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The Rise and Fall of the Mayan Empire
Transcript of The Rise and Fall of the Mayan Empire
The Mayans will be remembered for many incredible accomplishments and many firsts.
They figured out the concept of zero nearly a thousand years before the Europeans.
They invented chocolate, herbal medicine and possibly basketball.
Their astronomers also tracked all visible celestial objects correctly, thousands of years in advanced.
They even had their own writing system; with this they wrote thousand of their own books. Only four other cultures had ever done that before them.
These are just a few of the more interesting things that the Mayans are responsible for. However, there are many more accomplishments that the Mayan civilization should be proud of until their societal collapse in 900 AD.
(History Network, No date)
History Network (No date). The Mayans. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/maya/videos#the-mayans
A&E Television Networks, LLC (2013). The Rise and Fall of the Maya Empire. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/maya#
The Mayan civilization was situated in what is now known as Mexico, Guatemala, northern Belize and western Honduras - as seen in the image below (Canadian Museum of History) .
In approximately 300 BC the
Mayan civilization was created.
They soon adapted a hierarchical form of government (A&E Television Networks LLC, 2013). This is where citizens were arranged by rank.
Officers and Commoners
Workers and Servants
Kings and Queens
The Mayan's many cities were successful, and continued to thrive, because of their Kings. Occasionally Queens did rule but only when there were no suitable males available. "Suitable" meant that they were of the same blood line and of proper age (A&E Television Networks LLC, 2013). However, all recognized rulers were in fact male.
Ahkal Mo' Naab' I
Ahkal ruled the Mayan city of Palenque. He was King during the beginning of the rise of the Mayan empire (around 500 A.D.)
Later, a future King, Pacal the Great, wrote about Ahkal in narratives. This is why Ahkal is thought of as an important historian (Wikipedia, May 4 2013).
A glyph of Ahkal Mo' Naab' I
Wikipedia (May 4, 2013). Ahkal Mo' Naab' I. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahkal_Mo%27_Naab%27_I
Yax Moch Xoc
Yax Moch Xoc was the first ruler of Tikal the largest Mayan city. He was responsible for starting the building for two of the temples in Tikal (Wikipedia, May 4 2013).
Tikal was one of the first great Mayan cities and this was an important turning point for the Mayans. This is because around 600 AD it was the largest city in Mesoamerica. Tikal incorporated many new innovative ideas that would not show up again for nearly a thousand years. Ironically, Tikal's large size was a cause of the Mayan's collapse.
Tikal was almost like a first class resort! It had libraries which contained thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of books. They had schools in place for children. They had a hospital for the sick. Even an incredibly large sports arena.
Brief Overview of Mayans Rise and Fall
300 B.C. – The Maya adopt the idea of a hierarchical society
50 B.C. – Cerros, the Mayan city, is built. It contained many temples and ball courts. Cerros is later abandoned – for unknown reasons – and used for fishing and farming. Perhaps it was abandoned by their people because they wanted to work on the expansion of the city of Tikal.
400 A.D. – The Teotihuacan tribes take over the Mayan highlands. This starts the beginning of the Mayan collapse.
500 A.D. – Tikal becomes the first great Mayan city. The Teotihuacan civilians make their way to this city and introduce new innovating ideas.
600 A.D. – Something occurs causing the societal collapse of the Teotihuacan civilization. This leaves Tikal as the largest city in Mesoamerica.
751 – 900 A.D. – Maya alliances breakdown
- Construction in Tikal stops
- Tikal is abandoned
(Canadian Museum of History)
Demand Media Inc. (2014). The Roles of Men and Women in the Maya tribe. Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/info_8077728_roles-men-women-maya-tribe.html
Hunting was one of the main male responsibilities, and at a young age boys were taught the basic hunting skills necessary.
Men were also responsible for the more labour-intensive work in farming such as plowing the field (Demand Media Inc, 2014).
Only men were allowed to fight with the Mayan military. In fact, young boys were taught the basic information of military warfare at school. A women's only job was to support her husband before war. Occasionally, women would also engage in acts of bloodletting to please the Gods - this was in hopes of her husband returning safely (Demand Media Inc, 2014) .
