The exteriors of most buildings were painted, either in one or multiple colours, or with imagery. Affixes may represent a wide variety of speech elements, including nouns, verbs, verbal suffixes, prepositions, pronouns, and more. [59] The installation of the new dynasty led to a period of political dominance when Tikal became the most powerful city in the central lowlands. [321], The basic number system consists of a dot to represent one, and a bar to represent five. [312], Although not much is known about Maya scribes, some did sign their work, both on ceramics and on stone sculpture. [37] Settlements were established around 1800 BC in the Soconusco region of the Pacific coast, and the Maya were already cultivating the staple crops of maize, beans, squash, and chili pepper. [161], During the Contact period, it is known that certain military positions were held by members of the aristocracy, and were passed on by patrilineal succession. Szymanski 2013, p. 35. Warfare is depicted in Maya art from the Classic period, and wars and victories are mentioned in hieroglyphic inscriptions. [148] A lakam was possibly the only non-elite post-holder in the royal court. Palaces and acropoleis were essentially elite residential compounds. [368] The nine lords of the night each governed one of the underworld realms. At the least severe end of the scale, the defeated polity would be obliged to pay tribute to the victor. In the Late Classic, these local differences developed into distinctive regional architectural styles. [135] There was no universal structure for the Maya royal court, instead each polity formed a royal court that was suited to its own individual context. [74], Classic Maya social organization was based on the ritual authority of the ruler, rather than central control of trade and food distribution. The priests performed public ceremonies that incorporated feasting, bloodletting, incense burning, music, ritual dance, and, on certain occasions, human sacrifice. [225] The most massive structures ever erected by the Maya were built during the Preclassic period. Itzamna also had a night sun aspect, the Night Jaguar, representing the sun in its journey through the underworld. [234] Lime-based cement was used to seal stonework in place, and stone blocks were fashioned using rope-and-water abrasion, and with obsidian tools. [103], The agents of the Catholic Church wrote detailed accounts of the Maya, in support of their efforts at evangelization, and absorption of the Maya into the Spanish Empire. As an illustration, an Early Classic Maya merchant quarter has been identified at the distant metropolis of Teotihuacan, in central Mexico. [297] In excess of 10,000 individual texts have been recovered, mostly inscribed on stone monuments, lintels, stelae and ceramics. [159], The outcome of a successful military campaign could vary in its impact on the defeated polity. [223], The Maya produced a vast array of structures, and have left an extensive architectural legacy. The Maya generally hammered sheet metal into objects such as beads, bells, and discs. [227] Elite residential complexes occupied the best land around the city centre, while commoners had their residences dispersed further away from the ceremonial centre. Maya lineages were patrilineal, so the worship of a prominent male ancestor would be emphasised, often with a household shrine. [356], Archaeologists painstakingly reconstruct these ritual practices and beliefs using several techniques. [32], The Maya developed their first civilization in the Preclassic period. [214], Maya textiles are very poorly represented in the archaeological record, although by comparison with other pre-Columbian cultures, such as the Aztecs and the Andean region, it is likely that they were high-value items. “Plaza Muk’ul Ton” or Monuments Plaza where people used to gather for ceremonies was also unearthed by the team. [370] It is one of the most outstanding works of indigenous literature in the Americas. [362], The Maya world was populated by a great variety of deities, supernatural entities and sacred forces. In the east of the Yucatán Peninsula are Coba and the small site of Tulum. The major pre-Columbian population centres of the highlands were located in the largest highland valleys, such as the Valley of Guatemala and the Quetzaltenango Valley. [173], Trade routes not only supplied physical goods, they facilitated the movement of people and ideas throughout Mesoamerica. Traditional crafts such as weaving, ceramics, and basketry continued to be practised. [246] The Lost World complex at Tikal started out as an E-Group built towards the end of the Middle Preclassic. [9] [68] The captured lord of Copán was taken back to Quiriguá and was decapitated in a public ritual. Large palaces, such as at Palenque, could be fitted with a water supply, and sweat baths were often found within the complex, or nearby. Later, with increasing social complexity, the ajaw was a member of the ruling class and a major city could have more than one, each ruling over different districts. C4 would be third block counting from the left, and the fourth block counting downwards. The areas adjacent to these sacred compounds included residential complexes housing wealthy lineages. ", The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel Ralph L. Roys, Washington