Maya Civilization

Maya Civilization

Bonampak Painting, Mexico, 700 B.C.

Bonampak Painting, Mexico, 700 B.C.

The Maya people are a civilization that began around 2000BC in Mesoamerica. The early Maya natives are recognized for their architecture, art, mathematics, astronomy and written language.  They had strong religious beliefs and rituals. To this day large populations of Maya descendants continue to live in the Maya region of Mesoamerica where they continue to maintain many of those same traditions, beliefs and speak the native Maya language.



Maya CivalizationTimeline –

The Maya civilization lasted for centuries and to keep track of their length of existence their timeline was categorized into three distinct eras. There was the Pre-Classic Maya period (c 2000BC to 250 AD), the Classic Maya period (c AD 250 to 900) and the Post Classic Maya period (AD 900 to 1500) or until it collapsed.

Maya architecture

 Chichén Itzá

El Castillo, Chichén Itzá archaelogical site

It was the Classic period  that scholars say the Maya civilization reached it’s peak for large scale construction, However above is a beautiful stepped pyramid from pre-classic period. El Castillo has four faces and each face contains 91 steps. All toghther with the steps on top this pyramid it has 365 steps which is the number of days in a year. Therefore, this pyramid is believed to have been built for astronomical purposes.  In 2006, a woman fell to her death and people are no longer allowed to walk the steps of El Castillo one of the Maya civilizations most magnificent pyramids.   Here’s a link to some more of their amazing structures

Maya Sculptures

Mayan Woman Figurine from Jaina, ca. 800-1000 AD, Ceramic figure of an ancient Maya woman from the island of

Maya Woman Figurine from Jaina, ca. 800-1000 AD,

The Maya artists over the centuries really captured the essence of being a Maya Native through their 1000’s of sculptures large and small found at various archaelogical sites.  Above is a beautiful ceramic figure of an ancient Maya woman. The sculpture was made from a mold and then decorated by hand.  It was found just off the Yucatan Peninsula on a small Island called Jaina.Jaina was a Maya burial site. It is estimated there are over 20,000 graves there. Each grave containing human remains had one or more ceramic figurines like the one above on their chest or in their hands along with other objects. I really like this little figurine, because of it’s intricate details and beautiful colors. I wonder what the little emulate in her hand is and what it is for?

Maya Art/Ceramics

Vase with Eleven Figures Large vase with pseudoglyphs and eleven characters. Guatemalan Highlands, Nebaj region. Maya, AD 600–900. Polychromed orange-gloss ceramic. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (8) Photo ©Justin Kerr, Kerr Associates

Vase with Eleven Figures
Maya, AD 600-900

Above is a beautiful example of Maya ceramics. The characters are walking around with bloody heads in hand and some sort of weapon in the other.  I find the imaging very disturbing. However, this vase depicts a clear example of the Maya peoples way of life. They were known to be very savage and practice sacrificial ceremonies.  The artist who painted this vase used wonderful detail and used some absolutely magnificent colors. Look closely to the top and there are multiple pseudoglyhs. Pseudoglyphs are symbols that usually represent some sort of meaning. I’m not sure what kind of meaning these are trying to represent, but I imagine if it has any relation to what is depicted it is most likely meaning something gruesome in nature.


The Maya civilization was a very successful civilization with a population in the millions. Why their society collapsed is still being talked about to this day. Some believe it was drought, wide-spread disease, over population or that there was some sort of revolt by the underclass. Whatever the reason may be for the decline in their society the beautiful art, architecture, sculptures and mystery they’ve left behind will forever captivate the world.

Categories: Uncategorized | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Maya Civilization

  1. Good blog relating to the Maya’s. The history that you gave was very informative. I didn’t know that they existed clear into the 1500’s. El Castillo is brilliant in that it is believed to be correlated to the sun.

  2. It is hard to think that all that remains from the Mayan Empire is their work and structures. I agree that their eye for detail and color in the different pieces is unique in a dark religious/scientific way with all the decapitated heads and the stairs to their pyramids being exactly 365 steps. The use of architecture for symbolism of time and religion is so much more meaningful then most major structures made in these modern days it seems, not to mention trying to understand the meaning behind all that they did. The only information that you are missing is the artist but because the language is so hard to translate and that the artists are completely unknown from this ancient time it is quite reasonable not to have them. Thank you for sharing this ancient info, it is truly fascinating and I will hope that someday someone will break through this mystery of the Mayans and shed some light on their lives.

  3. I really like your topic, I always had an interest in the Mayan civilizations, read about them on national geographic books and watched about them in the discovery channel. I thought they were an advance civilization but also very traditional in their culture, too bad the Mayan’s just suddenly disappeared. I love the arts you chose and very informative blog.

  4. The Mayan civilization is one that has been studied for quite some time, and one that still has much to uncover. It amazes me how much of their society lived a simple life, yet as whole their civilization was much further advanced than anyone ever would have thought. Their value of art was also very inspiring.

  5. This is an informative presentation. The Mayan people used art to communicate it seems they have symbols which have strong meaning to the Mayans. The object the figurine is holding looks like a zodiac symbol. Here is a video which explains some of the symbols of the Mayans.

  6. The Mayan culture is fascinating. I believe because they society collapsed and know one seems to know why adds to the curiosity of the culture and art they left behind. I can appreciate like you the detail in the Vase with Eleven Figures. Yes it is gruesome, but beautifully created. We had Mayan dancers come to our small little town a few years back they were exquisite to watch. You should check out this video showing a few Mayan dancers. Not as colorful as what we saw, but good just the same.

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