ball court, these acoustics are by design.


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The Mighty Tikal.



Dynastic rulership among the lowland Maya is most deeply rooted at Tikal. According to later hieroglyphic records, the dynasty was founded by Yax Ehb Xook, perhaps in the 1st century AD.[34] At the beginning of the Early Classic, power in the Maya region was concentrated at Tikal and Calakmul, in the core of the Maya heartland.[35]

Tikal may have benefited from the collapse of the large Preclassic states such as El Mirador. In the Early Classic Tikal rapidly developed into the most dynamic city in the Maya region, stimulating the development of other nearby Maya cities.[36]

The site, however, was often at war and inscriptions tell of alliances and conflict with other Maya states, including Uaxactun, Caracol, Naranjo and Calakmul. The site was defeated at the end of the Early Classic by Caracol, which rose to take Tikal's place as the paramount center in the southern Maya lowlands.[37] The earlier part of the Early Classic saw hostilities between Tikal and its neighbor Uaxactun, with Uaxactun recording the capture of prisoners from Tikal.[38]

There appears to have been a breakdown in the male succession by AD 317, when Lady Unen Bahlam conducted a katun-ending ceremony, apparently as queen of the city.[


The great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico appears to have decisively intervened in Tikal politics.

As early as 200 AD Teotihuacan had embassies in Tikal.[40]

The fourteenth king of Tikal was Chak Tok Ich'aak (Great Jaguar Paw).[34] Chak Tok Ich'aak built a palace that was preserved and developed by later rulers until it became the core of the Central Acropolis.[41] Little is known about Chak Tok Ich'aak except that he was killed on 14 January 378 AD. On the same day, Siyah K’ak’ (Fire Is Born) arrived from the west, having passed through El Peru, a site to the west of Tikal, on 8 January.[34] On Stela 31 he is named as "Lord of the West".[42] Siyah K’ak’ was probably a foreign general serving a figure represented by a non-Maya hieroglyph of a spearthrower combined with an owl, a glyph that is well known from the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico. Spearthrower Owl may even have been the ruler of Teotihuacan. These recorded events strongly suggest that Siyah K’ak’ led a Teotihuacan invasion that defeated the native Tikal king, who was captured and immediately executed.[43] Siyah K'ak' appears to have been aided by a powerful political faction at Tikal itself;[44] roughly at the time of the conquest, a group of Teotihuacan natives were apparently residing near the Lost World complex.[45] He also exerted control over other cities in the area, including Uaxactun, where he became king, but did not take the throne of Tikal for himself.[28][46] Within a year, the son of Spearthrower Owl by the name of Yax Nuun Ayiin I (First Crocodile) had been installed as the fifteenth king of Tikal while he was still a boy, being enthroned on 13 September 379.[46][47] He reigned for 47 years as king of Tikal, and remained a vassal of Siyah K'ak' for as long as the latter lived. It seems likely that Yax Nuun Ayiin I took a wife from the preexisting, defeated, Tikal dynasty and thus legitimized the right to rule of his son, Siyaj Chan K'awiil II.[46]

Río Azul, a small site 100 kilometres (62 mi) northeast of Tikal, was conquered by the latter during the reign of Yax Nuun Ayiin I. The site became an outpost of Tikal, shielding it from hostile cities further north, and also became a trade link to the Caribbean.[48]

Although the new rulers of Tikal were foreign, their descendants were rapidly Mayanized. Tikal became the key ally and trading partner of Teotihuacan in the Maya lowlands. After being conquered by Teotihuacan, Tikal rapidly dominated the northern and eastern Peten. Uaxactun, together with smaller towns in the region, were absorbed into Tikal's kingdom. Other sites, such as Bejucal and Motul de San José near Lake Petén Itzá became vassals of their more powerful neighbor to the north. By the middle of the 5th century Tikal had a core territory of at least 25 kilometres (16 mi) in every direction.[45]

Around the 5th century an impressive system of fortifications consisting of ditches and earthworks was built along the northern periphery of Tikal's hinterland, joining up with the natural defenses provided by large areas of swampland lying to the east and west of the city. Additional fortifications were probably also built to the south. These defenses protected Tikal's core population and agricultural resources, encircling an area of approximately 120 square kilometres (46 sq mi).[28] Recent research suggests that the earthworks served as a water collection system rather than a defensive purpose.[49]


Marvel of Tikal, Jaguar Temple.

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Tikal and Copán

In the 5th century the power of the city reached as far south as Copán, whose founder K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo' was clearly connected with Tikal.[41] Copán itself was not in an ethnically Maya region and the founding of the Copán dynasty probably involved the direct intervention of Tikal.[50] K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo' arrived in Copán in December 426 and bone analysis of his remains shows that he passed his childhood and youth at Tikal.[51] An individual known as Ajaw K'uk' Mo' (lord K'uk' Mo') is referred to in an early text at Tikal and may well be the same person.[52] His tomb had Teotihuacan characteristics and he was depicted in later portraits dressed in the warrior garb of Teotihuacan. Hieroglyphic texts refer to him as "Lord of the West", much like Siyah K’ak’.[51] At the same time, in late 426, Copán founded the nearby site of Quiriguá, possibly sponsored by Tikal itself.[50] The founding of these two centers may have been part of an effort to impose Tikal's authority upon the southeastern portion of the Maya region.[53] The interaction between these sites and Tikal was intense over the next three centuries.[54]

A long-running rivalry between Tikal and Calakmul began in the 6th century, with each of the two cities forming its own network of mutually hostile alliances arrayed against each other in what has been likened to a long-running war between two Maya superpowers. The kings of these two capitals adopted the title kaloomte', a term that has not been precisely translated but that implies something akin to "high king".[55]

The early 6th century saw another queen ruling the city, known only as the "Lady of Tikal", who was very likely a daughter of Chak Tok Ich'aak II. She seems never to have ruled in her own right, rather being partnered with male co-rulers. The first of these was Kaloomte' B'alam, who seems to have had a long career as a general at Tikal before becoming co-ruler and 19th in the dynastic sequence. The Lady of Tikal herself seems not have been counted in the dynastic numbering. It appears she was later paired with lord "Bird Claw", who is presumed to be the otherwise unknown 20th ruler

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Edited by Lion.Kanzen
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Superpowers wars: Tikal Calakmul.




The Tikal-Calakmul wars were a series of wars, mainly between Tikal and Calakmul on the Yucatán Peninsula, but also with vassal states in the Petén Basin such as Copan, Dos Pilas, Naranjo, Sacul, Quiriguá, and briefly Yaxchilan had a role in initiating the first war.

After conquering Yaxchilan and its subsidiaries, Calakmul allied itself with Caracol. Calakmul went on to conquer Naranjo in 546 ( on the Maya calendar). Tikal and its kingdom were not destroyed, but suffered major losses and went into decline after the war ended in 572 ( Mutal, the secondary city of the Tikal kingdom prospered as some of Tikal’s power transferred to it.


The second war lasted from 650 to 695 ( During the second war the vassal state of Dos Pilas and its ruler B'alaj Chan K'awiil who started a civil war in Tikal and eventually sided with Calakmul played important roles.


B'alaj Chan K'awiil laid claim to the royal title Ajaw and emblem of Mutal Tikal (glyph).png. He won a civil war with Tikal using the help of Calakmul. He betrayed the reign of Nuun Ujol Chaak and swore obedience to Calakmul, under the rule of Yuknoom The Great. From then until 695 three years after B'alaj's death Calakmul occupied Tikal. In 695 under the leadership of Jasaw Chan K'awiil I Tikal won a major battle with Calakmul and turned the tables, effectively ending the Second Tikal-Calakmul War

Having been deprived of its military reputation Calakmul lost its northern provinces and collapsed, the last recorded date in the city was 899, possibly 909. Similarly Tikal, and most of the Maya cities were destroyed in the Maya collapse. The war may have contributed to the collapse, along with overpopulation, disease, famine, and others.






