Guest Author - Valerie Aguilar
The Mayan people of Mesoamerica expressed their culture through their achievements and items they created. The Mayans carved stone, crafted pottery and bouncy rubber balls for games. Their garments had colorful designs and shapes. They wrote books telling their history and engineered marvelous palaces and temples. They created statues, carvings, paintings and woven materials. They had thousands of dances and played music on wooden flutes, trumpets made from wood, clay or shells and drums made of turtle shells. They developed an advanced numeric system and glyphic writing. They created an accurate 365 day calendar and had compasses. Their society dates back to 3200 B.C.
The ancient Mayan civilization was situated in what is now Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and a part of Honduras. There are still descendants of the ancient Mayans living in the same area and in the same manner as their ancestors. Some still live in villages farming in the old way and attempting to maintain the ancient customs. Others have moved to cities and work in modern business.
The members of Mayan families typically lived together in the same village. Boys went to work in the fields with their fathers and girls stayed with their mothers to learn to cook, spin, weave and take care of the home. Mayan women were expert potters. Each household had its own farm plot outside the village and usually a small garden at their house. There was a communal farm in which all families contributed. The communal farm was there to supplement any shortages so that no one would go hungry. They had a large central building for meetings, feasts and other gatherings of the entire community.
The ancient Mayans thought crossed eyes were beautiful and hung little balls of resin between young children’s eyes to promote or coach them cross-eyed. A flat forehead and large nose was considered beautiful. Parents put wooden frames on their babies’ heads to flatten the forehead. The nobility often wore large clay molds over their noses to make their noses look bigger and often wore jeweled nose studs. Both men and women painted their bodies and tattoos were popular. Mayans practiced dentistry repairing cavities with inlaid jade, turquoise and iron. They often filed their teeth into points and filled the gaps with jade to enhance their beauty.
The ancient Mayans were an advanced society. Their greatest intellectual achievement was the development of a system of writing using glyphs. Many of their ancient writings remain today in the form of stone posts called stelae with important events engraved on them in the plazas of their ancient cities.
All the buildings in Mayan cities were made of native stone, either limestone or volcanic stone. Every city had a grand plaza where the important temples and palaces of the nobility were built. The rest of the city spread out from the grand plaza. Most ordinary people lived in villages surrounding the city where they did the farming and produced all the goods for the entire population.
Mayan artifacts have shown archaeologists how they articulated their culture. They wrote books telling their history and built great palaces and temples. Their remaining statues, carvings and paintings reveal their history. The Maya were quite sophisticated for their time. They created an accurate 365 day calendar which proved the European calendar to be inaccurate, they had compasses and developed an advanced numeric system and glyphic writing. Their society dates back to 3200 B.C. Archaeologists continue to find ancient cities and artifacts of the Mayas mainly in the jungles of Guatemala revealing more and more about these noble Americans.