To the Ancient Maya, being Cross-eyed was being favored by the Sun God

A highly desired physical trait in Maya culture was to be cross-eyed (strabismus). Maya mothers would suspend an object between the eyes of their infants in an attempt to artificially induce the desired crossed-eyed trait.  It was in hopes their child would be handsome, favored and have a good future. Having crossed eyes was considered honoring “Kinich Ahau,” the cross-eyed Maya Sun god (also “Sun Lord”), in order to appease and gain his favor.  Because of this, it was also considered a god-like handsome trait as well. Kinich Ahau (K’inich…

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The Sacred Quetzal Feather

The people of MesoAmerica revered the feathers of the resplendent quetzal bird (Pharomachrus mocinno). The resplendent quetzal was considered divine and associated with the “snake god” by Pre-Columbian MesoAmericans. The Maya had a symbolic system of colors: black for weapons (obsidian), yellow for food (corn), red for war (blood), and blue for sacrifice. The royal color was green, the color of Kukulkan —the feathered serpent god. <See: The Sacred Colors of the Maya> The colors of the resplendent quetzal were that of the feathered serpent god, Kukulkan, also known as Q’uq’umatz by the Maya…

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The Ancient Maya wore a stone helmet called the Kohaw

The Maya had a war helmet made of pyrite stone called a “Kohaw.” These unique helmets were only worn by special soldiers such as the Ajaws (or Ahau meaning ‘Lord,’ which usually was a nobility title) and Kaloontes (meaning supreme warrior or military ruler).  An example of these ‘Kohaw’ helmets were found inside a queen’s tomb in the El Perú site, also known as the ‘Wak,’ in northern Guatemala. The queen’s tomb was uncovered at a site in the ancient Maya city-state of El Perú, which was the capital of…

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Maya Houses, a Man’s House is his Ajawil

For the most part, the architectural splendor of the Maya civilization can be accredited to that of the common man. Their building ingenuity started at the lowest level with the construction of their very own homes. The Maya built their houses with very steep roofs that were made of thatch or palm leaves. This prevented the rain from getting through and into the house. Their roofs were also made to drop very low in the fronts in order to protect the inhabitants inside against the hot sun and rains. These low…

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The Maya Abacus

The Mesoamerican abacus is called a “Nepohualtzintzin.” The arrangement of the Maya Abacus, or Nepohualtzintzin, is with seven beads (or balls or cacao beans) of two colors per level.  Four of the beads are of one color, representing single units; and three of the beads are another color, representing five single units on the same level. The value of one of the four beads are single unit sums which are equal to the sum of all the units of one level below it.  On the Maya abacus, the first level’s sum is twenty…

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The Ancient Maya Concept of Fractions

The word fractions comes from “fractus,” the Latin word for broken. It represents a part of a whole or any number of equal parts of the whole. Broken or fractured from the whole. A common, vulgar, or simple fraction consists of an integer numerator, which is displayed above a line (or before a slash), and a non-zero integer denominator, displayed below (or after) that line. The numerator represents a number of equal parts and the denominator indicates how many of those parts make up a whole. For example, in the…

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Maya Math – The Grid System

Learning Maya mathematics is easy if you use the grid system to count and do your arithmetic. The “Grid System” is basically what it sounds like. You use a system of grids to do your addition and subtraction. The grid system works extremely well in the Maya stacked vigesimal system. This is also a wonderful exercise tool that can be used to teach Maya numbers, adding and subtraction, and help to better to better understand the Maya counting system in general. You start by making a simple grid. You can make…

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Counting the Maya Way – The Finger Method

Simple calculations can be made using your fingers with the Maya vertical vigesimal system without grids, beans, or bars. If we were conducting trade or simply needed to do some simple and quick math, gathering slaves to help count using their fingers and toes is not very convenient.  Plus, what if we were a lower status merchant or priest and didn’t have any slaves to help us count. Making a quick “grid system” on the ground would work, but we’d still have to gather sticks and stones to do the…

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The Ancient Maya understood Value of Zero

The ancient Maya had discovered, understood, and used zero. They usually represented the value of zero or null with the symbol of an ovular shell. The Long Count calendar requires the use of a zero as a place holder within its vigesimal numerical system. There have been many different glyphs that were used as a zero symbol by different scribes for marking Long Count dates. Glyph writing was a respected form of art to the Maya. At Chiapa de Corzo, Mexico, the earliest known use of glyphs being used as…

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Ancient Maya Arithmetic

maya arithmetic

The ancient Maya used a mathematical system that is “vigesimal.” A vigesimal counting system is based on 20 units (0 – 19), instead of the 10 unit (0 – 9) based counting system that we use today called the decimal system. The decimal mathematical system widely used today is believed to have possibly originated by counting the number of fingers that the average person has. Counting with our fingers gives us our ten unit based metric system. It is believed that the Maya possibly began counting with both their fingers…

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