Calakmul and Tikal were two rival kingdoms who fought each other multiple times for supremacy during the Classic period from the sixth century to 900 A.D.. The Kaanul or Snakes orchestrated a plan with a vision with new ideas to expand to rule the Maya civilization. The Snake Kings were able to prevail by using their political influence and expanded to create one of the greatest Maya Kingdoms.

For centuries Tikal was a superpower who dominated the low lands of the jungles of Peten in northern Guatemala until it was defeated by the Snakes in the sixth century. At the end of the fifth century Tikal held on to it supremacy perhaps because of the possible alliance 650 miles away with Teotihuacan which controlled Central Mexico and the exploitation and distribution of black and green Obsidian and manufactured military weapons that reached Tikal. In the sixth century the alliance with Teotihuacan and Tikal disengaged. It left Tikal in a dangerous position because it lost its most powerful political alliance in the west.

The Snake Kingdom recognized the position of Tikal and took that opportunity for political control and slowly used its power and influence to persuade cities in the Maya low lands as well as cities to the north of Tikal to form alliances with the Snakes. The Snakes were the best when it came to building and breaking alliances in the sixth century. The alliances were orchestrated for decades by the first Snake ruler by the name of Stone Hand Jaguar who probably based the Snake Kingdom in the city of Dzibanche which is located 80 miles northeast to Calakmul in Southern Mexico. According to Vance, no one’s sure where the Snakes came from; there’s no evidence of them ruling Calakmul before 635 AD. Some experts imagine them hundreds of years before the Classic era, moving from place to place, creating one mega city after another. But this is guesswork. The first obvious snake glyphs seem to appear in Dzibanche (Vance, 83). The Snakes were successful in in persuading the cities of Caracol and Waka to break the alliance with Tikal and switch sides to form an alliance with Stone Hand Jaguar. This allowed the Snake Kingdom to finally form a giant pincer with Tikal right in the center.

The other major cities which allied with the Snakes to encircle Tikal were Saknikte (La Corona), Holmul and Naranjo. Now the Snakes had the perfect opportunity to attack its main rival King Double Bird in Tikal. Stone Hand Jaguar died before the war began with Tikal. The Snake kingdom was transferred to his successor Sky Witness who led the offensive on Tikal. Sky Witness led his forces east from Waka while his allies attacked from the west. The Snakes along with its allies defeated and sacked the city of Tikal on April 29, 562. Ten years later Sky Witness died but because of his victory over Tikal the Kaanul dynasty would rule the Maya civilization for many years making Calakmul the largest political regional state that reigned in one of the most intense jungles in the world.



Kalakmul ruins.



Masks from the tombs at Calakmul were meant to ease the passage of the Snake elite into the next world. Royal visages made of green jade, more valuable than gold to the ancient Maya, evoked the annual agricultural cycle and regeneration.



The site was a thriving settlement during the Classic Maya period (A.D. 250-900), a time when writing and culture flourished throughout what is today Central America and southern Mexico. But it also was a time of political upheaval: Two warring city-states were locked in perennial conflict, grappling for supremacy. For a brief period one of those city-states prevailed and became the closest thing to an empire in Maya history. It was ruled by the Snake kings of the Kaanul dynasty, which until just a few decades ago no one even knew existed. Thanks to sites around this city-state, including Holmul, archaeologists are now piecing together the story of the Snake kings.

The story of the discovery of the Kaanul, or Snakes, and their effort to create an empire begins in Tikal, the city of their most hated enemy. Just as Tikal dominated the Maya lowlands for centuries, it has dominated Maya archaeology since the 1950s. The sprawling city once had a population approaching 60,000, and its elegant buildings surely dazzled visitors in A.D. 750, much as they do tourists today.

At the end of the fifth century, Tikal was one of the most powerful city-states in the region. Archaeologists suspect that it held its position with the help of a much larger city high in the mountains 650 miles to the west called Teotihuacan, near today’s Mexico City. For centuries these two cities shaped Maya painting, architecture, pottery, weapons, and city planning. But all that changed in the sixth century, when Teotihuacan disengaged from the Maya region, leaving Tikal to fend for itself.

Enter the Snakes. No one’s sure where they came from; there’s no evidence of them ruling Calakmul before 635. Some experts imagine them hundreds of years before the Classic era, moving from place to place, creating one megacity after another. But this is guesswork. The first obvious snake glyphs seem to appear in Dzibanché, a city in southern Mexico, 80 miles northeast of Calakmul.

Wherever the Snakes were based, we know that starting in the early sixth century two successive Snake kings recognized that Tikal was vulnerable and made a bold play for political control. The first, Stone Hand Jaguar, spent decades making courtesy calls throughout the Maya lowlands.


WAKA (EL PERÚ) 01-2In about 656, King Jaguar Throne, a Snake ally, was laid to rest in this city-state. His tomb contained painted ceramic figurines four to nine inches tall depicting a mythical ritual from the underworld. Snake King Yuknoom Cheen II (the second figurine in the series above) plays the role of king. His daughter Lady Water Lily Hand (first in the series) has conjured up a magical deer (third in the series), which prays for the spiritual resurrection of the deceased. Other participants include the king’s widow and royal courtiers.





Influencing such a far-flung region, perhaps as large as the U.S. state of Kentucky, required a kind of organization never before seen among the Maya. It also required a new seat of power, one closer to the jade-rich cities in the south. Dzibanché was almost 100 miles from Calakmul, an impressive distance for people on foot in thick jungle. There are no records of the move to the new capital of Calakmul, but in 635 the Snakes erected a monument declaring themselves the masters of the city, having displaced a dynasty there known as the Bats.

Within a year the greatest of the Snake rulers—perhaps the greatest Maya king ever—took the throne. His name was Yuknoom Cheen II, or Shaker of Cities, as he is sometimes called. Sky Witness and Scroll Serpent had been adept conquerors, but Yuknoom Cheen was a true king. Like Cyrus in Persia or Augustus in Rome, he deftly played one city against another—bribing some, threatening others—while consolidating his hold on the Maya lowlands unlike any Maya king before or after. And he kept up this political balancing act for 50 years.

The best way to understand a king can be to meet his servant. Similarly, the best way to understand an empire is often to look at a client city. Perhaps the most interesting servant to the Snakes was a small, otherwise unremarkable city called Saknikte.



In a bid to dominate the heart of the Maya region, Snake forces attacked the rival city-state of Tikal on April 29, 562. In this interpretation of the moment of victory, King Sky Witness stands in triumph over Tikal King Double Bird, who is bound at the Snake king’s feet. The loss sent Tikal into a 130-year decline.
Edited by Lion.Kanzen
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Around the advanced age of 86, Yuknoom Cheen died. Most Calakmul citizens would have been lucky to live half as long, but their kings were a pampered breed, dining only on soft tamales, so that even their teeth looked unusually young. Malnutrition was pervasive in the poorer classes, but elites could be overweight and some may have had diabetes.

Some suggest that Claw of Fire was just such a man. He likely was running the kingdom long before his father died. But as with the sons of many great kings, he fell far short of his father. Despite multiple crushing defeats, Tikal rose up again in 695. This time it was led by a young king, impressively named God That Clears the Sky. Claw of Fire raised another Snake army to face the Tikal upstart.

