Ancient Mayan Civilizations Facts

1300 years ago in the forests of Guatemala and the Yucatan Peninsula, the ancient Mayan Culture was at its height. Over 60 independent kingdoms or 'city-states' ruled over a vast territory and interacted in commerce and trade but also in cosmic warfare and ritual bloodshed.


The Ancient Maya developed the science of astronomy, calendar systems and hieroglyphic writing. They were also known for creating elaborate ceremonial architecture, such as pyramids, temples, palaces and observatories. These structures were all built without metal tools.

The Mayans were the only ancient American civilization with a recorded history of their own, the Mayans broadcast on stone billboards (stelas), the loudest messages of all Mesoamerican cultures. They recorded on lithic monuments, pottery, papers, and skins, the grand events of their abstruse culture. Though their hieroglyphs remain to be totally deciphered, we may soon have the benefit of viewing an advanced civilization built upon "primary technology" taken to the fullest understanding of nature's provisions.


The Maya are considered to be one of only a few urbanized societies in rainforest areas where poor soil conditions and erosion make agriculture barely sustainable. That and the fact that they had no technology whatsoever make it even more remarkable that Mayan culture reached a high intellectual and artistic level by the 7th century, AD.

Mayan Civilization

The Mayan Culture developed between 3000 and 2000 BC. Pollen samples have shown the establishments of agriculture in Guatemala by 4000 BC, and around 2500 BC initiated the building of small cities with some permanent architecture all over the country (Pre-Classic). According to Houston, the Cho'lan language, the precursor to the Maya, originated in the Guatemalan Highlands, ca 3000 BC.

Social Classes

The Ancient Maya had a Social class society. At the top were the nobles and priests. Their middle class was made up of warriors, craftsmen and traders. The farmers, workers and slaves were at the bottom.

Ancient Mayan Social Hierarchy

As one of very few ancient cultures they used the zero (which actually stands for 'completion'). Think about this: with only three symbols - bars, dots and either a flower or a seashell for the zero - they could write numbers into the millions. We need as much as ten symbols to do the same thing! Apart from that their bars-and-dots-system comes remarkably close to the binary system that makes the computer run.

Mayan Culture

About AD 300 to 900, the major centers of the Mayan civilization were Palenque, Tikal, and Copán. Something happened and these places were mysteriously abandoned. Many theories have been considered such as disease, invasion by another culture, natural disaster or collapse of their trade routes which would have destroyed their economy. No one knows for sure what happened.

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