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Ancient Mayan text image

burning torchReferences:

Mayan incense burner
Museo de Sitio de Palenque “Dr. Alberto Ruz L’Huillier” – INAH, Mexico and the National Gallery of Art

Maya Civilization

Chichen Itza Temple
Curtis Kautzer/Shutterstock

Ancient Maya Statue
West Palm Beach photo by ARAMISmartinez

Mayan City of Tulum

















Ancient Maya Exhibit

Ancient Maya Incense Burner
Mayan Incense Burner

The Maya of Mesoamerica, along with the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru, made up the high civilizations of the American Indians at the time of the Spanish conquest. Both the Aztecs and the Incas were late empires (about AD 1300-1533), capstones of a sequence of civilizations in Central Mexico and the Andes in South America, respectively. But the Maya of Yucatan and Guatemala exhibited a cultural continuity spanning more than 2,000 years (1000 BC-AD 1542), and many aspects of their culture continue to the present.
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 Mayan City of Tulum
Mayan City of Tulum

In prehispanic times Tulum was part of a culture that grew up on the east coast of the Yucatan peninsula. The city, defended by a wall on three sides and by the sea on the fourth, arose and grew between the 12th and 16th centuries A.D. in the Post classic period. The inhabitants of Tulum were divided into three social strata: the ruling class, who devoted themselves to government, religion, war and trade; the middle class, which included the assistants of the ruling class and craftsmen, and the lower class, consisting of farmers, fishermen and hunters. The members of the first two classes lived inside the walled area, where there are also differences in the buildings, since these range from luxurious palaces to simple houses. The lower class, which was the largest, lived outside the wall.
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Olmec statue and Tulum Temple

Mayan Civilization - Cities of the Anicent Maya

Maya cities were the administrative and ritual centres for regions which included the city itself and an agricultural hinterland.

The largest Maya cities were home to many people. At the major centre of Tikal, for example, within a six-square-mile area, there were over 10,000 individual structures ranging from temple-pyramids to thatched-roof huts. Tikal's population is estimated at up to 60,000, giving it a population density several times greater than an average city in Europe or America at the same period in history.

A Maya city from the Classic Period usually consisted of a series of stepped platforms topped by masonry structures, ranging from great temple-pyramids and palaces to individual house mounds. These structures were in turn arranged around broad plazas or courtyards. Maya architecture is characterized by a sophisticated sense of decoration and art, expressed in bas-relief carvings and wall paintings. At major sites like Tikal, large buildings and complexes might also have been interconnected by stone roads or causeways.

Chichen Itza Temple
Chichen Itza Temple

were the most striking feature of a Classic Maya city. They were built from hand-cut limestone blocks and towered over all surrounding structures. Although the temples themselves usually contained one or more rooms, the rooms were so narrow that they could only have been used on ceremonial occasions not meant for public consumption. The alignments of ceremonial structures could be significant.

Although the temples were the most imposing structures within a Maya city, the bulk of construction at a Maya site was composed of palaces: single-storey structures built like temple-pyramids but on much lower platforms and with as many as several dozen plastered rooms. Unlike temple-pyramids, palaces often contained one or two interior courtyards.

The Great Gate Labna
The Great Gate Labna

Labna means "old house or abandoned house" in Mayan. Labna is a wonderful example of the Puuc region architecture although considered one of the lesser sites. Labna has a well defined urban line with Sacbes that connect each other. The city was built in the classic period. Its peak period was between the 600 and 900 A.D. It is thought that Labna, like Sayil, was destroyed by the onslaught of the warlike Chichen Itza.

From about 1500 B.C. to 200B.C. the first stratified civilizations appeared in Mexico. They were the Olmecs and the people of Monte Alban. A civilization means an urban society possessing a complex social organization of labor, politics, and religion as well as the ability to write. There has been much debate as to which group was the "first" civilization in Mexico. The most popular view is that the Olmecs were probably the first civilized people in Mexico. They settled in what are now the modern states of Tabasco and Veracruz. Read more... read more

Ancient Maya - continued

  Tikal City   Temple of Frescoes   El Castillo
  Epi-Olmec   Temples   Culture
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