Proof of Mayan warfare
Women were in charge of all of the domestic duties. These tasks included caring for the children, preparing food, caring for household animals, and making clothing.
Agriculturally, women were in charge of sewing seeds and collecting the harvests. Farming work was split between men and women because the workload was so tremendous (Demand Media Inc, 2014).
Religion Facts (2004). Mayan Religion. Retrieved from http://www.religionfacts.com/mayan_religion/index.htm
The Mayans worshiped Gods of nature, specifically the sun, rain and corn. In order to appease the Gods the Mayans participated in human sacrifice (Religion Facts, 2004).
The priests were in charge of many things besides religious practices. Priests were in charge of differentiating lucky and unlucky days. They were also in charge of studying celestial objects for repetition (History Network).
SO WHAT LEAD TO THE SOCIETAL COLLAPSE OF SUCH A PROSPEROUS CIVILIZATION?
The main reason for the societal collapse of the Mayan civilization was drought. But, what caused the severity of the drought was the deforestation caused by the expansion of their cities (Wynne Parry, August 22 2012). With this information the collapse of the Mayans would fall under Joseph Tainter’s Dinosaur metaphor.
This is because the Mayan civilization would have continued to thrive if they hadn't depleted their resources. The drought would definitely have had an impact but it would not have lead to their societal collapse.
The incredibly well known Mayan calendar.
The Maya created calendars that were very advanced. Some of the discovered calendars even had 365 days. These accurate calendars were a first for their time (History Network).
The Mayans advancement of scientific knowledge separated
them from other cultures. Their focus
on the repetition of celestial objects proves the Maya
were incredibly observant people that were
ahead of their time.
The purpose of this game was to use your hip or elbow to hit a ball through this hoop. The hoop is actually as high as a basketball net!(Munchkin Land Designs, 2012)
This is proof of social interactions that we still partake in today! With this we can infer that the Mayans were active people who enjoyed healthy competition. This may have been why the Mayans pushed for expansion, because they were highly competitive people.
Munchkin Land Designs (2012). Cancun Recap Day 4. Retrieved from http://pinkypersistence.blogspot.ca/2012/02/cancun-recap-day-4.html
This is an image of the religious expression of bloodletting.
The woman is kneeling in front of her husband. He is holding up a flaming torch to embellish the act while blood flows from the woman's mouth (Jonathon Jones, 2012).
This image also shows how women were thought of in society. They were thought of as disposable - they would be sacrificed so the men wouldn't have to.
Jonathon Jones (2012). Mayan Art Waiting for the end of the world. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2012/dec/20/art-mayan-apocalypse
The Mayans were socially conditioned to believe that the act of bloodletting had a positive effect. They believed that it appeased the Gods; a lesson more than likely taught by their priests.
During the Mayan's final days the high priests were said to have gone from city to city preforming acts of bloodletting. They hoped to appease the Gods and prevent the collapse of their nation.
(Jonathon Jones, 2012).
Canadian Museum of History. Maya Civilization. Retrieved from http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/civil/maya/mmc01eng.shtml
Canadian Museum of History. Maya Civilization Timeline. Retrieved from http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/civil/maya/mmc09eng.shtml
The Mayans are an incredible example of how nothing can last forever. A once prospering civilization with so many new and innovative ideas destroyed because of poor sustainability. We should learn from the Mayan's mistakes before it is too late and all of our natural resources are used up.
* Currently we are in a place where the Mayans were in around 600 AD; when Tikal became the largest city in Mesoamerica. It seems like we are unbreakable and because of this people are unable to admit that we need to create a more sustainable standard of living. If we continue on and do not make a change there is a possibility we will end up just like the Mayans.
Wynne Parry (August 22, 2012). What Was Behind Mysterious Collapse of the Mayan Empire? Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/22581-mayan-empire-collapse-explained.html
Brendan McAlister (October 30, 2013). Demographics. Retrieved from http://prezi.com/olx8f9c88vcr/demographics/