Chapter 16.2- Mayan Kings and Cities

Chapter 16.2- Mayan Kings and Cities
I. Maya Create Urban Kingdoms
 Southern Mexico into northern Central
o Yucatan Peninsula
 Olmec: Gulf Coast from 1200BC to 400BC
 Maya were evolving
o By AD 250, Mayan culture burst forth in
a flourishing civilization
A. Urban Centers
 AD 250-900= Classic Period of Mayan
o Spectacular cities of Tikal
o Copan, Palenque, Uxmal, and Chichen
o Independent city-states, ruled by a godking and serving as a center for religious
ceremonies and trade
o Mayan cities: giant pyramids, temples,
palaces, and elaborate stone carvings
dedicated to the gods and important
o Mayan cities also featured a ball court
 Believed the playing of this game
would maintain the cycles of the sun
and moon and bring life-giving rains
B. Agriculture and Trade Support Cities
 Mayan city-states were independent of
each other
o Linked through alliances and trade
 Did not have a uniform currency- cacao
beans sometimes used
 Agriculture- growing of maize, beans, and
squash- provided the basis for Mayan life
 Slash and burn agriculture, but also hillside
terracing and raised beds above swamps
o Large amounts of food were grown and
traded in the cities
C. Kingdoms Built on Dynasties
 Successful farming methods led to
accumulation of wealth and the
development of social classes
 Very top of pyramid= Mayan king…regarded
as holy figure, hereditary…eldest son
o Noble class- included priests and leading
warriors, occupied the top rung of
Mayan society
o Merchants and master artisans
o At bottom- Peasant majority
II. Religion Shapes Mayan Life
 Maya believed in many gods, who inhabited
13 layers of sky and 9 layers of the
 Gods of corn, death, rain, and war
 Gods could be good or evil, and sometimes
 Maya believed that each day was a living
god whose behavior could be predicted
with the help of an intricate system of
A. Religious Practices
 Maya worshipped their gods in various
o Prayed and made offerings of food,
flowers and incense
o Blood sacrifice, especially blood of kings
 Human sacrifice, usually of captured
o At Chichen Itza- threw captives into a
deep sinkhole lake, called a cenote
o Believed human sacrifice pleased the
gods and kept the world in balance
B. Math Develops to Support Religion
 Development of the calendar, mathematics
and astronomy
 Time was a burden carried on the back of a
 At the end of a day, month, or year, one
god would lay the burden down and
another would pick it up
 260-day religious calendar and 365 day
solar calendar…linked together like meshed
o Identify best time to plant crops, attack
enemies, or crown new rulers
o Solar year at 365.2420 days (only .0002
of a day too short)
o Also concept of zero
C. Written Language Preserves History
 Maya developed the most advanced writing
system in the ancient Americas
o 800 hieroglyphic symbols
(glyphs)…some stand for whole words,
others represent syllables
 Bark-paper books called codex
 Popol Vuh- recounts the Highland Maya’s
version of the story of creation…recorded
after the Spanish arrived
o “Before the world was created, Calm
and Silence were the great kings that
ruled, nothing existed, there was
III. Mysterious Mayan Decline
 Late 800’s, Maya suddenly abandoned
many of their cities
 Toltecs moved into lands occupied by the
 Several theories for what happened to the
o 700’s warfare broke out among various
Mayan city-states
o Violence caused many Maya to flee
o Increased warfare disrupted trade and
produced economic hardship
o Population growth and over-farming
may have caused ecological damage
 Caused food shortages, famine, and
 When the Spanish arrived in the early
1500’s, Maya were divided into small, weak