Heavy loads were lifted with rope, but probably without employing pulleys. Wood was used for beams, and for lintels , even in masonry structures.
Adobe was also applied; this consisted of mud strengthened with straw and was applied as a coating over the woven-stick walls of huts. Like wood and thatch, adobe was used throughout Maya history, even after the development of masonry structures.
In the southern Maya area, adobe was employed in monumental architecture when no suitable stone was locally available. The great cities of the Maya civilization were composed of pyramid temples, palaces, ballcourts, sacbeob causeways , patios and plazas.
Some cities also possessed extensive hydraulic systems or defensive walls. The exteriors of most buildings were painted, either in one or multiple colours, or with imagery.
Many buildings were adorned with sculpture or painted stucco reliefs. These complexes were usually located in the site core, beside a principal plaza.
Maya palaces consisted of a platform supporting a multiroom range structure. The term acropolis , in a Maya context, refers to a complex of structures built upon platforms of varying height.
Palaces and acropoleis were essentially elite residential compounds. They generally extended horizontally as opposed to the towering Maya pyramids, and often had restricted access.
Some structures in Maya acropoleis supported roof combs. Rooms often had stone benches, used for sleeping, and holes indicate where curtains once hung.
Large palaces, such as at Palenque, could be fitted with a water supply, and sweat baths were often found within the complex, or nearby.
During the Early Classic, rulers were sometimes buried underneath the acropolis complex. There is abundant evidence that palaces were far more than simple elite residences, and that a range of courtly activities took place in them, including audiences, formal receptions, and important rituals.
Temples were sometimes referred to in hieroglyphic texts as k'uh nah , meaning "god's house". Temples were raised on platforms, most often upon a pyramid.
The earliest temples were probably thatched huts built upon low platforms. By the Late Preclassic period, their walls were of stone, and the development of the corbel arch allowed stone roofs to replace thatch.
By the Classic period, temple roofs were being topped with roof combs that extended the height of the temple and served as a foundation for monumental art.
The temple shrines contained between one and three rooms, and were dedicated to important deities. Such a deity might be one of the patron gods of the city, or a deified ancestor.
The Maya were keen observers of the sun, stars, and planets. The earliest examples date to the Preclassic period.
A structure was built on the west side of a plaza; it was usually a radial pyramid with stairways facing the cardinal directions.
It faced east across the plaza to three small temples on the far side. From the west pyramid, the sun was seen to rise over these temples on the solstices and equinoxes.
As well as E-Groups, the Maya built other structures dedicated to observing the movements of celestial bodies. It has slit windows that marked the movements of Venus.
Triadic pyramids first appeared in the Preclassic. They consisted of a dominant structure flanked by two smaller inward-facing buildings, all mounted upon a single basal platform.
The ballcourt is a distinctive pan-Mesoamerican form of architecture. Although Maya cities shared many common features, there was considerable variation in architectural style.
In the Late Classic, these local differences developed into distinctive regional architectural styles. The style is characterized by tall pyramids supporting a summit shrine adorned with a roof comb, and accessed by a single doorway.
The exemplar of Puuc-style architecture is Uxmal. The motifs also included geometric patterns, lattices and spools, possibly influenced by styles from highland Oaxaca , outside the Maya area.
Roof combs were relatively uncommon at Puuc sites. Some doorways were surrounded by mosaic masks of monsters representing mountain or sky deities, identifying the doorways as entrances to the supernatural realm.
The Usumacinta style developed in the hilly terrain of the Usumacinta drainage. Cities took advantage of the hillsides to support their major architecture, as at Palenque and Yaxchilan.
Sites modified corbel vaulting to allow thinner walls and multiple access doors to temples. Palaces had multiple entrances that used post-and-lintel entrances rather than corbel vaulting.
Many sites erected stelae, but Palenque instead developed finely sculpted panelling to decorate its buildings. Before BC, the Maya spoke a single language, dubbed proto-Mayan by linguists.
The Maya writing system is one of the outstanding achievements of the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Americas. Early Maya script had appeared on the Pacific coast of Guatemala by the late 1st century AD, or early 2nd century.
