Beagle Channel in the Patagonia

Beagle Channel in the Patagonia

January 03, 2013


The Maya

The Maya were a pre Hispanic people who occupied a large area of Central America. Their civilization spread over the southern part of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, an area of about 150,000 square miles.

They were organized into many independent and loosely affiliated city-states that shared customs, dress, artistic production and architecture, and also had a common language.

The Maya Covilization. A Map of the Area.

Source: Kmusser, CC BY SA 3.0. by Wikipedia.

The Maya civilization was never an “empire”, that is, no one person ruled over the entire region. At different periods in their history, there were several strong rulers, but none of them ever conquered the others. 

The city-states traded with one another and also with other cultures of the area, and also warred with one another on occasion.

The history of the Maya has been divided into three distinct periods:

  • The Pre-Classic , from c. 2000 BC to AD 250;

  • The Classic period, from c.250 AD to c. 900Ad;

  • The Post-Classic period, from 900 AD to the arrival of the Spaniards. 

These people are noted for the only fully developed written language of the pre-Hispanic Americas. They also reached important levels in the development of art, architecture, mathematics and astronomical systems. Their knowledge of Mathematics and of Astronomy allowed them to create very accurate calendars, for which they are justly famous.

In actual fact, knowledge of writing and the calendar did not originate with the Maya, but their civilization was the one that fully developed them.

During the Classic period, their large scale urbanism and constructions reached a peak, accompanied by the recording of monumental inscriptions and a great intellectual and artistic flowering.

The most notable monuments are the stepped pyramids they built at their religious centers and the palaces for their rulers that accompanied these religious constructions.

El Castillo, one of the largest pyramids. 

Source: User Capital photographer CC BY SA 3.0. by Wikimedia Commons

Caracol urban setting at Belize. 

Source: Denis Jarvis, Canada, CC BY SA 2.0 by Flickr.

The population reached several millions during the Classic period, but towards the 9th century several of the more southern areas went into decline. This is known as the Classic Maya collapse, and has been attributed to deforestation combined with a prolonged drought, which caused an alteration of the available water supplies.

However, the more northern centers, notably those based on the Yucatan peninsula, survived for several centuries more. Indeed, the Maya survived the Spanish colonization period, and although they were decimated by the diseases brought to the Americas by the European invaders, still survive to this day. Much of the contemporary rural population of Yucatan is Maya by descent and also by primary language.

Another point of interest has developed in recent years, as new technology and satellite photography has brought about the detection of many ruins of the Maya constructions that up to now have been lost under the encroaching jungle.

And of course, the characteristics of the Maya calendars have made recent headlines due to the supposed “end-of-the-world” theories that have been derived from these very refined creations of this astonishing civilization.

A Maya Calendar 

 Source: Mathew G. Bisanz, CC BY SA 3.0 by Wikimedia Commons



La civilización Maya fue una cultura pre-Hispánica que se extendió en una gran área de Centro América. Esta área incluyó el sur de México, Belice, Guatemala, El Salvador y Honduras. 

Nunca fueron un “imperio” sino más bien una afiliación de ciudades-estado unidos por sus costumbres, ropaje, producción artística y arquitectura, además de contar con un idioma común.

Se distinguen tres períodos importantes en la historia de los mayas:

  • El período Pre-Clásico (c.2000 BC a Ad 250
  • El período Clásico, de c.250 AD hasta c. 900 AD
  • El período Post-Clásico, de 900 Ad hasta la llegada de los Españoles.

Fueron los únicos que desarrollaron la escritura en las Américas  antes de la llegada de los europeos. Además desarrollaron el arte, la arquitectura, la matemática y los sistemas astronómicos. Sus cálculos matemáticos y astronómicos les permitieron crear calendarios muy exactos, que los han hecho famosos.

Son famosos también por su desarrollo urbanístico  y sus construcciones a gran escala. Sus monumentos más notables son sus grandes pirámides.

Durante el período Clásico, contaban con millones de habitantes, pero hacia el siglo noveno empezaron a decaer. Esto se conoce como el Colapso Clásico Maya. Sin embargo, en la península de Yucatán sobrevivieron por varios siglos más de tal forma que gran parte de la actual comunidad rural de Yucatán es maya y habla el lenguaje Maya.

En años recientes, la tecnología de las fotos satelitales ha permitido detectar numerosas ruinas mayas bajo la espesa selva del lugar.

Y por supuesto, las características especiales de  los calendarios maya han dado lugar a las últimas noticias destacadas sobre “el-fin-del-mundo”, teorías que han sido derivadas de las refinadas creaciones de esta asombrosa civilización.

More about the Maya in future post.      Más sobre los maya en un próximo post.



Words that go together!  * Have a drink - * Do the washing up - * Make trouble - * Take a seat – * Break a record



Expresiones de uso frecuente: * Como un libro abierto - * De tal palo tal astilla - * El mundo es un pañuelo - * Hablar por los codos

How is your level of comprehension?          ¿Cómo está su nivel de comprensión?

© 2012  joanveronica  (Joan Robertson)

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