We don’t know exactly what happened that August day. Some experts think that God That Hammers the Sky, bitter about various snubs, betrayed his Snake allies on the battlefield. Others say Claw of Fire, middle-aged and suffering from a painful spinal disease, didn’t inspire confidence in his troops. Perhaps the stars simply weren’t aligned.


The great rivalry between these two cities may have been based on more than competition for resources. Their dynastic histories reveal different origins and the intense competition between the two powers may have had an ideological grounding. Calakmul's dynasty seems ultimately derived from the great Preclassic city of El Mirador while the dynasty of Tikal was profoundly affected by the intervention of the distant central Mexican metropolis of Teotihuacan.[26] With few exceptions, Tikal's monuments and those of its allies place great emphasis upon single male rulers while the monuments of Calakmul and its allies gave greater prominence to the female line and often the joint rule of king and queen




record the probable enthronement of a king of Calakmul in AD 411 and also records a non-royal site ruler in 514.[27] After this there is a gap in the hieroglyphic records that lasts over a century, although the Kaan dynasty experienced a major expansion of its power at this time. The lack of inscriptions recording the events of this period may be either due to the fact that the Kaan dynasty was located elsewhere during this time or perhaps that the monuments were later destroyed.[27]

The earliest legible texts referring to the kings of the Kaan dynasty come from excavations of the large city of Dzibanche in Quintana Roo, far north of Calakmul.[27] A hieroglyphic stairway depicts bound captives, their names and the dates they were captured together with the name of king Yuknoom Che'en I, although the exact context of the king's name is unclear - the captives may have been his vassals captured by an enemy or they may have been rulers captured by the king of Calakmul. The dates are uncertain but two of them may fall within the 5th century AD.[27] The nearby Quintana Roo site of El Resbalón has a jumbled hieroglyphic text, including a date in 529, that indicates that the city was within the control of the Kaan dynasty.[30]

By the middle of the 6th century AD Calakmul was assembling a far-reaching political alliance, activity that brought the city into conflict with the great city of Tikal.[3] The influence of Calakmul extended deep into the Petén; king Tuun K'ab' Hix of Calakmul oversaw the enthronement of Aj Wosal to the rulership of Naranjo in 546.[3] Another vassal of Tuun K'ab' Hix was taken captive by Yaxchilan on the banks of the Usumacinta River in 537.[3]

In 561, the king now known as Sky Witness installed a ruler at the site of Los Alacranes.[3] Sky Witness played a major part in the political events of the Maya region. He became the overlord of the city of Caracol, to the south of Naranjo, which had previously been a vassal of Tikal.[3] In 562, according to a damaged text at Caracol, Sky Witness defeated Tikal itself and sacrificed its king Wak Chan K'awiil, thus ending his branch of the royal dynasty at Tikal.[3] This catastrophic defeat began a 130-year hiatus for Tikal, reflecting an extended period of dominance by Calakmul.[3] This event is used as a marker to divide the Early Classic from the Late Classic.[31] Sky Witness is also mentioned at Okop, a site much further north in Quintana Roo.[3] The last reference to Sky Witness occurs at Caracol and is dated to AD 572. The text is damaged but probably records the death of this powerful king.


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Although the Maya were once thought to have been peaceful (see below), current theories emphasize the role of inter-polity warfare as a factor in the development and perpetuation of Maya society. The goals and motives of warfare in Maya culture are not thoroughly understood, but scholars have developed models for Maya warfare based on several lines of evidence, including fortified defenses around structure complexes, artistic and epigraphic depictions of war, and the presence of weapons such as obsidian blades and projectile points in the archaeological record. Warfare can also be identified from archaeological remains that suggest a rapid and drastic break in a fundamental pattern due to violence.

Maya polities engaged in violent warfare for political control of people and resources. Some scholars have suggested that the capture of sacrificial victims was a driving force behind warfare.[1] Among the most critical resources were water and agricultural land. Economic control of resources such as obsidian also increased competition among polities.[2] As polities became more successful, they also became more complex. This led to improved efficiency in acquiring and holding valued resources, especially through military force. Population growth increased the competition between polities, resulting in increased levels of violence.


Tactics and organization

Little can be known about how the ancient Maya planned and coordinated their attacks. However, it has been noted that the Maya cities kept some distance between themselves and their enemies with an estimated mean distance of 55 km (about two to eight day's travel) between major settlements.[3]

This may support the theory that war was fought by and for elites; that is, the Maya and non-Maya nobility. This may be because of the long distances that had to be traveled between cities. One estimate puts about 500-1000 men on the battlefield on each side of the conflict at maximum based on estimates about the logistics of the journey, such as amount of weight carried and how much food was needed on the journey.[3]

It is thought that enemies would project missiles at long range, then as they advanced on each other, discipline probably declined, allowing individuals to attempt to personal feats of bravery.[3] The main body of the population does not appear to have been active in most conflicts unless it involved the overthrow of a ruler.

Military organization is somewhat unclear. Leadership seems to have been embodied mostly in the Halach Uinik, the ajaw or lord of each geopolitical unit, known as a batab.

Although the Maya had projectile technology, such as the atlatl and spear, much of the actual fighting was done at close range with "thrusting, stabbing, and crushing".[3] Weapons were crafted mostly from obsidian and chert, obsidian being the sharpest (but more brittle). Knapping chert or obsidian into bifacial projectile points and attaching them to atlatl darts, spears, and arrows was the dominant technology. Although bows and arrows were used, spears and Macuahuitl remained much more common.[4] As well, chipped flint was common in close range combat knives.


Maysn replica knife.

Resultado de imagen para mayan knives

...Among the weapons found at the site are chert and obsidian bi-facial points, and chert small points which were probably used as arrowheads. Obsidian spear tips, which were found extensively throughout the site, were the primary weapon used based on the number found at the site. other weapons included darts and atlatl darts.

The site reveals a key feature of Mayan war - that being the involvement of the royal elites in the manufacture and execution of warfare. For example, 30-40 broken chert bifacial points were found in the royal residences of Aguateca, along with small bifacial thinning flakes which were the result of failed bifacial point manufacturing. All obsidian bifacial thinning flakes were found in a royal or elite context. This serves as evidence for the hypothesis that rulers, scribes, and artisans at Aguateca served as warriors.

The city was captured and destroyed approximately 810 AD. The capture led to mass evacuations of the city, as marked by the plethora of remains left at the site. It appears that the goal of the capture was to terminate the influence of Aguateca, not to occupy the city or its power.


Another mass grave at Colha was found to have unusual characteristics for a Maya grave site. This suggests that it was not a ritual or sacrificial grave, but was dug during the capture of Colha. Although the site was already an important site of lithic production, archaeological remains show an exponential increase in the volume of stemmed blades produced, which served as the primary weapon in the area. This, along with the large volume of human remains found inside the defensive walls, suggests that perhaps the inhabitants were prepared for an invasion. These remains indicate that the capture of Colha was a strategic move to cut off supply of weapons production for the area by an invader.




Ch'ak (Decapitation or "axe event")

The Ch'ak glyph is interpreted as a decapitation (presumably of an important individual) or a major battle. They seem to be important to the victor but do not refer to the complete destruction of the loser and in most cases may have not affected the defeated polity much at all.



Earlier wars were fought for captives for human sacrifice, and for land, natural resources and control of trade networks. City-states might even have arranged battles for captives as the Aztecs did with their Flower Wars.

However, the population growth and environmental destruction of the Late Classical era meant less food to feed the hungry cities. War for resources became endemic with battles fought between big city centers that dragged in many smaller polities. As warfare became more extensive and constant, Mayan societies began to fall apart. Finally, surviving Mayans abandoned their lowland cities and disappeared from that area.

