Mayan History and Civilization

A Really Quick Peep at Mayan History and Civilization

The Mayans had a colorful history and rich civilization. Their calendar and writing systems are held in high esteem even today. This culture still exists in some parts of Belize and Guatemala.
"Our knowledge of ancient Maya thought must represent only a tiny fraction of the whole picture, for of the thousands of books in which the full extent of their learning and ritual was recorded, only four have survived to modern times (as though all that posterity knew of ourselves were to be based upon three prayer books and Pilgrim's Progress)." ― Michael Coe (Prominent Archeologists, Yale University)

Mayan history narrates the rich history of its inhabitants who lived in southern Mexico and northern Central America around 3,000 years ago. It was a vibrant culture before Mexico and the nearby regions were conquered by Spain. This civilization is one of the prominent civilizations of Mesoamerica, and it was established around 2600 BCE in Yucatan. Southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Northern Belize, and the western region of Honduras belonged to the Mayan empire during the 3rd century CE.

Historians believe that the forefathers of Mayans must have crossed the Bering Strait around 20,000 years ago. The ancestors of this civilization were nomadic hunters. The evidence of this has been found in Mexico during the archaic period.

History

The history of Mayan Civilization is divided into pre-classic, classic, and the post-classic period.

Pre-classic Period (1500 BCE - 300 CE)
The Mayan civilization was established with rise of the Olmecs. They had settled on the Gulf Coast. They were the inventors of the Mesoamerican calendar and hieroglyphic writings. Nothing much is known about them. It is still a mystery whether the Mayans were their true descendants.

Classic Period (300 CE - 900 CE)
During the Classic period Mayans developed a very complex and a hierarchical society on the basis of the professions. The head of the government system was the King. Some of the major and significant cities of the Classic period were Quirigua, Chiapas, Palenque, and Yaxchilan. During this period the Mayan settlements were populated in the regions of central Mexico and Belize.

Post-classic Period (1000 CE - 1500 CE)
In Post-Classic Period, the Mayas migrated to the Yucat peninsula. However, the culture and accomplishments of this period were not as impressive as that of the Classic period. The cities of significant importance during this era were Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Mayapan. Mayans had abandoned the city of Chichen Itza sometime in 900 BCE and resettled there, after a century. During this period, they were invaded by Toltecs and for some unknown reasons this city was abandoned again in 1300 CE. Historians had excavated many Mayan and Toltec gods, such as Chac and Quetzalcoatl.

The Spanish attacked Mayan settlements during the 1520 CE. This led to the decline of the once glorious and rich civilization.

Culture

One of the major professions practiced by the Mayans were weaving. They were skilled in weaving baskets and making potteries. The art and architecture of this civilization reached its zenith during the Classic Period. The glory of their culture is displayed in the carvings, murals, and stucco reliefs at Copan and Palenque.

The Spanish invaders destroyed many of the Mayan books. Currently there are only three books and a few pages of the fourth book of the Mayan times available. The Mayans discovered the number zero and they used the numbering system of base 20.

Their civilization was one of the most powerful and rich civilizations in the world. This civilization met with a decline when Spain colonized Mexico, Guatemala, and the neighboring regions. However, even today there is a small Mayan population residing in the rural parts of Guatemala and Belize. They still speak the Mayan language and follow the culture and tradition.