Maya Civilization: Then and Now: Ancient World of Mystery

ROM Magazine, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Maya Civilization: Then and Now: Ancient World of Mystery


The Maya culture, which began some 4,000 years ago, had evolved into a series of highly structured kingdoms by 250-900 CE. The Maya perfected a writing system, recorded their beliefs and history, and used complex mathematical concepts for their calendar and astronomy. Yet for unknown reasons, the civilization met a sudden demise.

Remnants of this ancient culture's intricately carved stone ruins are found widely in Mexico--in the Yucatan Peninsula, Chiapas, and Campeche--and in Peten in Guatemala. And they tell us much about the Maya. Palenque, in the Mexican state of Chiapas, has well-preserved buildings designed by the most imaginative architects in Maya civilization featuring lengthy hieroglyphs about the life of Palenque's most famous ruler, Pacal the Great.

Bonampak is known for its Temple of Murals atop a pyramid. Mary Miller of Yale University wrote of the murals that, "perhaps no single artifact from the ancient New World offers as complex a view of pre-Hispanic society." Soaring pyramids at Tikal, Guatemala, were erected as memorials to past rulers of this Maya dynasty. Included among them is one of the New World's tallest ancient structures, even more imposing for being found deep in tropical jungle. …

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