The Mayans were fierce warriors, while not quite at the level of the Mongols, still a deadly threat to their neighbors.

Mayans at War: Long Distance Weapons

The Mayans had both long-distance weapons and melee weapons. The long distance ones included bow and arrow, blowgun, slings and throwing spears. When the atlatl or spear thrower was brought to the Mayans from Teotihuacan around 400 A.D., it was quickly adopted and became the Mayans’ dominant long distance weapon. The atlatl greatly increased the accuracy, force and range of the spear; when thrown from an atlatl a spear reportedly could pierce the Spaniards’ metal armor. The blowgun was predominantly used for hunting, but it had some wartime uses as well. Mayan warriors used bow and arrows more during the Post-Classical era.


From what I have read the Atlatl was the main long range weapon of choice for the Maya. However commoners or the poorer Maya would have used this. The blowgun was very popular for hunting and was occasionally used in war as well. It is similar to the South American version. They are made by splitting a long piece of wood, then hollowing out on each side to make a chamber, then fitting it back together.


Mayans at War: Melee Weapons

When armies clashed in battles, they used melee weapons, including clubs, axes, stabbing spears and knives. They Mayan war club resembled that the Macuahuitl of the Aztecs in that it was lined with obsidian blades on three sides. These 42-in long clubs could stun, break bones or cut. They were capable of cutting off a horse’s head. Mayans also used axes with heads of stone, obsidian, flint or bronze. The sharp edge of the axe could kill, but the dull edge could stun. The object of the battle was often to capture, not kill, enemy warriors, making the axe a good weapon. In hand to hand combat, the Mayans used the same 10-inch blade knives they used in sacrifices.

Mayans at War: Defensive Weapons

The Mayans built fortifications around some of their cities. Examples of this include Seibal and Tikal. For defense, warriors carried shields and elites and veterans wore thick, cotton armor treated with rock salt that could withstand obsidian. Helmets were unknown and warriors wore elaborate headdresses instead. Warriors also used body paint and animal skins to show their status.

Mayans at War: Unusual Weapons

The Popul Voh, the book of the Kiche Maya, tells of hornets and wasps used as defensive weapons. When attackers came, defending warriors had gourds filled with hornets that they threw into the midst of the attackers. Hornets erupted out of the gourds and angrily attacked, killing many warriors. The defenders won the battle.



Swords were not traditional weapons of Native Americans in most tribes, and never became very popular after European contact either. An exception is the native tribes of Alaska, where longer iron versions of the traditional double-sided daggers were made by the Tlingit and Haida people in the 1800's. In Mexico, a unique style of sword called the macuahuitl was used by Aztec warriors. Though the sword itself was made of wood, it was inlaid with strips of razor-sharp obsidian and used as a slashing weapon. According to Spanish accounts, macuahuitl swords, though unwieldy, were powerful enough to decapitate a horse.

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"And then Captain Tecún flew up, he came like an eagle full of real feathers, which were not artificial; he wore wings which also sprang from his body and he wore three crowns, one was of gold, another of pearls and another of diamonds and emeralds." Tecún Umán went forward with the intention of killing (conquistador) Alvarado and thus defeating the battle beasts and the way of the Spanish. He struck at the great man-beast with all his power, hitting Alvarado's horse and taking its head off in a single blow. According to the K'iche, his lance was not made of metal, but of shiny stone which had a magic spell on it. When Tecún realized he had killed only the battle beast and not the man, he flew upward and came at Alvarado. The Spaniard was ready and impaled the charging king on his lance. (Totonicapán Title)”l


Blowguns (also known as blow tubes or blowpipes) are primarily a small-game weapon used by South American, Central American, and Mexican Indian hunters. Some Southeastern tribes of North America, such as the Seminole and Cherokee, also used blowguns for bird hunting.

American Indian blowguns were almost never used as weapons of war-- the only exceptions were South American tribes who used poisoned darts to weaken or kill opponents (see Poison, below.) Most Native American blowguns are either made from a stiff reed such as rivercane or a thick stick of wood hollowed out to form a tube, and the hunter blows into the tube to propel a dart or clay pellet out the other side.







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Historical Accuracy vs Hollywood.


In Apocalypto, the hero, Jaguar Paw, lives in an idyllic hunting village set deep in the jungle. Would this have been typical?

During Classic times the Maya were an agricultural people. They hunted, but wild game was a relatively small percentage of the diet, and meat in general may have been seen as more of a luxury item.

At that time, it appears that almost all the forest was maintained, manicured, and owned by somebody, and [the fact] that you have a Maya group [in Apocalypto] that doesn't practice agriculture is virtually impossible.

The villagers are attacked and captured by men from a Maya metropolis. While the male captives are to be used in sacrificial rituals, the women are sold as slaves.

There's no evidence that innocent women and men were harvested from the hinterlands and sold into slavery or to provide flesh for sacrifice. Generally captives appear to have been taken during war between polities.

Jaguar Paw and the other captives who are brought to the city have never heard of such a place.

During the Classic period Maya settlement was so widespread that you lived at least within 10 to 20 kilometers [6 to 12 miles] of a large community. Pyramids were never more than 20 kilometers away from anywhere in the Maya world.

There was a great sense of political connectedness between different groups. Even small villages in the hinterlands of large cities were connected to some political center.

The city is depicted as one of both great wealth—with a lot of people wearing jade jewelry—and great poverty.

Jade was usually reserved for royal families. Even in cases of relatively impoverished sites … the king would wear false jade beads made of painted ceramic, indicating that the veneer of wealth was crucial no matter what the reality.

Jade was the symbol of royal power and wealth. You don't find these goods in commoner graves and even very rarely in nonroyal elite burials.

The Maya civilization is impressive for a number of reasons—a fully developed writing system, amazing architecture, and a complex political system. But life expectancy was low.

Near the time of the collapse, people were generally undernourished, which is reflected in their bones, and they had bad problems with their teeth.

The movie suggests that the Maya relished torturing their captives.

The captives the Maya wanted were the elites from opposing polities, because they represented competition.

Capture, humiliation, and torture of an elite warrior meant usurpation of their goods and resources. The Maya didn't necessarily relish torture and violence, but they relished making their political opponents suffer.

Fingernails were torn out, genitalia and breasts exposed, and starvation was common.

In the movie the king is shown as a bystander to two other individuals during the sacrificial ritual.

Most monuments depict the king as the central figure—dancing, bloodletting, scattering incense.

The king was the one who supposedly conducted rituals in front of a large audience. He played a major ceremonial role.

The Maya kings were seen as potent mediums in terms of communicating with their own ancestors, and the king would also impersonate deities. By doing so, the king could replay important mythological scenes that connected to events that were happening in the city at the time.

In terms of historical accuracy, the arrival of the Spaniards is a problem in itself, right?

The movie ends with the Spaniards coming [which didn't happen in Mexico until long after the Classic Maya collapse]. So basically we're looking at a 400-year difference in architectural style and history.

The movie is mixing two vastly different time periods. This Classic form of kingship ended around 900 A.D.





Itzamná (pronounced Eetz-am-NAH and sometimes spelled Itzam Na), is one of the most important of the Mayan pantheon of gods, the creator of the world and supreme father of the universe who ruled based on his esoteric knowledge, rather than his strength.


Itzamná's Power

Itzamna was a fantastic mythological being that embodied the opposites of our world (earth-sky, life-death, male-female, light-dark). According to Maya mythology, Itzamná was part of the supreme power couple, husband to the elder version of the goddess Ix Chel (Goddess O), and together they were parents of all the other gods.


