Mayan Inventions

Mayan civilisation gave birth to a number of unique inventions which hadn’t hitherto existed in the Mesoamerican culture. Many of these inventions were based on the knowledge transmitted to the Mayan civilisation from earlier, older civilisations, such as the Olmecs. Among the extraordinary inventions of the Mayans was the Mayan calendar which predicted dates in the future very accurately, the invention of underground reservoirs to store water and a language based on symbols called hieroglyphics.

Mayan Inventions History

Mayan civilisation began in 2nd millennia B.C. and started coming into shape as early as 500 B.C. with the establishment of different Mayan cities. It borrowed some elements from the earlier Olmec civilisation. The Mayan civilisation was highly advanced for its time and the Mayans invented a number of things which were quite futuristic for the age. These included a very advanced numbering system, a complex calendar, underground reservoirs to store water, limestone causeways between cities, a complex writing system and a lot more. These inventions may explain how the civilisation was able to dominate the Mesoamerican region and sustain itself culturally for such a long time.

Mayan Inventions: Writing System

Mayan writing system is one of the most advanced and amazing writings systems of early human civilisations. It made use of symbols were which meant to denote different sounds, words and syllables. A picture or a symbol was defined for each sound and word and in total, the language included 700 to 800 symbols or “glyphs”. Such remarkably complex language at such an early stage in human civilisation enabled the Mayans to write down their historical and religious books called codex. Mayans also wrote their languages on stone slabs and temple walls. Most of the Mayan books were destroyed after the Spanish invasion in the 16th century, though some have survived.

Mayan Number System

Zero has a crucial significance in the number system and Mayans were able to invent the concept and understanding of zero on their own. This made their number system far more advanced than can be expected of a civilisation of that era. The Mayan number system was based on 20 different signs and symbols which were used to comprehensively denote larger number by making use of the basic unit of 20.

Ball Courts

Ball courts are one of the most frequent feature of Mesoamerican civilisations. Mayans were among the earlier civilisations to feature ball courts in their cities. The Mayan version of the ball game included two teams who moved a ball with their hips, hands and arms, but without touching it with their hands. Often the objective of the game was to put the hall through a hoop at the opposite end of the field to score points. In this, the ball game of Mayans somewhat resembled modern basketball. Some of these hoops were placed at 10 feet while others were placed at a height of 20 feet.

Mayan Headdresses

Mayan nobles who formed the rich aristocracy of Mayan cities wore elaborately designed and brightly coloured headdresses. The headdresses comprised of different things in their manufacture, including feathers, and they were often several feet in height. The headdress was embellished with bright colours and it was worn over the Mayans long hair.

Mayan Inventions: Mayan Stelas

Mayans wrote different stories and messages on vertical slabs of stone by carving symbols and glyphs into them. These were called stelas and many of them have survived over the course of history. The stelas read from top to bottom and they typically began with a date. Since penning down a stela took quite some time and hard work, they were mostly use to tell important stories.

Mayan Masks

Mayans made masks of jade, gold, feather and other materials to be worn on certain occasions. Usually these masks were worn on funeral ceremonies or on the Day of the Dead. Some historians believed that these masks were used by Mayans to ward off demons which, they believed, could come from the underworld. The masks were a means of scaring off these demons. Masks resembling animals popular in Mayan mythology such as the jaguar and snake were also used, and often placed alongside the dead when burying them.

Mayan Water Storage Reservoirs

Mayans were highly intelligent in their management of cities. The region inhabited by Mayans was marked by uncertain environmental conditions such as floods and droughts. The Mayans needed to counter this effectively in order to be able to establish larger cities with sure means of access to water throughout the year. To do this, they built underground reservoirs with stone constructions. The crevices in these reservoirs were closed with plaster while the water flowing into them was filtered with the help of sand. Moreover, these reservoirs were built with varying levels of elevation so that the function of gravity could be used to automatically transmit water to the inhabitants of the city.

Mayan Calendar

Mayans created a calendar to keep track of the days and to be able to identify them. Each day in the Mayan calendar had a special significance. The Mayan calendar comprised of three different systems of dating, to be used in parallel. One of these systems was called the divine calendar, the second was called the civic calendar and the third was called the Long Count. The Long Count was created after the first two systems and was a dating system based on base-20 and base-18 numbering system. It enabled Mayans to keep track of longer periods of time.

Mayan Inventions Summary

Mayan civilization was one of the most advanced civilizations of its time. The Mayans came up with a number of indigenous inventions which were unique to their time period. These included a complex writing system comprising of glyphs which made use of 800 symbols; a water storage system which included a water filtration system as well; a complex yet very accurate calendar and a very good understanding of astronomy; innovations in dresses, styles and art which marked the Mayan culture. These inventions and innovations marked a high point in the Mesoamerican culture before the Spanish invasion in 16th century which put an end to the Mayan cities.