10 Facts about the Maya Civilization - History Key

10 Facts about the Maya Civilization

The Maya Civilization was one of the most dominant indigenous societies from Mesoamerica. Unlike other indigenous from Mesoamerica, the Mayas concentrated on a determined territory that covers the entire Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, Belize, parts of the Mexican states, the western part of Honduras and El Salvador. They were one of the most advanced civilizations of their times. In this article, we’ll talk about some interesting and incredible facts about their lifestyle and rituals.

Map of the Maya Empire
Map of the Maya Empire © mayaempireproject.weebly.com

10. The Mayas changed their natural physical characteristics

They were often looking to “enhance” the physical features of their children. Mothers used to press on the forehead of their babies in order to become flattered. Another interesting change was regarded to their eyes. Objects were often swung in front of a baby’s eyes until he was cross-eyed. These practices were used mostly by the upper class.

Illustration of Mayan pressing system
Illustration of Mayan pressing system © vice.com

9. Mayan medicine was advanced at that time

Medicine was a complex mixture of spirit, body, and religion. It was practiced only by the few selected ones who received a proper education. They used to treat wounds by using human hair as stitches and they even made primitive forms of a prosthesis. Mayas were in a deep connection with their environment. Therefore they used local plants as analgesics in two situations: religious rituals (hallucinogenic drugs) and medicine.

© yucatan-holidays.com

8. The Mayans practiced human and blood sacrifices

A variety of methods used by Mayans were: decapitation, heart removal, arrow sacrifices and even baby sacrifices.

Decapitation was the most used one and it was used as the dedication of major building projects or coronation of a new ruler.

The heart removal took place in the courtyard of a temple and the victim was painted in blue, the color of sacrifice.

Some other rituals involved being killed with arrows. The victim was also painted in blue and a white symbol was painted over the victim’s heart. Usually, when Venus appeared in the sky the Mayas sacrificed babies because their soul was pure and they thought it will bring them prosperity.

© chechar.wordpress.com

7. The last Mayan kingdom was conquered in 1697

Although there are Mayas living today, the last Mayan kingdom existed until 1697. Spanish troops from Yucatan attacked and occupied Tayasal (Nojpeten) which is also known as the capital of Maya Civilization. However, nobody knows exactly how the Maya Empire has fallen. Long before the Spanish invaded America, many of their big cities were already abandoned and ruined.

Mayan Ruins
Mayan Ruins © businessinsider.com

6. Mayas are the forefathers of the modern astronomy

They paid very much attention to the sky by studying the moon, planets, the sun, and other stars. The Maya managed to develop one of the most accurate pre-telescope in the world thanks to their complex writing and numeral system. For instance, they estimated the length of tropical solar year more accurate than the Spanish did when they first arrived.

The Caracol at Chichen Itza observatory
The Caracol at Chichen Itza observatory © wikipedia.org

5. The writing skills depended on their social status

Because their writing system was complex, it required a different level of understanding them. Based on their social status, a Maya person could be “enlightened” to understand their full discoveries at a certain point. Unfortunately, many of their writings were lost during the Spanish conquest.

Yucatec Maya writing is the Dresden Codex, ca. 11–12th century, Chichen Itza
Yucatec Maya writing is the Dresden Codex, ca. 11–12th century, Chichen Itza © wikipedia.org

4. They played “Deadly Soccer”

The Mesoamerican Ball Game was their sport. Beside it was played all over the continent, the game had a religious significance. It was similar to soccer, but the players weren’t allowed to touch the ball with their feet or hands and the goal consisted in a small round shape placed on walls. The ball was weighed about 4 kg and probably was made from rubber and human heads and sometimes the losers lost their life.

The Mesoamerican ballgame
The Mesoamerican ballgame © writeopinions.com

3. They “invented” Zero

Zero is a concept that means nothing, but the early concept of giving a symbol to nothing was abstract back then. We must say that zero is relatively a new concept among the mathematicians. However, the Mayans developed Zero as a placeholder in their calendar systems, but they never used it in equations.

Maya numerals
Maya numerals © wikipedia.org

2. The Mayas loved jewelry

In their earliest period, metal was hard to procure so the Mayans used bones and claws from jaguar teeth, colorful shells, stones and feathers to create jewelry. As they evolved, the Mayans crafted jewelry from jade and gold. Both men and women used the same type of jewelry, the only exception was the plugs from their lips and noses used by men with a high social status such as royal members or priests.

Mayan Pakal's jade death mask and jewelry
Mayan Pakal’s jade death mask and jewelry © Pinterest

1. The Mayan didn’t predict the end of the world in 2012

Mayans had more than one calendar and more so, none of their calendars predicted the end of the world in 2012. They had three calendars that worked in cycles. One of them is known as Haab and had a 365-day cycle. “The Long Life” calendar contained 2,880,000 days and it was scheduled to reset in 2012 which gave us numerous apocalyptic prophecies.

Mayan Zodiac Circle
Mayan Zodiac Circle © historyonthenet.com

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