In the Mayan language, Itzamná means caiman, lizard, or large fish. The "Itz" part of his name means a number of things, among them "dew" or "stuff of the clouds" in Quechua; "divination or witchcraft" in Colonial Yucatec; and "foretell or contemplate", in the Nahuatl version of the word. As the supreme being he has several names, Kukulcan (underwater serpent or feathered snake) or Itzam Cab Ain, the "Itzam Earth Caiman", but archaeologists refer to him prosaically as God D.


Aspects of God D

Itzamná is credited with inventing writing and the sciences and bringing them to the Maya people. Often he is portrayed as an aged man, with the written form of his name including the Ahau for leadership alongside his conventional glyph. His name is sometimes prefixed by the Akbal sign, a symbol of blackness and night that at least to a degree associates Itzamná with the moon. He is considered a force with multiple aspects, combining the earth, heavens, and underworld. He is associated with birth and creation, and maize. In Yucatan, during the Postclassic period, Itzamná was also worshiped as the god of medicine. Illnesses associated with Itzamná included chills, asthma, and respiratory ailments.


Itzamná was also connected with the sacred World Tree (ceiba), which for the Maya linked together the sky, earth, and Xibalba, the Mayan underworld. God D is described in ancient texts from sculpture and codices as a scribe (ah dzib) or learned person (idzat). He is the top god of the Mayan hierarchy of gods, and important representations of him appear at Copan (Altar D), Palenque (House E) and Piedras Negras (Stela 25).



Kukulkan was known under many different names.

Was this mighty snake deity a real historical person?

It is not easy to trace the ancient history of Kukulkan. Like all of the feathered serpent gods in Mesoamerican cultures, Kukulkan is thought to have originated in Olmec mythology and we still know very little about the mysterious Olmec civilization.

The true identity of the god Kukulkan becomes an even greater problem due to the confusing references to a man who bore the name of the Mayan god. Because of this, the distinction between the two has become blurred.

Around the 10th century, a priest or ruler appeared in Chichen Itza, a sacred site that was one of the greatest Mayan centers of the Yucatán peninsula, Mexico where we also find El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulkan.

According to ancient Maya beliefs, Kukulkan was the god of wind, sky and the Sun.  He was a supreme leader of the gods and depicted, just like Quetzalcoatl as a combination of a snake rattlesnake from the quetzal bird.  Kukulkan gave mankind his learning and laws. He was very merciful and kind, but he could also change his nature and inflict great punishment and suffering on humans.

This important figure was the supreme leader, popularly known as the feathered Serpent, as portrayed him as the god of the wind, the sky and the sun and the same figure was a combination of a snake rattlesnake from the quetzal bird.

This is very controversial for me. But is from two different. Sources.


According to Maya legend, the Maya were visited by a robed Caucasian man with blond hair, blue eyes and a beard who taught the Maya about agriculture, medicine, mathematics and astronomy. This being was Kukulkan – the Feathered Serpent.

Kukulan warned the Maya of another bearded white man who would not only conquer the indigenous people of Central America, but would also enforce a new religion upon them before he was to return. Despite the warning, the Maya mistakenly welcomed the invading Cortes as Quetzalcoatl.

The cult of Kukulkan spread as far as the Guatemalan Highlands, where Postclassic feathered serpent sculptures are found with open mouths from which protrude the heads of human warriors.
Hundreds of North and South American Indian and South Pacific legends tell of a white-skinned, bearded lord who traveled among the many tribes to bring peace about 2,000 years ago. This spiritual hero was best known as Quetzelcoatl.

Some of his many other names were:

Kate-Zahl (Toltec)
Kul-kul-kan (Maya)
Tah-co-mah (NW America)
Waicomak (Dakota)
Wakea (Cheyenne, Hawaiian and Polynesian)
Waikano (Orinoco)
the Mighty Mexico
E-See-Co-Wah (Lord of Wind and Water)
the Dawn God (Puan, Mississippi)
Hea-Wah-Sah (Seneca),
Taiowa, Ahunt Azoma
E-See-Cotl (New Guinea)
Itza-Matul (Yucatan)
Zac-Mutul (Mayan)
Wakon-Tah (Navajo)
Wakona (Algonquin)
Kukulkan emerged from the ocean, and disappeared in it afterwards. Before he left, he promised that he will return one day in the future, but he never revealed when…


Very weird, and nonsolid evidence or primary source.

Edited by Lion.Kanzen
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   Entre los tupis guaraníes existen la leyenda de Sumé que se asemeja en mucho con los otros mitos citados. Estrangeiro con gran sabiduría de la agricultura y la curación de las enfermedades y el carácter semi divino, después de ser traicionado ellos se fue hacia el mar. Los jesuitas en su "evagilización" crearon el mito que Sumé era Santo Tomé, facilitando así las conversiones de los indigenas.

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10 hours ago, Lopess said:

   Entre los tupis guaraníes existen la leyenda de Sumé que se asemeja en mucho con los otros mitos citados. Estrangeiro con gran sabiduría de la agricultura y la curación de las enfermedades y el carácter semi divino, después de ser traicionado ellos se fue hacia el mar. Los jesuitas en su "evagilización" crearon el mito que Sumé era Santo Tomé, facilitando así las conversiones de los indigenas.

Donde puedo buscarlo?

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Most Deadliest close combat weapon.



A macuahuitl ([maːˈkʷawit͡ɬ]) is a wooden club with obsidian blades. The name is derived from the Nahuatl language and means "hand-wood".[2] Its sides are embedded with prismatic blades traditionally made from obsidian; obsidian is capable of producing an edge sharper than high quality steel razor blades. The macuahuitl was a standard close combat weapon.

Use of the maquahuitl as a weapon is attested from the first millennium CE. By the time of the Spanish conquest the macuahuitl was widely distributed in Mesoamerica. The weapon was used by different civilisations including the Aztec (Mexicas), Mayan, Mixtec and Toltec.

One example of this weapon survived the Conquest of Mexico; it was part of the Royal Armoury of Madrid until it was destroyed by a fire in 1884. Images of the original designs survive in diverse catalogues. The oldest replica is the macuahuitl created by the medievalist Achille Jubinal in the 19th century.


It was capable of inflicting serious lacerations from the rows of obsidian blades embedded in its sides. These could be knapped into blades or spikes, or into a circular design that looked like scales.[6] The maquahuitl is not a sword or a club, although it approximates a European broadsword.

Is very brutal injury.



According to conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo, the macuahuitl was 0.91 to 1.22 m long, and 75 mm wide, with a groove along either edge, into which sharp-edged pieces of flint or obsidian were inserted and firmly fixed with an adhesive.[7] The rows of obsidian blades were sometimes discontinuous, leaving gaps along the side, while at other times the rows were set close together and formed a single edge.[8] It was noted by the Spanish that the macuahuitl was so cleverly constructed that the blades could be neither pulled out nor broken. The macuahuitl was made with either a one-handed or two-handed grip, as well as in rectangular, ovoid, or pointed forms. Two-handed macuahuitl have been described as being "as tall as a man".[9]




According to National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH) archaeologist Marco Cervera Obregón, there were two versions of this weapon: The macuahuitl, about 70 to 80 centimetres (28 to 31 in) long with six to eight blades on each side; and the mācuāhuitzōctli, a smaller club about 50 centimetres (20 in) long with only four obsidian blades.[10]