The Catholic Church and colonial officials, notably Bishop Diego de Landa , destroyed Maya texts wherever they found them, and with them the knowledge of Maya writing, but by chance three uncontested pre-Columbian books dated to the Postclassic period have been preserved.
Archaeology conducted at Maya sites often reveals other fragments, rectangular lumps of plaster and paint chips which were codices; these tantalizing remains are, however, too severely damaged for any inscriptions to have survived, most of the organic material having decayed.
Most surviving pre-Columbian Maya writing dates to the Classic period and is contained in stone inscriptions from Maya sites, such as stelae, or on ceramics vessels.
The Maya writing system often called hieroglyphs from a superficial resemblance to the Ancient Egyptian writing  is a logosyllabic writing system, combining a syllabary of phonetic signs representing syllables with logogram representing entire words.
The Maya script was in use up to the arrival of the Europeans, its use peaking during the Classic Period. The knowledge was subsequently lost, as a result of the impact of the conquest on Maya society.
The decipherment and recovery of the knowledge of Maya writing has been a long and laborious process. The basic unit of Maya hieroglyphic text is the glyph block, which transcribes a word or phrase.
The block is composed of one or more individual glyphs attached to each other to form the glyph block, with individual glyph blocks generally being separated by a space.
Glyph blocks are usually arranged in a grid pattern. For ease of reference, epigraphers refer to glyph blocks from left to right alphabetically, and top to bottom numerically.
Thus, any glyph block in a piece of text can be identified. C4 would be third block counting from the left, and the fourth block counting downwards.
If a monument or artefact has more than one inscription, column labels are not repeated, rather they continue in the alphabetic series; if there are more than 26 columns, the labelling continues as A', B', etc.
Numeric row labels restart from 1 for each discrete unit of text. Although hieroglyphic text may be laid out in varying manners, generally text is arranged into double columns of glyph blocks.
The reading order of text starts at the top left block A1 , continues to the second block in the double-column B1 , then drops down a row and starts again from the left half of the double column A2 , and thus continues in zig-zag fashion.
Once the bottom is reached, the inscription continues from the top left of the next double column. Where an inscription ends in a single unpaired column, this final column is usually read straight downwards.
Individual glyph blocks may be composed of a number of elements. These consist of the main sign, and any affixes. Main signs represent the major element of the block, and may be a noun , verb , adverb , adjective , or phonetic sign.
Some main signs are abstract, some are pictures of the object they represent, and others are "head variants", personifications of the word they represent.
Affixes are smaller rectangular elements, usually attached to a main sign, although a block may be composed entirely of affixes.
Affixes may represent a wide variety of speech elements, including nouns, verbs, verbal suffixes, prepositions, pronouns, and more.
Small sections of a main sign could be used to represent the whole main sign, and Maya scribes were highly inventive in their usage and adaptation of glyph elements.
Although the archaeological record does not provide examples of brushes or pens, analysis of ink strokes on the Postclassic codices suggests that it was applied with a brush with a tip fashioned from pliable hair.
Commoners were illiterate; scribes were drawn from the elite. It is not known if all members of the aristocracy could read and write, although at least some women could, since there are representations of female scribes in Maya art.
Although not much is known about Maya scribes, some did sign their work, both on ceramics and on stone sculpture.
Usually, only a single scribe signed a ceramic vessel, but multiple sculptors are known to have recorded their names on stone sculpture; eight sculptors signed one stela at Piedras Negras.
However, most works remained unsigned by their artists. In common with the other Mesoamerican civilizations, the Maya used a base 20 vigesimal system.
This later developed into a numeral that was used to perform calculation,  and was used in hieroglyphic texts for more than a thousand years, until its use was extinguished by the Spanish.
The basic number system consists of a dot to represent one, and a bar to represent five. In this way, the lowest symbol would represent units, the next symbol up would represent multiples of twenty, and the symbol above that would represent multiples of , and so on.
