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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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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Three things the Ancient Maya and Vikings had in common.

The Norse Vikings and the MesoAmerican Maya were by no means the same. Their cultures were very different and unique from one another.  However, there were a few similarities practiced between the two cultures. 1. Both the Maya and Viking cultures modified their teeth. The Vikings filed their teeth. A Swedish anthropologist analyzed 557 Viking skeletons dating from A.D. 800 to 1050 and discovered that 24 of them bore deep, horizontal grooves across their upper front teeth.  It is believed that they did this to look more fierce to their enemies. Vikings…

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