The Maya civilization

The Maya believed in a cyclical nature of time. The Maya priest interpreted celestial and terrestrial cycles to give a prophetic outlook on the future or past. Priests also determined if the heavens were favorable for performing certain religious ceremonies.

The Maya practiced human sacrifice and made offerings of human hearts. They believed that the cosmos had three major planes, the Earth, the underworld beneath, and the heavens above.

The Maya religion had many supernatural characters. Good and evil traits were not permanent characteristics of Maya gods. The lifecycle of maize lies at the heart of Maya belief.

Maya architecture spans many thousands of years. The most famous Maya structures are the stepped pyramids. There are also cave sites and cave-origin myths.

Maya art is considered the most sophisticated and beautiful of the ancient New World. Painting of the classic Maya includes funerary pottery and other ceramics, and murals in a building at Bonampak. A beautiful turquoise blue color that has survived due to its unique chemical characteristics is known as Maya Blue.

The Maya writing system is hieroglyphs with a superficial resemblance to the Ancient Egypt writing system. It is the only writing system of the Pre-Columbian New World that is known to represent the spoken language of its community. The script has more than a thousand different glyphs. Unfortunately, the Spanish displayed little interest in it, and the knowledge was subsequently lost.

Like other Mesoamerican civilizations, the Maya used a base 20 and base 5 numbering system. The Maya independently developed the concept of zero by 36 BCE. Inscriptions show the worked with sums up to the hundreds of millions and large dates. They produced extremely accurate astronomical observations shown on charts of the movements of the moon and planets. The Maya also measured the length of the solar year accurately.

A typical Classic Maya polity was a small hierarchical state headed by a hereditary ruler. Most kingdoms included a capital city with its neighborhood and several lesser towns, although there were greater kingdoms, which controlled larger territories and extended patronage over smaller polities.

There was also a court-based system of Classic Maya societies with a royal household and a king.

The Maya had sophisticated methods of food production. Permanent raised fields, terracing, forest gardens, and wild harvesting helped support the large populations. Contemporary Maya peoples still practice many of these traditional forms of agriculture, although they have adapted to population pressures, cultures, climate change, and the availability of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Source: The Maya civilization
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