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A Brief History of the Mayan Culture

The Mayan civilization was the height of pre-Columbian culture. They made significant discoveries in science, including the use of the zero in mathematics. Their writing was the only in America capable of expressing all types of thought. Glyphs either represent syllables or whole concepts and were written on long strips of paper or carved and painted n stone. They are arranged to be read from left to right and top to bottom in pairs of columns. The Mayan calendar begins around 3114 BC. They could measure time well into the future. They wrote detailed histories and used their calendar to predict the future and astrological events. Fray Diego de Landa, second bishop of the Yucatan ordered a mass destruction of Mayan books in 1562 and only three survived.

Most artistic and cultural achievement came about during the Classic period 300 900 AD. The Mayans developed a complex hierarchical society divided into classes and professions. Centralized governments, headed by a king, and ruled territories with clearly defined boundaries. These borders changed as the various states lost and gained control over territory. Mayan centers flourished in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. The major cities of the Classic period were Guatemala, Chiapas, Mexico, and Honduras. For most of this period, the majority of the Mayans population lived in the central lowlands of Mexico and Belize.

The Mayan culture, beginning in Central America hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, became the first highly developed civilization in the Western Hemisphere. The May, as early as 600 BC, had developed a sophisticated calendar, a system of picture writing, a style of architecture, sculpture and metalwork, as well as a highly organized government. Without question, the Maya greatly influenced the later development of Latin America.

Teotihuacan that controlled the Mexican highlands from the first to the seventh centuries also influenced the Maya. The Mayan golden age lasted five centuries from 300 to 800 AD. Then, they stopped building temples, declined and became fragmented in competing states that were easy prey for invading forces from the north such as the Toltec, which had been expelled from Tula around the end of the 10th century. The Toltec's became the ruling elite of the Maya in the post classic period. Toltec gods were added to the Maya pantheon but the Toltec's were absorbed as they leaned to speak Yucatec Maya. All in all a marvelous and fascinating history.

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