D.C.; Carnegie Institution 1933, pp. Popenoe de Hatch and Schieber de Lavarreda 2001, p. 991. By the Late Classic, the aristocracy had greatly increased, resulting in the corresponding reduction in the exclusive power of the divine king. [236], These complexes were usually located in the site core, beside a principal plaza. Masson 2012, p. 18238. [119] The divine king was the centre of political power, exercising ultimate control over the administrative, economic, judicial, and military functions of the polity. The majority of such murals have not survived, but Early Classic tombs painted in cream, red, and black have been excavated at Caracol, Río Azul, and Tikal. Foias 2014, p. 14. The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel[336] contains the only colonial reference to classic long-count dates. [182] Cacao was used as currency (although not exclusively), and its value was such that counterfeiting occurred by removing the flesh from the pod, and stuffing it with dirt or avocado rind. Numeric row labels restart from 1 for each discrete unit of text. 80–81. [175], The Maya engaged in long distance trade across the Maya region, and across greater Mesoamerica and beyond. [328] In a similar way to the tzʼolkin, the named winal would be prefixed by a number (from 0 to 19), in the case of the shorter wayeb period, the prefix numbers ran 0 to 4. Rice, Rice, Pugh and Sánchez Polo 2009, p. 129. In the last centuries before the Spanish Conquest, the Maya began to use the lost-wax method to cast small metal pieces. [329], The basic unit in the Maya calendar was one day, or kʼin, and 20 kʼin grouped to form a winal. Caso Barrera and Aliphat Fernández 2006, pp. [185] At some Classic period cities, archaeologists have tentatively identified formal arcade-style masonry architecture and parallel alignments of scattered stones as the permanent foundations of market stalls. At times, different polities achieved regional dominance, such as Calakmul, Caracol, Mayapan, and Tikal. [228] Maya cities usually had a ceremonial and administrative centre surrounded by a vast irregular sprawl of residential complexes. [347], In common with the rest of Mesoamerica, the Maya believed in a supernatural realm inhabited by an array of powerful deities who needed to be placated with ceremonial offerings and ritual practices. The largest and richest of these elite compounds sometimes possessed sculpture and art of craftsmanship equal to that of royal art. The overarching term "Maya" is a modern collective term that refers to the peoples of the region, however, the term was not used by the indigenous populations themselves since there never was a common sense of identity or political unity among the distinct populations. [311] Scribal activity is identifiable in the archaeological record; Jasaw Chan Kʼawiil I, king of Tikal, was interred with his paint pot. Houston, Robertson and Stuart 2000, p. 338. [375] Kukulkan had his origins in the Classic period War Serpent, Waxaklahun Ubah Kan, and has also been identified as the Postclassic version of the Vision Serpent of Classic Maya art. Many sites erected stelae, but Palenque instead developed finely sculpted panelling to decorate its buildings. Such false towers are only found in the Río Bec region. The new king had strong ties with central Petén and Teotihuacan. 130–38. These last two may be variations on the same title,[145] and Mark Zender has suggested that the holder of this title may have been the spokesman for the ruler. Fuente, Staines Cicero and Arellano Hernández 1999, p. 149. The famous astrologer John Dee used an Aztec obsidian mirror to see into the future. [366] The four Pawatuns supported the corners of the mortal realm; in the heavens, the Bacabs performed the same function. Some doorways were surrounded by mosaic masks of monsters representing mountain or sky deities, identifying the doorways as entrances to the supernatural realm. [164], There is some evidence from the Classic period that women provided supporting roles in war, but they did not act as military officers with the exception of those rare ruling queens. [372], In common with other Mesoamerican cultures, the Maya worshipped feathered serpent deities. [347] Sight-lines through the windows of the Caracol building at Chichen Itza align with the northernmost and southernmost extremes of Venus' path. [380] Indeed, evidence of these different agricultural systems persist today: raised fields connected by canals can be seen on aerial photographs. Taladoire and Colsenet 1991, p. 165. If a monument or artefact has more than one inscription, column labels are not repeated, rather they continue in the alphabetic series; if there are more than 26 columns, the labelling continues as A', B', etc. Maya warriors wore body armour in the form of quilted cotton that had been soaked in salt water to toughen it; the resulting armour compared favourably to the steel armour worn by the Spanish when they conquered the region. 