For example, the number would be written with four dots on the lowest level, four dots on the next level up, and two dots on the next level after that, to give 4x1, plus 4x20, plus 2x Using this system, the Maya were able to record huge numbers.
The Maya calendrical system, in common with other Mesoamerican calendars, had its origins in the Preclassic period. However, it was the Maya that developed the calendar to its maximum sophistication, recording lunar and solar cycles, eclipses and movements of planets with great accuracy.
In some cases, the Maya calculations were more accurate than equivalent calculations in the Old World ; for example, the Maya solar year was calculated to greater accuracy than the Julian year.
The Maya calendar was intrinsically tied to Maya ritual, and it was central to Maya religious practices. These were the day tzolk'in ,  the day haab' ,  and the year Calendar Round , resulting from the combination of the tzolk'in with the haab'.
The basic unit in the Maya calendar was one day, or k'in , and 20 k'in grouped to form a winal. The next unit, instead of being multiplied by 20, as called for by the vigesimal system, was multiplied by 18 in order to provide a rough approximation of the solar year hence producing days.
This day year was called a tun. Each succeeding level of multiplication followed the vigesimal system. The day tzolk'in provided the basic cycle of Maya ceremony, and the foundations of Maya prophecy.
No astronomical basis for this count has been proved, and it may be that the day count is based on the human gestation period.
This is reinforced by the use of the tzolk'in to record dates of birth, and provide corresponding prophecy. The day cycle repeated a series of day-names, with a number from 1 to 13 prefixed to indicated where in the cycle a particular day occurred.
The day haab was produced by a cycle of eighteen named day winal s, completed by the addition of a 5-day period called the wayeb. Since each day in the tz'olkin had a name and number e.
Such a day name could only recur once every 52 years, and this period is referred to by Mayanists as the Calendar Round.
In most Mesoamerican cultures, the Calendar Round was the largest unit for measuring time. As with any non-repeating calendar, the Maya measured time from a fixed start point.
The Maya set the beginning of their calendar as the end of a previous cycle of bak'tun s, equivalent to a day in BC.
This was believed by the Maya to be the day of the creation of the world in its current form. The Maya used the Long Count Calendar to fix any given day of the Calendar Round within their current great Piktun cycle consisting of either 20 bak'tun s.
A full long count date consisted of an introductory glyph followed by five glyphs counting off the number of bak'tun s, kat'un s, tun s, winal s, and k'in s since the start of the current creation.
This would be followed by the tz'olkin portion of the Calendar Round date, and after a number of intervening glyphs, the Long Count date would end with the Haab portion of the Calendar Round date.
Although the Calendar Round is still in use today,  the Maya started using an abbreviated Short Count during the Late Classic period. The Short Count is a count of 13 k'atuns.
The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel  contains the only colonial reference to classic long-count dates. This equates the Long Count date The famous astrologer John Dee used an Aztec obsidian mirror to see into the future.
We may look down our noses at his ideas, but one may be sure that in outlook he was far closer to a Maya priest astronomer than is an astronomer of our century.
The Maya made meticulous observations of celestial bodies, patiently recording astronomical data on the movements of the sun, moon, Venus, and the stars.
This information was used for divination , so Maya astronomy was essentially for astrological purposes. Maya astronomy did not serve to study the universe for scientific reasons, nor was it used to measure the seasons in order to calculate crop planting.
It was rather used by the priesthood to comprehend past cycles of time, and project them into the future to produce prophecy.
The priesthood refined observations and recorded eclipses of the sun and moon, and movements of Venus and the stars; these were measured against dated events in the past, on the assumption that similar events would occur in the future when the same astronomical conditions prevailed.
The Maya measured the day Venus cycle with an error of just two hours. Five cycles of Venus equated to eight day haab calendrical cycles, and this period was recorded in the codices.
The Maya also followed the movements of Jupiter , Mars and Mercury. Solar and lunar eclipses were considered to be especially dangerous events that could bring catastrophe upon the world.