The maquahuitl predates the Aztecs. Tools made from obsidian fragments were used by some of the earliest Mesoamericans. Obsidian used in ceramic vessels has been found at Aztec sites. Obsidian cutting knives, sickles, scrapers, drills, razors, and arrow points have also been found.[14] Several obsidian mines were close to the Aztec civilisations in the Valley of Mexico as well as in the mountains north of the valley.[15] Among these were the Sierra de las Navajas (Razor Mountains), named after their obsidian deposits. Use of the maquahuitl as a weapon is attested from the 1st millenia CE. A Mayan carving at Chichen Itza shows a warrior holding a macuahuitl, depicted as a club having separate blades sticking out from each side. In a mural, a warrior holds a club with many blades on one side and one sharp point on the other, also a possible variant of the macuahuitl.[8][16]

By the time of the Spanish conquest the macuahuitl was widely distributed in Mesoamerica, with records of its use by the Aztecs, Mixtecs, Tarascans, Toltecs and others.[17] It was also commonly used by the Indian auxiliaries of Spain,[18] though they favored Spanish swords. As Mesoamericans in Spanish service needed a special permission to carry European arms, metal swords brought Indian auxiliaries more prestige than maquahuitls in the eyes of Europeans as well as natives.[1




The macuahuitl was sharp enough to decapitate a man.[14] According to an account by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, one of Hernán Cortés’s conquistadors, it could even decapitate a horse:

Pedro de Morón was a very good horseman, and as he charged with three other horsemen into the ranks of the enemy the Indians seized hold of his lance and he was not able to drag it away, and others gave him cuts with their broadswords, and wounded him badly, and then they slashed at the mare, and cut her head off at the neck so that it hung by the skin, and she fell dead.[20]

Another account by a companion of Cortés known as The Anonymous Conqueror tells a similar story of its effectiveness:

They have swords of this kind – of wood made like a two-handed sword, but with the hilt not so long; about three fingers in breadth. The edges are grooved, and in the grooves they insert stone knives, that cut like a Toledo blade. I saw one day an Indian fighting with a mounted man, and the Indian gave the horse of his antagonist such a blow in the breast that he opened it to the entrails, and it fell dead on the spot. And the same day I saw another Indian give another horse a blow in the neck, that stretched it dead at his feet.

— "Offensive and Defensive Arms", page 23[21]

Another account by Francisco de Aguilar reads:

They used ... cudgels and swords and a great many bows and arrows ... One Indian at a single stroke cut open the whole neck of Cristóbal de Olid’s horse, killing the horse. The Indian on the other side slashed at the second horseman and the blow cut through the horse’s pastern, whereupon this horse also fell dead. As soon as this sentry gave the alarm, they all ran out with their weapons to cut us off, following us with great fury, shooting arrows, spears and stones, and wounding us with their swords. Here many Spaniards fell, some dead and some wounded, and others without any injury who fainted away from fright





The macuahuitl had many drawbacks in combat versus European steel swords. Despite being objectively sharper, prismatic obsidian is also considerably more brittle than steel; obsidian blades of the type used on the macuahuitl tended to shatter on impact with other obsidian blades, steel swords or plate armour. Obsidian blades also have difficulty penetrating European mail. The thin, replaceable blades used on the macuahuitl were easily dulled or chipped by repeated impacts on bone or wood, making artful use of the weapon critical. It takes more time to lift and swing a club than it does to thrust with a sword. More space is needed as well, so warriors advanced in loose formations and fought in single combat.

Basically low pierce vs chainmail or lorica hamata.


Replicas of the macuahuitl have been produced and tested against sides of beef for documentary shows on the History and Discovery channels, to demonstrate the effectiveness of this weapon. On the History show Warriors, special forces operator and martial artist Terry Schappert injured himself while fencing with a macuahuitl; he cut the back of his left leg as the result of a back-swing motion.[25]

https://dai.ly/x6gi3q6 https://dai.ly/x6gi3q6

For SpikeTV's reality program Deadliest Warrior a replica was created and tested against a model of a horse's head created using a horse's skeleton and ballistics gel. Actor and martial artist Éder Saúl López was able to decapitate the model, but it took three swings. Blows from the replica macuahuitl were most effective when it was swung and then dragged backwards upon impact, creating a sawing motion. This led Max Geiger, the computer programmer of the series, to refer to the weapon as "the obsidian chainsaw". This may have been due to the crudely made obsidian cutting edges of the weapon used in the show, compared with more finely made prismatic obsidian blades, as in the Madrid specimen.[



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fitted with blades of obsidian. The term means: maitl (hand) and cuahuitl (wood or stick) (Coe 1996: 220).

Most researchers characterise this weapon as a sword or `macana' , by making a cultural comparison, just as the Europeans did when they first saw this artefact, and for that reason most modern studies have been wrong in their interpretation. I propose to call it none of the above, since, if we are strict about its morphology and function, we will see that the macuahuitl cannot be called a club since it did not fulfil a bruising function and it cannot be called a sword since a sword's characteristic functions are to pierce and to cut. The Aztec macuahuitl does not fulfil these criteria. I consider that it has no western equivalent and as such the macuahuitl is a totally Mesoamerican weapon.


There were at least two varieties of this weapon. The famous macuahuitl of about 70-80 cm long had a minimum of six to eight blades on each side. The smaller version was the macuahuilzoctli measuring about 50 cm long with a minimum of four blades on each side. It is probable that the first version is that which the Spanish described as 'for two hands' comparing it to their two-handed sword.





As far as we know, the earliest evidence of the use of this type of instrument in Mesoamerica is found in the Mayan area. The Mayas of the Pre-Classic already had a type of club with flint points, as represented in Stele 5 at Uaxacatim (Schele and Frieidel, 1999: 169), though this weapon is quite different from that of the Mexicas (figure 2). This weapon is recorded in the murals of Bonampak, a Classic period Maya site, where it is shown as a wooden club without the obsidian or flint blades (Hassig 1988: 85). This is an interesting fact which will be explained later. Evidence of its use in the Late Classic appears in the mural paintings of Mul Chic, Yucatan, dating from between the years AD600-900. In this representation, we can recognise a young warrior holding in one hand a curved club with two blades, presumably made of flint (figure 3).



type of club continued to be seen throughout the Early Post-Classic, recorded in sites such as Cichen Itza in the form of a much longer stick with flint points. This appears in column 6 of the Temple of Chac Mool, and columns 8 and 52 of the Warriors' Temple (Morris 1931).

Archaeologically speaking, a rather controversial example was recovered in the sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza, which is now in the collection of the Peabody Museum in the United States (Coggins 1989: 110). The controversy is again based on the incorrect identification of the object. The Peabody Museum classifies these weapons as wooden 'clubs', yet when we look carefully at the




 if that were not enough and arising from the, also controversial, cultural comparison of elements of Chichen Itza and Tula, it is curious to note that the Toltec sculptural records show no club with flint blades such as the ones that appear on the pilasters mentioned earlier (Jimenez 1998: 401). Could it be, maybe, that the weapons systems in the Mayan area were much more evolved than those of the famous Tula warriors of Hidalgo? This is a question that is still to be answered, along with the great debate between Tula and Chichen Itza.

 The fact that this weapon does not appear in any archaeological records so far recovered, in a good part of Mesoamerica before the Post-Classic, does not mean that it has not been used or at least not on such a grand scale as the lance or the atlatl were.


We know more about this Mexica weapon from written sources than from archaeology itself. According to some chroniclers, the Mexicas already knew about these weapons from the start of their history


The serious problem with the macuahuitl is without doubt the debate regarding its function, its strength and its destructive potential. On the basis of written sources, there are those who exaggerate the weapon's potential and are not particularly accurate about the reality of it, as in the case of Joseph de Acosta, when he says that with one blow it could cut the head off a horse, an idea that we now know to be impossible.