144–45. Using this system, the Maya were able to record huge numbers. Guillemín 1965, p. 9. In Yucatán, the feathered serpent deity was Kukulkan,[374] among the Kʼicheʼ it was Qʼuqʼumatz. [53] This period marked the peak of large-scale construction and urbanism, the recording of monumental inscriptions, and demonstrated significant intellectual and artistic development, particularly in the southern lowland regions. Long distance trade of both luxury and utilitarian goods was probably controlled by the royal family. Laporte and Fialko 1994, p. 336. This would be followed by the tzʼolkin portion of the Calendar Round date, and after a number of intervening glyphs, the Long Count date would end with the Haab portion of the Calendar Round date. [110] Since the 1930s, archaeological exploration increased dramatically, with large-scale excavations across the Maya region. The block is composed of one or more individual glyphs attached to each other to form the glyph block, with individual glyph blocks generally being separated by a space. No astronomical basis for this count has been proved, and it may be that the 260-day count is based on the human gestation period. [5] The set of traits shared by Mesoamerican cultures also included astronomical knowledge, blood and human sacrifice, and a cosmovision that viewed the world as divided into four divisions aligned with the cardinal directions, each with different attributes, and a three-way division of the world into the celestial realm, the earth, and the underworld. [50] The Late Preclassic cultural florescence collapsed in the 1st century AD and many of the great Maya cities of the epoch were abandoned; the cause of this collapse is unknown. [46] Although not as large, Tikal was already a significant city by around 350 BC. When merchants travelled, they painted themselves black, like their patron gods, and went heavily armed. [92] The Kʼicheʼ capital, Qʼumarkaj, fell to Alvarado in 1524. This 360-day year was called a tun. A sajal would be lord of a second- or third-tier site, answering to an ajaw, who may himself have been subservient to a kalomte. In some cases, the Maya calculations were more accurate than equivalent calculations in the Old World; for example, the Maya solar year was calculated to greater accuracy than the Julian year. [183], Marketplaces are difficult to identify archaeologically. [114], The capital of  Sak Tz’i’ (an Ancient Maya kingdom) now named Lacanja Tzeltal, was revealed by researchers led by associate anthropology professor Charles Golden and bioarchaeologist Andrew Scherer in the Chiapas in the backyard of a Mexican farmer in 2020. [154], Warfare was prevalent in the Maya world. The royal heir was called bʼaah chʼok ("head youth"). [231], The Maya built their cities with Neolithic technology;[232] they built their structures from both perishable materials and from stone. Salisbury, Koumenalis & Barbara Moffett 2002. [331], As with any non-repeating calendar, the Maya measured time from a fixed start point. All of these were used as food animals; dogs were additionally used for hunting. The calculated density of market stalls at Chunchucmil strongly suggests that a thriving market economy already existed in the Early Classic. New cities arose near the Caribbean and Gulf coasts, and new trade networks were formed. It includes a set of features such as hieroglyphs painted in a pink or pale red colour and scenes with dancers wearing masks. Cities came to occupy more-easily defended hilltop locations surrounded by deep ravines, with ditch-and-wall defences sometimes supplementing the protection provided by the natural terrain. Maya kings frequently identified themselves with Kʼinich Ahau. [93] Shortly afterwards, the Spanish were invited as allies into Iximche, the capital city of the Kaqchikel Maya. [377] Likewise, Qʼuqʼumatz had a composite origin, combining the attributes of Mexican Quetzalcoatl with aspects of the Classic period Itzamna. [201] At Yaxchilan, Dos Pilas, Copán, and other sites, stone stairways were decorated with sculpture. [385], The Maya had few domestic animals; dogs were domesticated by 3000 BC, and the Muscovy duck by the Late Postclassic. [314] Simple addition could be performed by summing the dots and bars in two columns to give the result in a third column. [350] The earliest intermediaries between humans and the supernatural were shamans. Mesoamerica lacked draft animals, did not use the wheel, and possessed few domesticated animals; the principal means of transport was on foot or by canoe. [59], Tikal's great rival was Calakmul, another powerful city in the Petén Basin. [367] Other important deities included the moon goddess, the maize god, and the Hero Twins. [239], Palaces are usually arranged around one or more courtyards, with their façades facing inwards; some examples are adorned with sculpture. [322] The value of a numeral was determined by its position; as a numeral shifted upwards, its basic value multiplied by twenty. [173] In the Postclassic, the Maya engaged in a flourishing slave trade with wider Mesoamerica. [25], The littoral zone of Soconusco lies to the south of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas,[26] and consists of a narrow coastal plain and the foothills of the Sierra Madre. [245], Triadic pyramids first appeared in the Preclassic. [344] Maya rulers launched military campaigns to coincide with the heliacal or cosmical rising of Venus, and would also sacrifice important captives to coincide with such conjunctions. As in Petén, roof combs adorned principal structures. [234], The great cities of the Maya civilization were composed of pyramid temples, palaces, ballcourts, sacbeob (causeways), patios and plazas. Most surviving pre-Columbian Maya writing dates to the Classic period and is contained in stone inscriptions from Maya sites, such as stelae, or on ceramics vessels. The Maya had such a broad interpretation of the sacred that identifying distinct deities with specific functions is inaccurate. Typically, power was passed to the eldest son. The term acropolis, in a Maya context, refers to a complex of structures built upon platforms of varying height. 