Proto-Mayan[ edit ] Approximate migration routes and dates for various Mayan language families. The region shown as Proto-Mayan is now occupied by speakers of the Q'anjobalan branch light blue in other figures. Speakers of the western branch moved south into the areas now inhabited by Mamean and Quichean people.
Visit Website Within that expanse, the Maya lived in three separate sub-areas with distinct environmental and cultural differences: Most famously, the Maya of the southern lowland region reached their peak during the Classic Period of Maya civilization A. The earliest Maya were agricultural, growing crops such as corn maizebeans, squash and cassava manioc.
During the Middle Preclassic Period, which lasted until about B. The Middle Preclassic Period also saw the rise of the first major Mesoamerican civilization, the Olmecs.
In addition to agriculture, the Preclassic Maya also displayed more advanced cultural traits like pyramid-building, city construction and the inscribing of stone monuments. The Late Preclassic city of Mirador, in the northern Peten, was one of the greatest cities ever built in the pre-Columbian Americas.
Its size dwarfed the Classic Maya capital of Tikal, and its existence proves that the Maya flourished centuries before the Classic Period. The Classic Maya, A. At its peak, the Maya population may have reached 2, Excavations of Maya sites have unearthed plazas, palaces, temples and pyramids, as well as courts for playing the ball games that were ritually and politically significant to Maya culture.
Maya cities were surrounded and supported by a large population of farmers. The Maya were deeply religious, and worshiped various mayan writing and language related to nature, including the gods of the sun, the moon, rain and corn.
They were thought to serve as mediators between the gods and people on earth, and performed the elaborate religious ceremonies and rituals so important to the Maya culture. The Classic Maya built many of their temples and palaces in a stepped pyramid shape, decorating them with elaborate reliefs and inscriptions.
These structures have earned the Maya their reputation as the great artists of Mesoamerica. Guided by their religious ritual, the Maya also made significant advances in mathematics and astronomy, including the use of the zero and the development of a complex calendar system based on days.
Though early researchers concluded that the Maya were a peaceful society of priests and scribes, later evidence—including a thorough examination of the artwork and inscriptions on their temple walls—showed the less peaceful side of Maya culture, including the war between rival Mayan city-states and the importance of torture and human sacrifice to their religious ritual.
Serious exploration of Classic Maya sites began in the s. By the early to midth century, a small portion of their system of hieroglyph writing had been deciphered, and more about their history and culture became known.
Most of what historians know about the Maya comes from what remains of their architecture and art, including stone carvings and inscriptions on their buildings and monuments.
The Maya also made paper from tree bark and wrote in books made from this paper, known as codices; four of these codices are known to have survived. Life in the Rainforest One of the many intriguing things about the Maya was their ability to build a great civilization in a tropical rainforest climate.
Traditionally, ancient peoples had flourished in drier climates, where the centralized management of water resources through irrigation and other techniques formed the basis of society. This was the case for the Teotihuacan of highland Mexico, contemporaries of the Classic Maya.
In the southern Maya lowlands, however, there were few navigable rivers for trade and transport, as well as no obvious need for an irrigation system. By the late 20th century, researchers had concluded that the climate of the lowlands was in fact quite environmentally diverse. The environment also held other treasures for the Maya, including jade, quetzal feathers used to decorate the elaborate costumes of Maya nobility and marine shells, which were used as trumpets in ceremonies and warfare.
Mysterious Decline of the Maya From the late eighth through the end of the ninth century, something unknown happened to shake the Maya civilization to its foundations. One by one, the Classic cities in the southern lowlands were abandoned, and by A. The reason for this mysterious decline is unknown, though scholars have developed several competing theories.
Some believe that by the ninth century the Maya had exhausted the environment around them to the point that it could no longer sustain a very large population.
Other Maya scholars argue that constant warfare among competing city-states led the complicated military, family by marriage and trade alliances between them to break down, along with the traditional system of dynastic power. As the stature of the holy lords diminished, their complex traditions of rituals and ceremonies dissolved into chaos.
Finally, some catastrophic environmental change—like an extremely long, intense period of drought—may have wiped out the Classic Maya civilization. Drought would have hit cities like Tikal—where rainwater was necessary for drinking as well as for crop irrigation—especially hard. All three of these factors—overpopulation and overuse of the land, endemic warfare and drought—may have played a part in the downfall of the Maya in the southern lowlands.
By the time the Spanish invaders arrived, however, most Maya were living in agricultural villages, their great cities buried under a layer of rainforest green. Start your free trial today.Mayan languages: Mayan languages, family of indigenous languages spoken in southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize; Mayan languages were also formerly spoken in western Honduras and western El Salvador.
See also Mesoamerican Indian languages. The Huastecan branch, composed of the Huastec and Chicomuceltec (extinct) Mayan hieroglyphic writing.
To read Maya glyphs, you read downward, left to right, in pairs. The Maya used glyphs to create books about their gods, leaders, major happenings, and daily life.
These books were made of . Maya Empire for Kids System of Writing. The Maya created a written language. Maya hieroglyphics are often referred to as "glyphs" for short.
The Maya had about symbols. Archaeologists have figured out what many of the symbols mean, but not all of them. Some glyphs were used as numbers. Mayan script Origin.
The Mayan civilisation lasted from about BC to AD, with a classical period from AD. The earliest known writing in the Mayan script dates from about BC, but the script is thought to have developed at an earlier date.
Kids learn about the Writing, Numbers, and Calendar of the Maya civilization including codices, Tzolkin, and Haab. Writing in , Lyle Campbell, an expert in Mayan languages and historical linguistics, argued that the most promising proposal is the "Macro-Mayan" hypothesis, which posits links between Mayan, the Mixe–Zoque languages and the Totonacan languages, but more research is needed to support or disprove this hypothesis.