But can cutting by many hit, because their sharpest probably will be most sharpest weapon in the game




From this brief research one can learn the following:

·   Some groups of Central Mexico, principally in the transition between the Early and the Late Post-Classic, probably developed this weapon as a result of new technical needs of the battlefield even when their predecessors had weapons with similar form and functions to those of the Mayans.

·   Speaking functionally, the macuahuitl was able to cut muscular tissue and make slight fractures of bones without being able to amputate it completely, and a large part of its edge would be transformed into tiny micro-flakes that would encrust the wound and bone and make it difficult for the wound to heal.

·   As far as the weapon's strength is concerned the blades broke on impact with the bone, and if not perfectly set with resin they could come completely out of their groove. Otherwise, those blades that were properly set were still able to continue with the attack, even after they had broken. It is interesting to note the fact that the wood did not suffer any damage at all.

The tentative interpretation about the macuahuitl weapon system leads us to believe that a shield would be required to allow the warrior to defend himself from the impact of a second macuahuitl since this was not really designed for defence, but only for attack. The major inconvenience considering the weight of the reproduction is its poor manoeuvrability when using just one hand. In some pictographic documents such as the Florentine Codex, it can be seen that this weapon is used with two hands, which seems logical considering its weight and poor stability. However, the weight of the weapon allows it to cause greater damage by forcing the blades into the opponent's muscle mass. Another experiment with a lighter sample, that hypothetically sacrifices strength for manoeuvrability, is needed.

The results of this first test lead us to consider the damage that would be done when even one of the blades impacted on a limb and cut through to the bone, embedding micro-flakes of obsidian, prohibiting healing and causing infection. It seems apparent that the real utility of this weapon lies in the blades rather than in the wood. The main benefit derived from this investigation, and above all


the experimentation, is the construction of a model that can be developed in the
light of future research and new archaeological finds into a more faithful representation of the original weapon.


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A spiked club


Archaeological clues such as fortified defences, remains of obsidian blades and projectile points, as well as numerous murals depicting warfare, suggest that Mayan society was not a peaceful one. The Mayans are known to have used a variety of weapons in war, such as blow guns, spears, daggers, and javelins, and now for the first time, scientists have found evidence that they also used spiked clubs which inflicted catastrophic injuries on their victims.

Evidence for the new weapon comes from the study of 116 skulls dated between 600 BC and 1542 AD, which were recovered from 13 sites, including the important Mayan capital of Mayapan, in northwest Yucatan, Mexico. The research published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology has revealed that the pattern of injuries seen in some of the skulls are consistent with being struck by a club with points embedded in them.


An example of a spiked club, which may have been similar to the clubs used by the Mayans.

Study author Dr Stan Serafin, a bioarchaeologist from Central Queensland University, said that the team examined the location, frequency, and shape of skull trauma injuries, such as the presence of unusual oval-shaped indentations, and concluded that these indicated the use of a spiked club.

The scientists also discovered that males had fractures concentrated on the front left of the skull, indicating that they were struck by a right-handed opponent approaching from the front, while a smaller number of female skulls showed injuries at the back, suggesting evidence of a surprise attack.

Wars were important to the Mayans for a variety of reasons, including subjugation of neighbouring city-states, acquisition of territory, prestige, control of resources, and capture of prisoners for slaves and sacrifices. Very little is known about what caused the sudden decline of the Mayan civilization in the late Classic period between 700 and 900 AD, in which towns and cities became depopulated and abandoned, but many have attributed it to the relentless warfare taking place.

However, in contrast to this theory, Serafin reported that the frequency of the skull trauma decreased during the late Classic period, which suggests that warfare “did not contribute to the Classic period collapse in this area." The researchers did find violence increased in the Post-Classic period, which Serafin says is to be expected since hard times tend to breed violence.

The study adds new insight into Mayan warfare and challenges the prominent theory that warfare was the cause of their downfall, leaving open the question as to what it was that caused a once great and powerful civilization to fall.



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Mayans Yucatecs 



Yucatec Maya (endonym: Maya;[4][5]Yukatek Maya in the revised orthography of the Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala), called Màaya t'àan (lit. "Maya speech") by its speakers, is a Mayan language spoken in the Yucatán Peninsula and northern Belize. To native speakers, the proper name is Maya and it is known only as Maya. The qualifier "Yucatec" is a tag linguists use to distinguish it from other Mayan languages (such as K'iche' and Itza'). Thus the use of the term Yucatec Maya to refer to the language is scientific jargon or nomenclature.[4]

In the Mexican states of Yucatán, some parts of Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas, and Quintana Roo, Maya remains many speakers' first language today, with 800,000 speakers. There are 6,000 speakers in Belize.



Language examples.




Use in modern media and popular culture[edit]

Yucatec-language programming is carried by the CDI's radio stations XEXPUJ-AM (Xpujil, Campeche), XENKA-AM (Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo) and XEPET-AM (Peto, Yucatán).

The 2006 film Apocalypto, directed by Mel Gibson, was filmed entirely in Yucatec Maya. The script was translated into Maya by Hilario Chi Canul of the Maya community of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, who also worked as a language coach on the production.

In the video game Civilization V: Gods & Kings, Pacal, leader of the Maya, speaks in Yucatec Maya.

In August 2012, the Mozilla Translathon 2012 event brought over 20 Yucatec Mayan speakers together in a localization effort for the Google Endangered Languages Project, the Mozilla browser, and the MediaWiki software used by Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects






Elite conceptual looking.

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This is how Orange Walk town look in the 1950's . It is beautiful seeing the traditional Maya houses in the picture also . Maya(Yucatec Maya) is the Indigenous language still spoken in the villages of Orange Walk . Ko'one'ex Kanik Máaya T'áan (Let's learn Maya ) .

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K'iche' Mayans


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K’iche’ ([kʼiˈtʃeʔ], also Qatzijob'al "our language" to its speakers), or Quiché (/kˈ/[3]), is a Maya language of Guatemala, spoken by the K'iche' people of the central highlands. With over a million speakers (some 7% of Guatemala's population), K'iche' is the second-most widely spoken language in the country after Spanish. Most speakers of K'iche' languages also have at least a working knowledge of Spanish.

The Central dialect is the most commonly used in the media and education. The literacy rate is low, but K'iche' is increasingly taught in schools and used on radio. The most famous work in the Classical K'iche' language is the Popol Vuh (Popol Wu'uj in modern spelling).


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K'iche' (pronounced [kʼi ˈtʃeʔ]; previous Spanish spelling: Quiché)[2] are indigenous peoples of the Americas and are one of the Maya peoples. The K'iche' language is a Mesoamerican language in the Mayan language family. The highland K'iche' states in the pre-Columbian era are associated with the ancient Maya civilization, and reached the peak of their power and influence during the Postclassic period. The meaning of the word K'iche' is "many trees." The Nahuatl translation, Cuauhtēmallān "Place of the Many Trees (People)", is the origin of the word Guatemala. Quiché Department is also named for them. Rigoberta Menchú, an activist for indigenous rights who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, is perhaps the best-known K'iche'



In pre-Conquest times, the K'iche' Kingdom of Q'umarkaj was one of the most powerful states in the region. K’iche' was an independent state that existed after the decline of the Maya Civilization with the Classic collapse (c.300 - c.950 AD).[4] K'iche' lay in a highland mountain valley of Guatemala, and during this time they were also found in parts of El Salvador. The major city of the K'iche' in the western highlands of Guatemala was Utatlan. It was the political, ceremonial and social center of the K'iche' people. Though many of the Spanish conquistadors records do not depict it as a great and powerful place, it was very much so to the native K'iche' who lived there. The city covered an estimated area of 3.25 km2 across the Resguardo plateau. There is also evidence for a large degree of cultural exchange between the K'iche' and the people of Central Mexico, and Nahuatl has influenced the K'iche' language greatly

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The Mesoamerican ballgame was a sport with ritual associations played since 1400 BC[1] by the pre-Columbian people of Ancient Mesoamerica. The sport had different versions in different places during the millennia, and a newer more modern version of the game, ulama, is still played in a few places by the indigenous population.[2]

The rules of the game are not known, but judging from its descendant, ulama, they were probably similar to racquetball,[3] where the aim is to keep the ball in play. The stone ballcourt goals are a late addition to the game.