In the Dresden Codex , a solar eclipse is represented by a serpent devouring the k'in "day" hieroglyph. Eclipses were interpreted as the sun or moon being bitten, and lunar tables were recorded in order that the Maya might be able to predict them, and perform the appropriate ceremonies to ward off disaster.
In common with the rest of Mesoamerica, the Maya believed in a supernatural realm inhabited by an array of powerful deities who needed to be placated with ceremonial offerings and ritual practices.
Visions for the chilan were likely facilitated by consumption of water lilies , which are hallucinogenic in high doses. The Maya viewed the cosmos as highly structured.
There were thirteen levels in the heavens and nine in the underworld, with the mortal world in between. Each level had four cardinal directions associated with a different colour; north was white, east was red, south was yellow, and west was black.
Major deities had aspects associated with these directions and colours. Maya households interred their dead underneath the floors, with offerings appropriate to the social status of the family.
There the dead could act as protective ancestors. Maya lineages were patrilineal, so the worship of a prominent male ancestor would be emphasized, often with a household shrine.
As Maya society developed, and the elite became more powerful, Maya royalty developed their household shrines into the great pyramids that held the tombs of their ancestors.
Belief in supernatural forces pervaded Maya life and influenced every aspect of it, from the simplest day-to-day activities such as food preparation, to trade, politics, and elite activities.
Maya deities governed all aspects of the world, both visible and invisible. The priests performed public ceremonies that incorporated feasting, bloodletting, incense burning, music , ritual dance, and, on certain occasions, human sacrifice.
During the Classic period, the Maya ruler was the high priest, and the direct conduit between mortals and the gods.
It is highly likely that, among commoners, shamanism continued in parallel to state religion. By the Postclassic, religious emphasis had changed; there was an increase in worship of the images of deities, and more frequent recourse to human sacrifice.
Archaeologists painstakingly reconstruct these ritual practices and beliefs using several techniques. One important, though incomplete, resource is physical evidence, such as dedicatory caches and other ritual deposits, shrines, and burials with their associated funerary offerings.
Blood was viewed as a potent source of nourishment for the Maya deities, and the sacrifice of a living creature was a powerful blood offering.
By extension, the sacrifice of a human life was the ultimate offering of blood to the gods, and the most important Maya rituals culminated in human sacrifice.
Generally only high status prisoners of war were sacrificed, with lower status captives being used for labour.
Important rituals such as the dedication of major building projects or the enthronement of a new ruler required a human offering.
The sacrifice of an enemy king was the most prized, and such a sacrifice involved decapitation of the captive ruler in a ritual reenactment of the decapitation of the Maya maize god by the death gods.
During the Postclassic period, the most common form of human sacrifice was heart extraction, influenced by the rites of the Aztecs in the Valley of Mexico;  this usually took place in the courtyard of a temple, or upon the summit of the pyramid.
The Maya world was populated by a great variety of deities, supernatural entities and sacred forces. The Maya had such a broad interpretation of the sacred that identifying distinct deities with specific functions is inaccurate.
The priestly interpretation of astronomical records and books was therefore crucial, since the priest would understand which deity required ritual propitiation, when the correct ceremonies should be performed, and what would be an appropriate offering.
Each deity had four manifestations, associated with the cardinal directions, each identified with a different colour.
Itzamna was the creator god, but he also embodied the cosmos, and was simultaneously a sun god ;  K'inich Ahau, the day sun, was one of his aspects.
Maya kings frequently identified themselves with K'inich Ahau. Itzamna also had a night sun aspect, the Night Jaguar , representing the sun in its journey through the underworld.
As well as their four main aspects, the Bakabs had dozens of other aspects that are not well understood.
The Popol Vuh was written in the Latin script in early colonial times, and was probably transcribed from a hieroglyphic book by an unknown K'iche' Maya nobleman.
In common with other Mesoamerican cultures, the Maya worshipped feathered serpent deities. The ancient Maya had diverse and sophisticated methods of food production.
It was believed that shifting cultivation swidden agriculture provided most of their food,  but it is now thought that permanent raised fields , terracing , intensive gardening, forest gardens, and managed fallows were also crucial to supporting the large populations of the Classic period in some areas.
