20 Facts about the Ancient Maya Civilization
The ancient Maya civilization was without a doubt, one of the most dominant ancient societies of Mesoamerica. The ancient Maya excelled at agriculture, pottery, hieroglyph writing, calendar-making, mathematics and were one of the most impressive astronomers in the past.
They were a unique and advanced ancient culture and according to studies, the Maya were centered in one geographical block covering all of the Yucatan Peninsula and modern-day Guatemala, Belize and Chiapas and Tabasco in modern day Mexico. Here are 20 facts about this incredible ancient civilization:
- According to the ancient Maya, the world was created on August 11, 3114BC, which is the date their calendar counts from.
- The Maya never disappeared really, according to recent studies around seven million direct descendants of the Mayans live in the Americas today.
- The earliest Maya settlements date to around 1800 B.C., or the beginning of what is called the Preclassic or Formative Period.
- The Late Preclassic city of Mirador, in the northern Peten, was one of the greatest cities ever built in the pre-Columbian Americas.
- From the late eighth through the end of the ninth century, something unknown happened to shake the Maya civilization to its foundations.
- According to scholars, the most distinctive Maya achievements were in abstract mathematics and astronomy.
- The Maya were literate and had a written language and even books.
- The Mayan system of hieroglyphics, one of the most complex systems on Earth, only began to be successfully decoded in the 1950’s.
- The ancient Maya were one of the earliest ancient civilization to use the number ZERO.
- Both Maya men and women tattooed their bodies with elaborate designs, making them one of the earliest ancient cultures to practice the art of “tattooing”
- According to Sharer: “During the Classic period, the highest Maya political authority in a particular polity was given the title ahau, which can be translated as ‘lord’ or ‘noble’”
- The smallest Maya centers covered less than a square kilometer. Tikal, the largest, covered 123 square kilometers.
- The Ancient Maya were incredible engineers, constructing incredible Pyramids and temples that match the ones in Egypt. The peak of La Danta—one of the world’s largest pyramids.
- According to researchers the Peak of La Danta is more massive than the Great Pyramid of Giza containing around 99 million cubic feet of rock and fill.
- As we already mentioned, the Maya were obsessive astronomers who kept very detailed records of the movements of the stars, sun, moon and planets. They believed that the Sun, Moon and stars were actually “gods” who moved in the sky. Celestial events such as eclipses, equinoxes and solstices were marked in their ancient temples.
- The Ancient Maya played sports. The Mesoamerican ballgame or also called Ōllamaliztli in Nahuatl was a “sport” practiced by all the major civilizations from the Olmecs to the Aztecs. The objective of the ball game was to strike a rubber ball through the hoop using any part of the body except the hands. It is not known precisely when or where Ōllamaliztli originated
- The Maya were one of the first ancient civilizations to use the Sauna, sweat bath, or zumpul-ché.
- The Ancient Maya used Hallucinogenics that originated in nature such as peyote, the morning glory, certain mushrooms, tobacco, and plants used to make alcoholic substances.
- Mayas main crops were maize (corn), beans, squash, avocados, chili peppers, pineapples, papayas, and cacao.
- The island city of Tayasal is considered as the last independent Mayan Kingdom and it existed until 1696.
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