Mayan Civilization

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Imagine you are in the year 250 C.E. in the Mayan civilization. The Mayan civilization is thriving with new achievements are being obtained consistently. You are on the lower spectrum of the social scale as a commoner. You have hard physical work, that takes place almost every day. Although the work is hard, you get fed very good. Unlike some civilizations the Mayan commoners were treated very well and were able to go to festivals were they could dance and worship many their gods. The Mayan Civilization was a complex civilization consisting of a strong government, social class, and pertained to certain beliefs.

The beginning of the Mayan civilization had to start somewhere. For the Mayans, they they have been traced back to as early as 2000 B.C.E. in Mesoamerica. Mesoamerica is Mexico and Central America. They were specifically located Yucatan Peninsula and modern-day Guatemala, in which they covered all of those regions.

The height of their civilization happened between 250 and 900 C.E., were they really flourished. In the journal article “Wilhelmy’s Geographical Appraisal of Mayan Civilization” states, “…a total population of 19 to 20 million, with the ceremonial centers accounting for a million of this estimate, for the lowland Maya area of approximately 250,000 square kilometers” (Wagner 226).

This states that the Mayan civilizations during part of their prime consisted of 19 to 20 million people. In the lowland Maya area of about 250,000 square kilometers, lies a million people. That’s more than 3 times the amount of people that live their today, which only 6 million people live there today. That’s how big the Mayan civilization grew to be.

The Mayans had a very basic social class. The social structure went nobles, commoners, serfs, and slaves. Nobles being on the highest part of the social ladder served as rulers, government officials, military leaders, tribute collectors, and high priests. They were educated, wealthy, and most lived in the central areas of the Mayan cities. Next of the social spectrum are commoners which, were farmers, laborers, and servants. They lived very simple, yet hard working lives. Most serfs worked on the land of their rulers.

The Mayans also had slaves who worked for their owner. Slaves consisted of citizens that committed certain crimes, unwanted orphans, and prisoners of war. The children of slaves however were not born slaves, unless they were unwanted. Many slaves were sacrificed as well in part of rituals, or if their owner died. They sacrifice the slaves of the owner, when dead, so they can continue their service in death.

In “Human Sacrifice Among the Maya: An Analysis of Patterns in Belize” states, “The types of sacrifice that may be expected in the Maya region include death by arrows or spears shot into the heart, removal of the heart, decapitation,or being cast into a well. The victims may also show signs of disarticulation or defleshing, trauma from being thrown down a pyramid…” (Kron 29).

The Mayans showed many forms of sacrifice including arrows and spears piercing the heart, removal of the heart, decapitation of the head, and being thrown into a well. After some sacrifices done at the top of the pyramids, the Mayans would toss the dead corpse down the pyramid. It was very common to find the practice sacrifice done in civilizations, as done on the people on the bottom of the social structure.

The Mayans had a very strong government. This is what allowed them to become as large and powerful as they did. They had a hierarchical government, which is where items are ranked according to levels of importance. This hierarchical government was ran by rulers and priests. The civilization consisted of individual city states. Each individual city state had its own ruler and ruling class.

Within these city states were trades with allowed the economy to thrive in the region. They developed a writing system as well. It consisted of both pictographs and phonetic symbols. Another achievement they had was creating a mathematical system in which, they incorporated the concept zero. They were so advanced that in some cities they had sewer systems and running water, which the wealthy had in their homes.

With every civilization comes their beliefs and customs. For the Mayans they were Polytheist. Polytheism is the belief and worship of many gods and goddesses. They had over 165 gods in which they worshiped, but their gods are different from how most gods are seen today. For the Mayans gods were human-like, they were born, had a life, and then died. The Mayan were also very interested in the sky and the stars.

In “A MATHEMATICS LESSON FROM THE MAYAN CIVILIZATION” states, “Their study of astronomy was closely related to different cycles for planting corn. Morley (1968) indicates that archeological as well as documental proof shows that the day on which the fields should be burned in preparation for planting corn was chosen with extreme care by the priests” (Lara-Alecio 155).

The Mayans believed that the stars determine when corn gets planted. While the priest decides when the corn gets burned as preparation for the plantation of corn.

Which such power and vast population the Mayan civilization came to an end. With the civilization being such a long time ago, the decline is unknown. What is know is by 900 C.E.the Mayans vanished. There are multiple theories of how the civilization came to its end. One theory is the constant warfare broke the trade line between the city states. Another theory is their complex beliefs with their multiple gods created chaos between the people.

The last theory that is most inclined to be true in at least playing a part in the collapse is the prolonged drought. The article “The Classic Maya Collapse: The Importance of Ecological Prosperity” states, “Paleoclimatic research provides evidence that the Classic Maya suffered a two hundred year drought from 800 CE to 1000 CE.

Over the years, this drought theory has gained momentum and it came to be concluded that the drought caused a series of obstacles that the Maya were incapable of coping with. It is because of the great drought that the Maya suffered an ecological disaster, political instability, and a broken social system” (Armstrong 1). This states that the drought consisted for two hundred years causing multiple problems for the Mayans. This is how the great civilization came to its end.

The complex Mayan civilization contained all basic needs for a civilization such as a strong government, social class, and pertained to certain beliefs. The beginning of the Mayan civilization started 2000 B.C.E. in mesoamerica which greatly expanded to one of the longest lasting civilizations. There social class starts at the top with nobles, which then goes to commoners, serfs, then slaves.

Mayans consisted of a strong hierarchical government, which consisted of individual city states within the civilization. They were very religious in which they believed in polytheism, the belief in many gods. The decline of the Mayan civilization is still unknown, but is thought to be a cause from the prolonged drought.


Cite this paper

Mayan Civilization. (2021, May 29). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/mayan-civilization/

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