THE MAYA CULTURE

Strait of Bering It can be said that the history of the Maya began approximately 60,000 years ago. In this time ice covered a huge amounts of land, the glaciers extended to the centre of the US and tropical climate we know in this area today did not exist. The sea level was a lot lower than currently and there existed a piece of land of around 1000 miles which connected Asia and North America via the strait of Bering. The first humans to inhabit America probably crossed this piece of land. At first, these people were unable to travel further South as their way was impeded by vast walls of ice, but gradually as the ice melted, the people began to spread South.

It is believed that the first human reached Central America some 15.000 years ago. The first identifiable culture, Clovis, existed around 10.000 years BC. Some stone tools that have been found in Guatemala have been dated to 9.000 BC. Around this time, the climate began to change, gradually getting warmer. This caused changes in the human diet, permitting humans to eat more vegetable and less meat.

Piramide Maya Between 8000 BC and 2000 BC the inhabitants of Central American began to develop agriculture. They cultivated beans, corn, peppers and other plants. During this time the tropical jungle did not exist, only savannah and some trees. The evidence indicates that the tropical jungle appeared in Central America quite recently, after the Mayan civilization had been established. Toward the end of this period the Mayan culture began to develop. However some archaeological evidence shows that the Mayan had started to build ceremonial architecture by approximately 1000 BC and by 6000 BC some of the earliest Mayan complexes had been constructed.

The interval 1500 BC to 300 AD is known the as the "Pre-Classical" age of the Mayan culture. During this period the Mayan language developed further and towns and cities began to be construct in a more formal manner.

Olmec Culture While the Mayan were developing so was the Olmec Culture in the South of Mexico. The Olmec Culture is often referred to as the "Mother Culture" in Central America as they developed at a quicker pace and influenced the other cultures around them. They developed a system of writing, the calendar and a complex religion. The Olmecs had considerable influence in the beginning of the development of the Mayan culture. And it is believed that the Mayan adopted many practices of the Olmecs as well as developing their own. It seems that the mixture of the Olmec culture and the Mayan culture caused an explosion of cultural development. The archaeologists are not sure of the exact cause, but in the period 300 BC to 300 AD a tremendous developments occurred in architecture, primitive writing and calendars. Also the Mayan lands and population grew considerably.

Stela Quirigua The Classical Period of the Mayan between 300 AD and 900 AD saw the most developments within the Mayan peoples. The Mayan refined the calendar and they developed a more advanced written language. They had a tendency to collapse buildings and temples and to reconstruct again on the debris. Some buildings are built on top of several layers of destroyed buildings. All the large Mayan cities, that can be still seen today, were built during the Classical Period usually on the remainders of prior constructions. The architecture and the culture flourished during the Classical Period. The Maya began to register important events in relief and the optimum examples of this art can be seen in the city of Quiriguá, easily accessible in a day from Sweet River.

Teotihuacan Maya Early in the Classical Period, around 400 AD, the Mayan were influenced by the civilization of Teotihuacan situated in the North. Teotihuacan was the most powerful culture in Central Mexico. A lot is uncertain about this relationship, but seems to have been beneficial for both civilizations, since they both prospered and developed in this time. Also evidence exists that indicates there was interaction and commerce between the Mayans and other Central American cultures as well as with Europe, Africa and Polynesia. And all of this occurred before the arrival of Columbus.

Maya Calendar Around 650 AD, Teotihuacán civilization collapsed. This collapse was inconvenient for Mayan civilization. Apparently there was a fight to fill the empty power space left by the collapse of Teotihuacán. But free of their relationship with the Teotihuacán civilization, the Mayan reached their higher levels of sophistication. Their art, astronomy and their religion all reached new heights. The populations grew and the cities were expanded in this period of great prosperity for the Mayan. Astronomy and arithmetic both advanced, and the Mayans were capable of measuring the orbits of celestial bodies with an unheard-of accuracy. They predicted the movements of Venus with a degree of uncanny precision.

The Mayans also traded with cultures within South American and the Southern states of the United States of American. And their cities were of more populated and of larger size than any city in Europe at this time. The finest and the largest artistic works of pottery and jade were created during this pinnacle of Mayan development.

Nevertheless, this peak of Mayan development was only for a short period. By 750 AD problems had arose and the collapse of this society had begun. There are many theories on what happened. By this time the climate had changed and was no longer savannah but similar to the now tropical climate of Guatemala. Perhaps there was a food shortage due to this. In any case, populations decreased and cities were gradually abandoned. By 830 AD development and construction had stopped. Some cities in Belize and Yucatan survived for a bit longer, but in Guatemala the people abandoned the cities and redistributed to the villages in the high lands.

THE REPRESENTATIVE CULTURES OF LATIN AMERICA

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