Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The Mayan Empire: City-States in Decline

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The Mayan Empire: City-States in Decline

Article excerpt

The Mayan world was at the height of its power during the Classic period, between 250 and 900 AD, when cities such as Yaxchilan, Bonampak and Palenque were built in Chiapas, Quirigua and Copan in Honduras, and Piedras Negras in Guatemala. These cities were remarkable for their architecture, low-relief sculptures, frescoes, ceramics, steles and altars. During the same period, astronomy, mathematics, calendrical calculations and a system of hieroglyphic writing also developed. Political power was exercised by a priestly caste.

Around the middle of the ninth century, for reasons still not fully understood, perhaps connected with the exhaustion of the land and the outbreak of armed conflict, these centres of habitation and ceremony were abandoned. During the same period, Toltec influence began to be felt, the cult of Quetzalcoatl appeared and, at the beginning of the eleventh century, the new cities of Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Kabah were built. The Mayapan League was created and brought together the forces of the city of that name and those of Chichen Itza and Uxmal. …

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