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Ancient Mayan text image

burning torchReferences:


Mayan links:






Pacal's Tomb

Mayan Ceremony

Politics and Cosmology

The Maya






Ancient Maya Exhibition continued

Pyramid of the Moon
Temple of the Sun in Teotihuacan

The most important and largest city of this era emerged in the Valley of Mexico (just south of present-day Mexico City). It was called Teotihuacan and the Aztecs referred to it as “the place of the gods”. Its location made it important for trade or military purposes. Around 600 B.C. the early residents of the city began construction of what was to become the most spectacular city in ancient Mexico. They built the Pyramids of the Moon and Sun, and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. By the time of Teotihuacan, Quetzalcoatl had become the most dominant deity in Mesoamerica and was worshipped by many. This god was believed to have instructed the ancient peoples in agricultural practices. Quetzalcoatl was revered as a benevolent god, but did not support the practice of human sacrifice. Yet, the people of Teotichuacan did practice human sacrifice.

Chichen itza mayan ruins Mexico

The Maya Kings timed their accession rituals in tune with the stars and the Milky Way. They celebrated k'atun endings approximately every twenty years. At the end of the 20-year k'atun period, Maya rulers regularly erected a stela, called a stone tree, to commemorate the event. On stone stela they depicted themselves at the time of these ceremonies dressed in costumes that contained the symbols that were associated with the World Tree.

Their headdresses contained the Principal Bird Deity, in their arms they held a so-called ceremonial bar that represented the double-headed serpent of the ecliptic. By wearing the costume elements of the World Tree the Maya ruler linked himself to the sky, the gods and that essential ingredient, life.

By the fifth or sixth century A.D. Teotihuacan had a huge population of approximately 200,000. The priests and kings were at the top of the social order. It was truly a city. There is evidence of trade with the people of Monte Alban and the people of the Yucatan. But, eventually the city collapsed and the cause is a mystery, much like the Olmec civilization. It seems the city lost power over its neighbors. As it lost power politically and economically, the military grew. It is possible that the city was a target for other civilizations. It is certain that the city was overrun in the 8th century. Buildings were burned and torn down. Perhaps the people became disillusioned with their gods because many ceremonial centers were targets of destruction. Or possibly, the agricultural techniques could not keep up with the growing population. At any rate, the city of Teotichuacan remains important to the history of Mexico.

While the Maya diet varies, depending on the local geography, maize remains the primary staple now as it was centuries ago. Made nutritionally complete with the addition of lime, the kernels are boiled, ground with a metate and mano, then formed by hand into flat tortillas that are cooked on a griddle that is traditionally supported on three stones. Chile peppers, beans and squash are still grown in the family farm plot (milpa) right along with the maize, maximizing each crop's requirements for nutrients, sun, shade and growing surface.

Mayan Ceremony
Mayan Ceremony

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