Ancient Mayan Science and Technology

"Myriad threads intertwine in the tapestry of the Maya cultural tradition; their colors blend subtly to represent many themes. We cannot achieve a full understanding of the processes by which Maya civilization came into being by pulling out a few bright threads. True insight depends on the laborious unraveling of many historical strands."
John S. Henderson. 1997. The World of the Ancient Maya.

Ancient Mayan Science and Technology

The ancient Mayas (alternatively called as Mayans) are a diverse group of indigenous people who lived in parts of present-day Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. It is regarded as one of the most important pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures. The Mayas are credited with a number of remarkable scientific achievements in various scientific fields such as astronomy, engineering, medicine, mathematics, communications and so on.


As far as astronomy was concerned, they tracked the movement of the stars and planets across the sky, and were able to accurately predict celestial events such as eclipses. The Dresden Codex contains the highest concentration of astronomical phenomena observations and calculations. To the Maya, Venus was the most important astronomical object.


The Mayas could also discover an accurate calendar. The ritual calendar that developed in Mesoamerica used a count of 260 days. This calendar gave each day a name, much like our days of the week. There were 20 day names, represented by their respective symbols. The 260 day count of days is commonly known to scholars as the Tzolkin. It was combined with a was combined with a 365-day vague solar year known as the Haab.The Haab calendar was used for agricultural purposes but it does not have a set starting point in the solar year.

Ancient Mayan Science and Technology

Ancient Mayan Calender

Ancient Mayan Science of Number System, Script

The Mayas took base 20 in their number system. It is also known as a vigesimal system. They had 20 essential digits. The expression of very large numbers in a very easy manner was the advantage of this system. Further, there were two important symbols, a dot and a bar, to represent numbers. One was represented by one dot, two by two dots, three by three dots and five was represented by a bar. Concepts of addition and subtraction also prevailed.

The written language of the Maya was made up of about 800 glyphs, or symbols. Each one represented a word or a syllable, and could be combined with the others in an almost infinite number of ways. As a result, there were three or four different ways to write almost every word in the Mayan language.

Ancient Mayan Science and Technology



The Mayans also were talented to build elaborate temples and great cities without the essential tools like metal. It is believed that the Maya were producing rubber products. According to a well known archaeologist, ""The Maya defined all phenomena of nature and their causes, and then represented them in the shape of human beings or animals. Their object was to keep for their initiates the secrets of their science"

Ancient Mayan Science and Technology

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