The Class Structure of Ancient Maya Society

Ancient Maya society was no different than any other society around the World during this time period. Their society was broken into a class structure, which followed how other civilizations were. You had the ruling class, the nobility (“almehenob”), the priesthood (“ahkinob”) and often scribes would be at this level as well, the common folk (“ah chembal uinieol”), and of course, the slaves (“pencatob”). The most powerful of the ruling elite was known as the “halach uinic” or “true man,” which makes a fifth class in some cases. The halach…

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The Maya Creation Story

We get the Maya version of Creation from The Popol Vuh. The Popol Vuh describes the creation of the Earth by the wind of the sea and sky, as well as its sequel. Their are many variations of the creation story by different Maya groups. The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel relates the collapse of the sky and the deluge, followed by the raising of the sky and the erection of the five World Trees. The Lacandon Maya people also knew the tale of the creation of the Underworld. BTW, there…

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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 Calendar System

The ancient Maya kept track of time differently than how we do today and used a calendar system which had remarkable accuracy and complexity. It was a calendar system that was utilized and expressed in many forms, including pyramid temples which acted as calendars. The Pyramid of Kukulkan at Chichén Itzá in Yucatan, Mexico was built around sometime between the years 550 to 900 AD. The earliest hieroglyphic date discovered at Chichen Itza dates to 832 AD, when the Toltec culture from Tula became politically powerful and dominated the region. The…

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The Sacred Tzolkin Calendar of the Maya

The “Tzolkin,” also called the Sacred Almanac or Sacred Round, is a sacred cyclical count calendar which consists of 260 days (called “k’in”) within the ancient Maya system. It is considered by most to be the region’s oldest calendar count. The “Tzolkin” was used to mark the dates for the ceremonies performed on the astronomical new year. In these ceremonies, the priests indicated the days when agricultural plantings and religious ceremonies were to take place within the 260 day cycle. Besides the religious purposes, the calendar was very important for…

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Maya Weapons: The Atlatl and Obsidian Dart

The Maya utilized a Stone Age weapon called the Atlatl that matched Spaniard armor. Even though the Maya had and utilized missile technology, such as bows and arrows, the atlatl, blowguns and spear, most combat occurred at close range with hand to hand weapons. Missile weapons were not heavily relied upon because the goal was not to kill your enemy, but capture him if you could (to be later sacrificed to the gods). Weapons that were used by the Maya were crafted mostly from materials such as obsidian and chert, instead…

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Reading the Maya Long Count Date

The Maya Long Count Date consists of three calendars. In Maya dating, the date reads ‘longest to shortest’ from left to right. Beginning on the very left, the ‘Long Count’ calendar date is written first, then the ‘Tzolkin calendar date’ and then lastly, the ‘Haab calendar date’.  Meaning, the Maya written date starts with the longest calendar’s count on the left, and then the ‘Tzolkin date’ is written, and then the ‘Haab date’. For example, using the Maya calendar numbering system, a typical date would read as: “13.0.0.0.0 / 4 Ahau / 8…

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