Mayan Civilization

Mayan Civilisation was the most magnificent civilisation of Mesoamerican region that flourished during its peak period from 250AD to 900AD. They created enduring art and architecture and left a culture that influenced the subsequent civilisations such as the Aztecs.

They also made impressive advancements in mathematics and astronomy and had a fully developed writing system. The civilisation encompassed the regions of present day Guatemala and Belize in addition to portions of Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico.

Civilization Timeline

Mayan Civilization Timeline

The Mayan Civilisation was the longest reigning civilization of the Mesoamerican region which existed for over 3,000 years Read more about the Civilization Timeline >>

Mayan Agriculture

Mayan Slash and Burn

The soil in Mayan regions was also not very fertile, yet Mayans grew a large variety of grains, vegetables and fruits Read more about the Mayan Agriculture >>

Mayan Culture

Mayan Culture Cancuenpanel

Mayan culture flourished in the Yucatán Peninsula, particularly during their Classic Period which extended from 250AD to 900AD. Read more about the Mayan Culture >>

Mayan Economy

Mayan Economy Traders

Mayans were an agrarian society who traded in subsistence items such as maize and fruits Read more about the Mayan Economy >>

Mayan Farming

Mayan Farming Slash and Burn

The land in the Mayan regions wasn't exactly conducive to farming but Mayans made it cultivable using various methods Read more about the Mayan Farming >>

Mayan Government

Mayan government foundations were laid down in the Terminal Pre-Classic Period and established in the Classic Period Read more about the Mayan Government >>

Mayan Jobs

Mayan Jobs

Mayans had many diverse jobs for different classes of society. Priests were engaged as religious leaders, astronomers, researchers and educators. Read more about the Mayan Jobs >>

Mayan Mathematics

Mayan Mathematics

Mayans were among the few ancient civilisations who developed not only an elaborate mathematical system but also understood the concept of zero. Read more about the Mayan Mathematics >>

Mayan Number System

The Mayans developed their own highly sophisticated number systems which used 5 and 20 as its bases Read more about the Mayan Number System >>

Mayan Sacrifice

Mayan Sacrifice

Human sacrifices became more common in the Mayan society during the Classic Period and continued unabated until the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century. Read more about the Mayan Sacrifice >>

Mayan Shelter

Mayan Shelter

Mayans Shelters were quite advanced for the time and the Mayan Shelters for nobility were particularly well built and impressive. Read more about the Mayan Shelter >>

Mayan Technology

Mayan Technology Vulture Head Pendant

Mayan technology included agricultural innovations, original materials used in monumental structures and tools etc Read more about the Mayan Technology >>

Mesoamerica

Mesoamerica was home to many ancient civilizations that feature prominently in Mesoamerican mythologies and religions Read more about the Mesoamerica >>


Mayan Civilization History

The history of Mayan civilization can be traced back to 2000BC.

The time before that is included in the Archaic period about which there is no information.

The Pre-Classic Period of the Mayan Civilization extended from 2000BC to 250AD.

Most of the noteworthy developments in Mayan Civilization were made during the Classic period which ended in 900AD.

After that, the collapse of Mayan Civilization took place during the Post-Classic Period, although remnants of its culture and religion continue to survive.


Mayan Hieroglyphic Script

The Mayans had a fully developed writing system and they used hieroglyphic scripts to convey information.

The basic unit of these Mayan hieroglyphic texts was a glyph block which transcribed a word or phrase.

One or more individual glyphs were joined together to form a block and these blocks were arranged in a grid pattern.

Text in hieroglyphic scripts was generally arranged in the form of double columns of glyph block. These texts provide important information about the Mayans Civilization.


Mayan Mathematical & Astronomical Systems

Mayans made impressive advancements in the domains of mathematics and astronomy.

They had their own number system which made use of base 5 within base 20. In other words, they used 5 as base till 19 and after that 20 was used as the base.

They also used 0 as a placeholder and represented it with a shell glyph.

Dots and bars were used to represent numerals.

Mayans closely observed the movements of the celestial objects and developed eclipse tables along with other astronomical calculations, although this was done for religious purposes.