In the most common theory of the game, the players struck the ball with their hips, although some versions allowed the use of forearms, rackets, bats, or handstones. The ball was made of solid rubber and weighed as much as 4 kg (9 lbs), and sizes differed greatly over time or according to the version played.

The game had important ritual aspects, and major formal ballgames were held as ritual events. Late in the history of the game, some cultures occasionally seem to have combined competitions with religious human sacrifice. The sport was also played casually for recreation by children and may have been played by women as well.[4]

Pre-Columbian ballcourts have been found throughout Mesoamerica, as for example at Copán, as far south as modern Nicaragua, and possibly as far north as what is now the U.S. state of Arizona.[5] These ballcourts vary considerably in size, but all have long narrow alleys with slanted side-walls against which the balls could bounce





By the Early Classic, ballcourt designs began to feature an additional pair of mounds set some distance beyond the ends of the alley as if to keep errant balls from rolling too far away. By the Terminal Classic, the end zones of many ballcourts were enclosed, creating the well-known I, heavily serifed.png-shape.

The evolution of the ballcourt is, of course, more complex than the foregoing suggests, and with over 1300 known ballcourts, there are exceptions to any generalization.

  • Open ballcourts (i.e. without endzones) continued to be constructed into the Terminal Classic and at smaller sites.
  • Some ballcourts featured only one enclosed endzone (the so-called T-shape) while some ballcourts' endzones are of different depths.[14]
  • During the Formative period, some enclosed ballcourts were entirely rectangular, without endzones.[15] One such court, at La Lagunita in the Guatemala Highlands, features rounded side walls

Unlike the compacted earth of the playing alley, the side walls of the formal ballcourts were lined with stone blocks. These walls featured 3 or more horizontal and sloping surfaces. Vertical surfaces are less common, but they begin to replace the sloping apron during the Classic era, and are a feature of several of the largest and best-known ballcourts, including the Great Ballcourt at Chichen Itza and the North and South Ballcourts at El Tajin. There the vertical surfaces were covered with elaborate reliefs showing scenes, particularly sacrificial scenes, related to the ballgame.

File:Central ballcourt, Tikal 02.jpg

Chichen Itza

Resultado de imagen para tajin ballcourt

El Tijal


Stone rings, tenoned into the wall at mid-court, appeared in the Terminal Classic era. Actually sending a ball through the ring must have been a rare occurrence. The players could not use their hands or even feet to guide the ball. Moreover, the rings were only slightly larger than the ball itself and were located at no small distance from the playing alley. At Chichen Itza, for example, they were set 6 meters above the alley, while at Xochicalco they set at the top of an 11-meter-wide apron, 3 meters above the playing alley


The Mesoamerican ballgame was a sport with ritual associations played since 1400 BC[1] by the pre-Columbian people of Ancient Mesoamerica. The sport had different versions in different places during the millennia, and a newer more modern version of the game, ulama, is still played in a few places by the indigenous population.[2]

The rules of the game are not known, but judging from its descendant, ulama, they were probably similar to racquetball,[3] where the aim is to keep the ball in play. The stone ballcourt goals are a late addition to the game.

In the most common theory of the game, the players struck the ball with their hips, although some versions allowed the use of forearms, rackets, bats, or handstones. The ball was made of solid rubber and weighed as much as 4 kg (9 lbs), and sizes differed greatly over time or according to the version played.

The game had important ritual aspects, and major formal ballgames were held as ritual events. Late in the history of the game, some cultures occasionally seem to have combined competitions with religious human sacrifice. The sport was also played casually for recreation by children and may have been played by women as well.

might be expected with a game played over such a long period of time by many cultures, details varied over time and place, so the Mesoamerican ballgame might be more accurately seen as a family of related games.

In general, the hip-ball version is most popularly thought of as the Mesoamerican ballgame,[21] and researchers believe that this version was the primary—or perhaps only—version played within the masonry ballcourt.[22] Ample archaeological evidence exists for games where the ball was struck by a wooden stick (e.g., a mural at Teotihuacan shows a game which resembles field hockey), racquets, bats and batons, handstones, and the forearm, perhaps at times in combination. Each of the various types of games had its own size of ball, specialized gear and playing field, and rules.

Games were played between two teams of players. The number of players per team could vary, between two to four.[23][24] Some games were played on makeshift courts for simple recreation while others were formal spectacles on huge stone ballcourts leading to human sacrifice.

Even without human sacrifice, the game could be brutal and there were often serious injuries inflicted by the solid, heavy ball. Today's hip-ulama players are "perpetually bruised"[25] while nearly 500 years ago Spanish chronicler Diego Durán reported that some bruises were so severe that they had to be lanced open. He also reported that players were even killed when the ball "hit them in the mouth or the stomach or the intestines".[26]

The rules of ōllamaliztli, regardless of the version, are not known in any detail. In modern-day ulama, the game resembles a netless volleyball,[27] with each team confined to one half of the court. In the most widespread version of ulama, the ball is hit back and forth using only the hips until one team fails to return it or the ball leaves the court.


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The Maya Preclassic Period:

People first came to Mexico and Central America millennia ago, living as hunter-gatherers in the rain forests and volcanic hills of the region. They first began developing cultural characteristics associated with the Maya civilization around 1800 B.C. on Guatemala's western coast. By 1000 B.C. the Maya had spread throughout the lowland forests of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. The Maya of the Preclassic period lived in small villages in basic homes and dedicated themselves to subsistence agriculture. The major cities of the Maya, such as Palenque, Tikal and Copán, were established during this time and began to prosper. Basic trade was developed, linking the city-states and facilitating cultural exchange.


The Late Preclassic Period:

The late Maya Preclassic Period lasted roughly from 300 B.C. to 300 A.D. and is marked by developments in Maya culture. Great temples were constructed: their facades were decorated with stucco sculptures and paint. Long-distance trade flourished, particularly for luxury items such as jade and obsidian. Royal tombs dating from this time are more elaborate than those from the early and middle Preclassic periods and often contained offerings and treasures.


The Early Classic Period:

The Classic Period is considered to have begun when the Maya began carving ornate, beautiful stelae (stylized statues of leaders and rulers) with dates given in the Maya long count calendar. The earliest date on a Maya stela is 292 A.D. (Tikal) and the latest is 909 A.D. (Tonina). During the early Classic Period (300-600 A.D.) the Maya continued developing many of their most important intellectual pursuits, such as astronomy, mathematics and architecture. During this time, the city of Teotihuacán, located near Mexico City, exerted a great influence on the Maya city-states, as is shown by the presence of pottery and architecture done in the Teotihuacán style.


The Late Classic Period:

The Maya late Classic Period (600-900 A.D.) marks the high point of Maya culture. Powerful city-states like Tikal and Calakmul dominated the regions around them and art, culture and religion reached their peaks. The city-states warred, allied with, and traded with one another. There may have been as many as 80 Maya city-states during this time. The cities were ruled by an elite ruling class and priests who claimed to be directly descended from the Sin, Moon, stars and planets. The cities held more people than they could support, so trade for food as well as luxury items was brisk. The ceremonial ball game was a feature of all Maya cities.


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