The basic staples of the Maya diet were maize, beans, and squashes. These were supplemented with a wide variety of other plants either cultivated in gardens or gathered in the forest.
Cotton seeds were in the process of being ground, perhaps to produce cooking oil. In addition to basic foodstuffs, the Maya also cultivated prestige crops such as cotton, cacao and vanilla.
Cacao was especially prized by the elite, who consumed chocolate beverages. All of these were used as food animals; dogs were additionally used for hunting.
It is possible that deer were also penned and fattened. There are hundreds of Maya sites spread across five countries: Other important, but difficult to reach, sites include Calakmul and El Mirador.
There are a great many museums across the world with Maya artefacts in their collections. The Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies lists over museums in its Maya Museum database,  and the European Association of Mayanists lists just under 50 museums in Europe alone.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. El Castillo , at Chichen Itza. Detail of Lintel 26 from Yaxchilan. History of the Maya civilization. Kaminaljuyu , in the highlands, and El Mirador , in the lowlands, were both important cities in the Late Preclassic.
Women in Maya society. Jaina Island figurine representing a Classic period warrior. Obsidian spearheads with a lithic core , Takalik Abaj.
Trade in Maya civilization. It celebrates a military victory by Yik'in Chan K'awiil in Jade funerary mask of king K'inich Janaab' Pakal . Early Classic wooden figurine, it may once have supported a mirror .
Stucco mask adorning the Early Classic substructure of Tikal Temple 33 . Late Classic painted mural at Bonampak.
Painted ceramic vessel from Sacul. Ceramic figurine from Jaina Island , AD — Postclassic ballcourt at Zaculeu , in the Guatemalan Highlands.
The Great Ballcourt of Chichen Itza. Coe, The Maya , London: Thames and Hudson, 6th ed. The Maya word B'alam " jaguar " written twice in the Maya script.
The first glyph writes the word logographicaly with the jaguar head standing for the entire word. Illustration of a Maya scribe on a Classic period vessel.
Kimbell Art Museum , Fort Worth. Maya numerals on a page of the Postclassic Dresden Codex. Maya calendar and Mesoamerican Long Count calendar.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society , . Maya religion and Maya mythology. Human sacrifice in Maya culture. List of Maya gods and supernatural beings.
Many misconceptions about the mayans exist, and this list should put an end to at least one or two of them.
In addition, it will introduce you to facts that you never knew about this great ancient civilization.
In fact, there are over seven million Mayans living in their home regions, many of whom have managed to maintain substantial remnants of their ancient cultural heritage.
Some are quite integrated into the modern cultures of the nations in which they reside, while others continue a more traditional culturally distinct life, often speaking one of the Mayan languages as a primary language.
The Maya desired some unnatural physical characteristics for their children. This process was widespread among the upper class. Another interesting fact about Mayan children is that most were named according to the day they were born.
Every day of the year had a specific name for both boys and girls and parents were expected to follow that practice.
Health and medicine among the ancient Maya was a complex blend of mind, body, religion, ritual, and science. Important to all, medicine was practiced only by a select few who were given an excellent education.
These men, called shamans, act as a medium between the physical world and spirit world. They practice sorcery for the purpose of healing, foresight, and control over natural events.
Since medicine was so closely related to religion and sorcery, it was essential that Maya shamans had vast medical knowledge and skill.
It is known that the Maya sutured wounds with human hair, reduced fractures, and were even skilled dental surgeons, making prostheses from jade and turquoise and filling teeth with iron pyrite.
Today the Maya keep many of the ritualistic traditions of their ancestors. Elements of prayer, offerings, blood sacrifice replacing human blood with that of sacrificed chickens , burning of copal incense, dancing, feasting, and ritual drinking continue in traditional ceremonies.
The Mayan peoples regularly used hallucinogenic drugs taken from the natural world in their religious rituals, but they also used them in day to day life as painkillers.
Flora such as peyote, the morning glory, certain mushrooms, tobacco, and plants used to make alcoholic substances, were commonly used.
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