13 and 20, after all, are the key numbers of the tzolkʼin, so it is fitting that they should be incorporated into the Long Count at enormous temporal scales. [51], The Classic period is largely defined as the period during which the lowland Maya raised dated monuments using the Long Count calendar. [104] The later 19th century saw the recording and recovery of ethnohistoric accounts of the Maya, and the first steps in deciphering Maya hieroglyphs. Mesoamerican trade routes shifted and bypassed Petén. Maya cities tended to expand haphazardly, and the city centre would be occupied by ceremonial and administrative complexes, surrounded by an irregular sprawl of residential districts. Mosaic funerary masks could also be fashioned from jade, such as that of Kʼinich Janaabʼ Pakal, king of Palenque. 79, 83. [247] They consisted of three small structures facing a fourth structure, and were used to mark the solstices and equinoxes. [181] A substantial Maya trading canoe was encountered off Honduras on Christopher Columbus's fourth voyage. Colunga-García Marín and Zizumbo-Villarreal 2004, pp. Cotton seeds were in the process of being ground, perhaps to produce cooking oil. [66] Copán reached the height of its cultural and artistic development during the rule of Uaxaclajuun Ubʼaah Kʼawiil, who ruled from 695 to 738. In the northern Yucatán, individual rule was replaced by a ruling council formed from elite lineages. The Maya set the beginning of their calendar as the end of a previous cycle of bakʼtuns, equivalent to a day in 3114 BC. The ritual Mesoamerican ballgame was widely played. Like wood and thatch, adobe was used throughout Maya history, even after the development of masonry structures. [332] Additionally, there may have been some regional variation in how these exceptional cycles were managed. Farther north, the vegetation turns to lower forest consisting of dense scrub. [55] One by one, cities stopped sculpting dated monuments; the last Long Count date was inscribed at Toniná in 909. [172] Warriors bore wooden or animal hide shields decorated with feathers and animal skins. [276] These towers were adorned with deity masks, and were built to impress the viewer, rather than serve any practical function. For the book, see, The elaborately carved wooden Lintel 3 from, Early Classic wooden figurine, it may once have supported a. Across a broad swathe of the Maya area, limestone was immediately available. [232], Wood was used for beams, and for lintels, even in masonry structures. [330], The 260-day tzolkʼin provided the basic cycle of Maya ceremony, and the foundations of Maya prophecy. Martin and Grube 2000, p. 17. [199] Stone Maya stelae are widespread in city sites, often paired with low, circular stones referred to as altars in the literature. [27] The Maya highlands extend eastwards from Chiapas into Guatemala, reaching their highest in the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes. Estrada-Belli 2011, p. 38. [184] However, the Spanish reported a thriving market economy when they arrived in the region. Rooms often had stone benches, used for sleeping, and holes indicate where curtains once hung. In addition to basic foodstuffs, the Maya also cultivated prestige crops such as cotton, cacao and vanilla. Maya states did not maintain standing armies; warriors were mustered by local officials who reported back to appointed warleaders. In the 9th century, there was a widespread political collapse in the central Maya region, resulting in internecine warfare, the abandonment of cities, and a northward shift of population. Main signs represent the major element of the block, and may be a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, or phonetic sign. Although Mayan astronomy was mainly used by the priesthood to comprehend past cycles of time, and project them into the future to produce prophecy, it also had some practical applications, such as providing aid in crop planting and harvesting. [202] The hieroglyphic stairway at Copán comprises the longest surviving Maya hieroglyphic text, and consists of 2,200 individual glyphs. S102–S103, Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization, Mesoamerican Long Count calendar § Correlations between Western calendars and the Long Count, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, List of Maya gods and supernatural beings, "Monumental architecture at Aguada Fénix and the rise of Maya civilization", "Archaeologists discover lost capital of ancient Maya Kingdom", "Ancient Maya kingdom unearthed in a backyard in Mexico", "Long Lost Maya Kingdom Unearthed On Mexican Cattle Ranch", "What We Think We Know About Maya Mathematics and Astronomy", "Radar mapping, Archaeology, and Ancient Maya Land Use", "Scientists discover ancient Mayan city hidden under Guatemalan jungle", "Relaciones de Verapaz y las Tierras Bajas Mayas Centrales en el