.. l game. They also show the elaborate celebration and installation of an heir to the throne. Many fine carvings were found on small jade pieces, shells and stones. Few paintings survive.
Efforts are being made to preserve what remains. The ancient Maya people were farmers. They adopted and developed an agricultural lifestyle that used advanced techniques. For example, they dug canals around their fields to bring water to the crops. This made them less dependent on natural rainfall. They also formed terraces on steep hillsides to keep the soil from washing away.
Corn and beans were their main life supporting crops, and they also planted tomatoes, peppers, fruits. Some hunting was done to supplement the crops. The corn was called maize, which came to signify food itself. The maize god was honored throughout the Maya history. The Maya also grew cocao plants from whose beans they made a chocolate drink.
The beans were so highly valued that they also served as money. The Maya were also weavers. The women would teach their daughters how to weave at a very young age. Most all of the Maya peoples clothes were woven with important symbols of the city, family and of the weavers themselves. Today’s Maya carry on this tradition. The upper class people spent much of their time in scholarly pursuits.
They were astronomers, mathematicians, sculptors, painters, or priests. There is evidence that the Maya were also warriors. Battle scenes were recorded in their paintings and sculptures. Today there are over 2,000,000 Maya in Central America. Specifically, they live in Guatemala, E1 Salvador and the Honduras. They have their own language.
Farmers, artists and weavers, these people sell their wares on the open market, and use it to support their lifestyle. Their religion is a blend of traditional beliefs and Catholicism. They sometimes have disputes with the local governments over land rights and other issues. A Large Maya Area – The Maya were at the height of their power from approximately A.D. 600 to A.D. 900. They expanded throughout a large area that included almost all of present-day Guatemala and Belize, substantial portions of Honduras and El Salvador, and the Yucatan section of southeastern Mexico.
That area includes both highlands and lowlands. It was in the lowlands, however, that the Maya made some of their outstanding advances. Maya Achievements – The fame of the Maya does not rest on conquest. Instead, the Maya are remembered for their achievements in astronomy, mathematics, and the arts. The remains of their graceful pyramids and temples still excite wonder and command respect today. Imagine how grand they must have been at the height of their glory so many years ago! Many Important Cities – Unlike the Aztecs, whose power centered in the single city of Tenochtitlan, the Maya had many important centers. Their largest city was Tikal, in the far north of modern-day Guatemala.
The city covered only around 6 square miles, but it may have had a population of around 10,000 people. It served as the center for a larger area with a total population that may have reached 45,000. Temples and Pyramids as Places of Power The Fame of Tikal – Every year, tourists flock to Tikal, rising high out of the tropical growth, they see five magnificent pyramids. Two stand at either end of the Great Square, or public plaza. Perched at the very tops of these stone structures are temples.
These were used only by priests or rulers. The tallest of Tikal’s pyramid temple structures towers some 212 feet (65 m) above the ground. Cylinder shaped stones, many of them with elaborately carved bases, are found throughout the city. Restored Ruins in Chichen Itza – In the Yucatan, the city of Chichen Itza, which was mentioned in Chapter 1, was a particularly sacred place. Among the restored ruins of this ancient city are one enormous ball court and eight smaller ones.
Courts of this type appear throughout the Aztec and Maya areas. Exactly what type of game was played on such courts remains unclear. Archaeologists believe that the game had religious importance. At Chichen Itza also is a round building called El Caracol. In Spanish, caracol means “snail.” Inside is a spiral stairway which curves like a snail’s shell.
The shape of this building is very unusual for a Maya temple. Archaeologists believe it was an observatory. An observatory is a place for studying the sky. Ceremonial Centers – It appears that Maya cities were ceremonial centers. Not many people actually lived in them.
People went to these cities only for religious celebrations and to trade goods. Priests and their assistants were the main full-time residents. Archaeologists digging at a site in northern Yucatan, however,believe that they have found at least one Maya city that actually had a large number of permanent residents. They have uncovered ruins of what look like dwellings for ordinary people. It seems that this city may have had as many as 50,000 different structures and a population even larger than that of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan.
Collapse of the Classic Maya After about 1,000 years the Maya civilization collapsed. Though not every Maya ceremonial center fell at once, by around A.D. 900, all those places of power had been abandoned. The rain forest soon crept forward and covered the pyramids and temples. What happened to the Maya? Why did they abandon their cities? Many answers have been suggested. Problems related to food supply may have been the reason.
Perhaps plagues of locusts ruined harvests. Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, may have destroyed some Maya centers. Some people say that warlike invaders from central Mexico broke the Maya civilization. All ot these are possibilities. In the area of northern Yucatan, the Maya remained. From a city known as Mayapan, the Maya established control over a wide area.
Their civilization seemed more warlike than that of the earlier Maya, and they made no great advances in science or art. Mayapan fell to invaders in 1441. When the Spanish arrived, there no longer was a centralized Maya state. Aztec The Aztecs were a warring people who came to the central valley of Mexico around 1200 AD from what is now the southwestern United States. For years they had been nomads.
According to legend, a special sign from the gods would show them the site for their new settlement. This would be an eagle with a serpent in its mouth, perched on a large cactus. Sometime around1325, they saw such an eagle on an island in the middle of a lake and settled there. This site, where Mexico City is located today, became the center of the Aztec world. There, they built a magnificent city that they called Tenochtitln.
Tenochtitln was a beautiful, well-run city with a ceremonial plaza paved with stone. The Aztecs used building techniques from other cultures to construct Tenochtitln. They built extravagant temples which were designed like the Mayan pyramids with terraced steps. Two of the temples in Tenochtitlln were dedicated to their most important gods – the sun god, who was the god of war, and the rain god. The city itself was built in the middle of a shallow lake called Texcoco. It was built on five islands that were connected to the mainland by three causeways, or raised roads.
Instead of streets there were canals, and people went from place to place by canoe. When the Spanisch conquerors saw Tenochtitln they called it “The Venice of the New World”. At the height of Aztec civilization, around 1300-1500 AD, more than 200,000 people lived in Tenochtitln. It was bigger than any city in Europe at the time.