Mayan Numerals Long Count Calendar

Mayan Numerals Long Count Calendar


Laws, Rules & Organization

The Mayans were ruled by kings and laws were additionally managed by a council of elders which was composed of the nobility.

The king was the ultimate authority in political as well as religious matters.

Mayan laws were quite strict and common punishments included fines, confiscation of property, being jailed, or being sold into slavery.

For more serious crimes such as murder and offense against religion, the death penalty was the law.


Buildings & Architecture

Mayans Civilization is known for building some of the finest works of architecture and remarkable buildings in the Mesoamerican region.

A lot of Mayan ruins are a testimony to the grandeur of Mayan Civilization. Their architecture is particularly impressive in their temple-pyramids which are among the highest structures from the pre-modern world.

The architecture of these temple-pyramids, coupled with the proportions and geometrical alignments, provides an example of the expertise of the Mayans.

Other kinds of buildings included palaces, ball-courts, and grand plazas etc.

El Castillo (pyramid of Kukulcán) Chichén Itzá

El Castillo (pyramid of Kukulcán) Chichén Itzá


Mayan Education

Unlike the latter Aztecs, there was not a very high emphasis on education among the Mayans.

Formal education was mainly reserved for the upper classes and people like priests, chiefs, leaders, and warriors.

However, informal education was given to the children by the elders of the family.

This education included various aspects of Mayan Civilization such as mythology, religion, history, and general skills about life.


Mayan Music

Music was an important part of Mayan Civilization and various descriptions about ancient Mayan music are found in the native as well as post-Columbian Spanish texts.

It was important for public ceremonies and rituals, but declined and almost vanished after the Spanish conquest.

Various musical instruments were widely used including flutes, trumpets, rattles, and drums of various kinds.

Mayan Music was involved not just in religious ceremonies and festivals, but also in various theatrical events and even in warfare where different kinds of instruments were used for different signals.

Mayan Music and Musical Instruments

Mayan Music and Musical Instruments


Art & Design

Mayan Civilization was quite impressive when it came to art and design.

However, art was mainly reserved for the nobility or for religious purposes.

The Mayans made particularly noteworthy advancements in stone sculpting and woodwork. Stone sculpture was also used to decorate the stone stairways of temples and pyramids.

Mayan art also included mural paintings on the walls of temples, pyramids, and palaces.

Most of the Mayan art created has been lost due to chronic warfare and the workings of time and the elements.

Mayan Wood Carvings

Some wood carvings from Mayan cities have survived to this day and are surprisingly well preserved.


Mayan Entertainment

The most important form of entertainment in Mayan Civilization was the famous ballgame for which they built special ball-courts, usually constructed in an I-shape.

The opposing teams had to get a rubber ball through the stone hoop on the opposite end.

Gambling and betting was also involved in this game and everyone could come and watch.

Another very important form of entertainment was singing and dancing and special dance ceremonies were often held

Mayan Sports

Mayans built special ball courts where the ball game was played.


Prayer & Religion

Religion was of central importance in the Mayan Civilization and the status of the priests was on par with the nobility.

Mayans followed a polytheistic religion which had a rich mythology and set of beliefs associated with it.

Various kinds of offerings, which included animal and even human sacrifice were part of Mayan religion.

Mayan prayers included a variety of incantations involving saints, deities, ancestors, and different aspects of nature.

Mayan Sacrifice

Mayan Priests would often remove the heart of a human Sacrifice


Mayan Hygiene & Sanitary

The Mayans had a pretty sophisticated system of sanitation and water management.

Tikal city, for instance, did not have any water source close by and thus 10 large water reservoirs were used to store water from rain.

Mayans at Palenque made underground aqueducts and flush toilets for better sanitation and water management.

They also had good hygienic conditions and often the household used water filters made by carving limestone into porous cylinders, similar to modern ceramic water filters.


Mayan Civilization Summary

The foundations of the Mayan Civilization were laid during the Pre-Classic Period between 2000BC and 250AD.

They made most impressive advancements in art, architecture, culture, and politics during their Classic Period from 250AD to 900AD.

The Mayans had a fully developed writing system as well as a number system.

They followed a polytheistic religion and built grand pyramid-temples with very impressive architecture.