By: Jessica Rodriguez & Mayra Zavala
The Maya constitute to a diverse range of the
Native American people of southern Mexico and
northern Central America. The term Maya is a
consists of people of the region who share
similar customs and linguistics. Some are
integrated into the modern cultures of the
nations in which they reside, while others
continue a more traditional culturally distinct life,
often speaking one of the Mayan languages as a
primary language.
Life in the village begins early. Mayas tend to get up early to get a head start
on the long day ahead and to beat the heat. Maya women rose and started
the fires before 4:00 AM. Women made breakfast toasting leftover cornmeal
pancakes. By 5 AM men had finished eating and left for the fields with their
sons. There they harvested their maize. At mid afternoon men and boys
would return from the fields and sometimes hunt or check their traps along
the way. They would kill birds with blowpipes and clay pellets. Sometimes
they also hunted with spears. When the men got home they had hot baths
waiting for them. After bathing men had dinner but the woman didn't eat with
the men. The women served the men and then ate their dinner later. Dinner
could include cornmeal, black beans, meat, maize, rabbit and turkey. After
dinner men usually worked at making wooden and jade things which were
sometimes used in trade. Women would spin cotton and weave.
•The Mayan language family is
one of the best recognized and
most studied in the Americas.
•Mayan languages are spoken by
at least 6 million indigenous Maya,
primarily in Guatemala, Mexico,
and Belize.
•Modern Mayan languages
descend from Proto Mayan, a
language thought to have been
spoken at least 5,000 years ago.
The ancient Maya had a composite pantheon of gods whom they worshipped and
offered human sacrifices. Rulers were believed to be descendants of the gods and their
blood was the ideal sacrifice, either through personal bloodletting or the sacrifice of
captives of royal blood. The Maya vision of the universe is divided into multiple levels,
above and below earth, positioned within the four directions of north, south, east and
west. After death, the soul was believed to go to the Underworld, Xibalba (shee bal
bah), a place of fright where sinister gods tested and tricked their unfortunate
There is a vast pantheon of gods worshiped by the Maya. Different areas had different
gods, and some were more important in one area than in another. Each location would
also have it's special patron god. There was probably some sense of competitiveness
between locations, where they felt that their patron god was stronger or more
beneficent that others. When one area overtook another through war or politics, they
would force the worship of their favorite gods on their subjects.
Some Gods…
Hunab Ku
The supreme diety - the creator god
Death god - (an ancient god of violent sacrifice, such as
Rain god -rain & lightning
Region/ Population
7 million
The Maya culture flourished and
continues to exist in a region of Mexico
and Central America often referred to
as Mesoamerica. This encompasses
the Yucatan peninsula (Yucatan,
Quintana Roo and Campeche) and
Tabasco and Chiapas of present day
Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and the
western parts of Honduras and El
Salvador. Geographically the region is
broken into the lowlands and the
The highlands are a wide swathe of
mountains and valleys of the Sierra
Madre, bounded on the south by a
narrow coastal plain and the Pacific
The lowlands are a limestone shelf
bordered on the north and west by the
Gulf of Mexico and on the east by the
Caribbean Sea.
While the Maya diet varies, depending on the local geography,
maize remains the primary staple now as it was centuries ago.
Made nutritionally complete with the addition of lime, the kernels
are boiled, ground with a metate and mano, then formed by hand
into flat tortillas that are cooked on a griddle that is traditionally
supported on three stones. Chile peppers, beans and squash are
still grown in the family farm plot (milpa) right along with the
maize, maximizing each crop's requirements for nutrients, sun,
shade and growing surface. Agriculture was based on slash and
burn farming which required that a field be left fallow for 5 to 15
years after only 2 to 5 years of cultivation. But there is evidence
that fixed raised fields and terraced hillsides were also used in
appropriate areas.
In the time of the ancient Maya, marriage was the result of a series of
negotiations between adults and priests with the aim of procreating large
families, not an accord reached by two people in love with each other.
Once the date of the wedding was set, preparations
began at the bride's house. For the guests, who
usually came with generous presents, there was a
feast of turkey tamales, cornmeal, steamed
dumpling), beans, potatoes and tortillas. The mother
of the bridegroom wove and embroidered a loincloth
decorated with parrot feathers for her son and a skirt
and brocaded blouse for her future daughter-in-law.
During the wedding ceremony—at which point they
still probably wouldn't have exchanged a single
word—the couple were blessed by the priest and
prayed to the gods, although there was no special
deity of love. There was certainly no honeymoon: the
next day life went on as usual.
• The Mayan family all lived
• The men farmed and hunted.
• The women would cook and
• The children helped out their
mothers with the chores and only
went to school if they came from a
noble family.
Art & enterntaiment
• Mayan art, as with all cultures, mirrored the residents
daily activity and their society.
• Plaster paintings, drawings, clay, stucco sculpting, terracotta moulding, stone/wood carving and metal
• Most Mayan Art was designed specifically for the royalty,
so that their memories would last for a long time.
• The Maya loved dance. They loved music, using a
variety of different instruments.
• They played board games such as Patolli. It is a board
game originating in Mesoamerica and played by the
ancient Mayans. Patolli is a race/war game with a heavy
focus on gambling.
Totoloque was a gambling game using pellets made of
The Maya civilization was never united under one governing body like the Aztec. Instead, independent city-states shared many traits and
beliefs that categorized them as Maya. In addition to their writing system, they had a calender system that consisted of a Lo ng Count
divided into five cycles, along with a 260 day ritual cycle and a 365 day solar calendar. They had a comprehensive knowledge of nakedeye astronomy and charted the movements of the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and the constellations through the night s ky,
and marked the position of the sun along the horizon.
- There was a distinct class system in ancient Maya times. Between the ruling class and the farmer/laborer, there must have
been an educated nobility who were scribes, artists and architects. Evidence of their skill and innovation remains in works o f stone,
stucco, jade, bone, pottery, obsidian and flint. There is no evidence of a priesthood and it is likely that priestly duties were performed by
the ruler.
There is still much assumption about the decline of the ancient Mayan
cities. Many theories have been put forward, ranging from natural
catastrophes (epidemic, earthquake, drought) to warfare. Archaeologists
today generally believe that a combination of elements brought about
the collapse of the Mayan empire, probably brought on by severe
drought and deforestation.
• At 500 A.D Mayan civilization reached its peak.
In 300 years Mayan city states Started to crumble.
In 900 A.D Mayan city states lay deserted
• How was marriage arranged in the Mayan
• What do archeologists believe was the
decline of the Mayan culture?
• Who was most Mayan art specifically
designed for?
• What was their agriculture based on?
• What Mel Gibson movie portrays the life of
the Mayans?
Works cited

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