siglo XVII", "Complex Societies in the Southern Maya Lowlands: Their Development and Florescence in the Archaeological Record", "Popul Vuh: Sacred Book of the Quiché Maya People", 10.1663/0013-0001(2004)58[s101:dopiml];2, "Zaculeu: Ciudad Postclásica en las Tierras Altas Mayas de Guatemala", "El apogeo y el Colapso del reinado de Cancuen: Resultados e interpretaciones del Proyecto Cancuen, 2004–2005", "How Maya Hieroglyphs Got Their Name: Egypt, Mexico, and China in Western Grammatology since the Fifteenth Century", "Improving the Odds: Preservation through Distribution", "La arquitectura Preclásica en Nakbe: Un estudio comparativo de dos periodos", "Resultados preliminares de las investigaciones arqueológicas en el sitio Nakbe, Petén, Guatemala", "Continuity and Disjunction: The Pre-Classic Antecedents of Classic Maya Architecture", Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, "Numerical cognition and the development of 'zero' in Mesoamerica", "Introduction to Maya Hieroglyphs: Workshop handbook", "Presentation of Captives to a Maya Ruler", "Chichén Itzá, Tula, and Tollan: Changing Perspectives on a Recurring Problem in Mesoamerican Archaeology and Art History", "Mundo Perdido, Tikal: Los enunciados actuales", "Maya Commoners: The Stereotype and the Reality", "Stars, the Milky Way, Comets, and Meteors", "Sacral Kingship and the Origins of Religious, Social, and Political Orders", "Una revisión preliminar de la historia de Takʼalik Abʼaj, departamento de Retalhuleu", "The contact period of central Petén, Guatemala in color", "Interacciones políticas y el Sitio Ikʼ (Motul de San José): Datos de la cerámica", "Newly revealed hieroglyphs tell story of superpower conflict in the Maya world", "Featured Artifacts: Mayan Eccentric Flints", "Between Death and Divinity. This information was used for divination, so Maya astronomy was essentially for astrological purposes. The style is characterised by tall pyramids supporting a summit shrine adorned with a roof comb, and accessed by a single doorway. 192–93. [188] When the Spanish arrived, Postclassic cities in the highlands had markets in permanent plazas, with officials on hand to settle disputes, enforce rules, and collect taxes. This area included the entire Yucatán Peninsula and all of the territory now incorporated into the modern countries of Guatemala and Belize, as well as the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador. [221], One poorly studied area of Maya folk art is graffiti. Zorich 2012, p. 29. [56] No universally accepted theory explains this collapse, but it likely had a combination of causes, including endemic internecine warfare, overpopulation resulting in severe environmental degradation, and drought. [274], The Río Bec style forms a sub-region of the Chenes style,[273] and also features elements of the Central Petén style, such as prominent roof combs. [220] Around the 10th century AD, metallurgy arrived in Mesoamerica from South America, and the Maya began to make small objects in gold, silver and copper. Ross 2011, p. 75. [217] A quantity of extremely fine ceramic figurines have been excavated from Late Classic tombs on Jaina Island, in northern Yucatán. [277] Linguistic analysis of reconstructed Proto-Mayan vocabulary suggests that the original Proto-Mayan homeland was in the western or northern Guatemalan Highlands, although the evidence is not conclusive. [316] This may have been the earliest known occurrence of the idea of an explicit zero worldwide,[317] although it may have been predated by the Babylonian system. 78–79. [56] In AD 378, Teotihuacan decisively intervened at Tikal and other nearby cities, deposed their rulers, and installed a new Teotihuacan-backed dynasty. [292] In reference to the few extant Maya writings, Michael D. Coe stated: [O]ur knowledge of ancient Maya thought must represent only a tiny fraction of the whole picture, for of the thousands of books in which the full extent of their learning and ritual was recorded, only four have survived to modern times (as though all that posterity knew of ourselves were to be based upon three prayer books and 'Pilgrim's Progress'). In the Early Classic, an ajaw was the ruler of a city. The Maya also followed the movements of Jupiter, Mars and Mercury. [233] In Comalcalco, where suitable stone was not available locally,[234] fired bricks were employed. Maya inscriptions from the Classic show that a defeated king could be captured, tortured, and sacrificed. By the Classic period, temple roofs were being topped with roof combs that extended the height of the temple and served as a foundation for monumental art. 293, 297. The divine authority invested within the ruler was such that the king was able to mobilize both the aristocracy and commoners in executing huge infrastructure projects, apparently with no police force or standing army. [111], In the 1960s, the distinguished Mayanist J. Eric S. Thompson promoted the ideas that Maya cities were essentially vacant ceremonial centres serving a dispersed population in the forest, and that the Maya civilization was governed by peaceful astronomer-priests. 289, 325, 441n26. Glyph blocks are usually arranged in a grid pattern. In the Late Preclassic a number of large cities developed in the Petén Basin, and the city of Kaminaljuyu rose to prominence in the Guatemalan Highlands.