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The Maya Collapse. Mayan cities of the Classic period certainly did collapse. However, the Mayans did not disappear. Descendants of the Maya who speak.

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Presentation on theme: "The Maya Collapse. Mayan cities of the Classic period certainly did collapse. However, the Mayans did not disappear. Descendants of the Maya who speak."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Maya Collapse

2 Mayan cities of the Classic period certainly did collapse. However, the Mayans did not disappear. Descendants of the Maya who speak Mayan languages live in large numbers in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and also in Belize. They often speak a Mayan language as their first language as their first language and Spanish as their 2 nd. They also often wear clothes that are distinctive to their home region or town.

3 Mayans on the beach, Champerico, Guatemala Mayans celebrate Day of the Dead in May at Cotzumalguapa, Guatemala. Mayans in their market, Patzun, Guatemala.

4 This map demonstrates that the Maya were not limited to the Yucatan and that Copan was on the eastern edge of the Mayan region.

5 The green portion of the map shows the regions of Mexico and Central America where Mayan languages are still spoken as native languages.

6 These town names in northern Yucatan give you some idea of the how a Mayan language might sound. Can you say “Kancabdznot” three times without stuttering?

7 The Maya Collapse The next few slides are from Izamal.

8 Izamal is a Mayan settlement in a limestone region that at one time had three pyramids. Pyramid

9 The pyramid is known as Kinich Kak Moo. It was built ~400-600 A.D.

10 The pyramid rises about 200m above the surrounding landscape. It is composed of limestone blocks.

11 From atop the pyramid you can see how flat the limestone portion of the Yucatan is. Other pyramids show up clearly on the horizon. I took this shot in January, the dry season, when farmers are burning forest in preparation for planting their milpas in May.

12 Here are couple of pics of limestone. Remember this is simply former seafloor that has been raised above sea level. Stingless bees’ nest. This harmless insect was an important source of sugar for the Maya.

13 From the pyramid, you see the Catholic church in Izabal, which the Spaniards built on top of another Mayan pyramid. That was a common practice by Mesoamericans and the Spanish.

14 Courtyard of Izabal’s church…

15 Which was built with stones of a Mayan pyramid.

16 Among the plants domesticated by Mesoamerican, various species of agave wee important. These agaves are for mezcal production.

17 Mezcal distillery in Izabal.

18 Mezcal festival in another part of Mesoamerica: Oaxaca, Mexico.

19 Other varieties of agave were grown for fiber, such as in this henequen plantation near Izabal.

20 To make fiber, the long leaves are cut and brought to a fibredora, a grinder,

21 …run through this grinder, which separates water and pulp from the fibers,

22 …and hung to dry. Some of this fiber is used to make the guayaberas and hammocks for which the Yucatan is famous.

23 A common scene throughout the Yucatan are murals that recount past abuses of the Maya at the hands of the Spaniards. In Mani, the abuses were particularly harsh. A Spanish bishop reacted to reports of un-Christian rituals by burning as many Mayan codices as he could find. Codices were the Mayan equivalent of books. Bishop de Landa destroyed a lot of information about the Maya when he ordered the codex burning.

24 Another mural that shows a Franciscan burning sacred Mayan relics.

25 This mural represents Mayan life before the Spaniards.

26 Planting a milpa. Hauling salt.

27 Weaving cotton Making rope with hennequen Measuring the heavens.

28 Making jewelry

29 The next few slides are from Mani.

30 Church and palacio at Mani. Ceiba tree on the right margin, a sacred tree for Mesoamericans.

31 Mural at Mani’s cenote, which recounts local belief that a woman lived in the cenote and required the annual sacrifice of a baby.

32 We didn’t see a sacrifice, just these unofficial tour guides.

33 Mayans are not tall people. My friend said that it was funny watching people’s reactions when Matt, 6’6”, and I, 6’4”, walked among them.

34 The next few slides are from Valladolid.

35 Mayan settlements needed a supply of fresh water. In the limestone region, cenotes were that source.

36 Cenote Zaci at Valladolid.

37 The Maya past and present appeal to tourists. This map from a web-site is one example of the “Ruta Maya” that has become a popular tourist package. The 4 southernmost destinations are, or are near, current Maya settlements. The rest are archaeological destinations.

38 This ruta should include Copan which is just a ~20 minute ride from the Guatemala – Honduras border. Copan

39 Many tourists bus from Antigua 8 hours to Copan to stay one night and see the ruins. Then bus back the next day.

40 Here’s one of those buses on the Honduran side of the border.

41 Here’s the border gate. Honduras Guatemala Border. For real

42 Your professor crossing the Honduras-Guatemala border Border marker, mojon. Border fence

43 The next few slides are from Copan.

44 Valley of the Copan River. Main archaeological site One of the 5 bottomland pockets that Diamond mentioned.

45 Main archaeological site


47 Ball court


49 One of several pyramids at Copan.

50 Stelae in the Great Plaza

51 18 Rabbit’s stela.

52 Profile of 3 stelae built to honor past leaders.

53 Example of altars and stone work at base of pyramid.

54 Altar. Much of the stone work includes glyphs, carved symbols that reveal some of the past political events, accomplishments of particular rulers, and religious beliefs of the Maya of Copan.

55 Copan is set in a tropical rainforest climate. Tall rain forest trees grow out of the structures and shade much of the site. However, these forests are not pristine. They are the result of succession Tree

56 The Maya created advanced architecture. One example is the corbelled arch.

57 Corbelled arch.

58 Large structures also included images of dieties, like this one to the Ah Bolom Tzacab, the god of agriculture who controls rain and thunder.

59 Many pieces remain to be classified and put in place.


61 Las Sepulturas: Residential neighborhood of nearly 100 buildings and more than 200 rooms. It housed 4 different social classes. It houses nearly 2000 years of history: first sedentary agriculturalists lived there in ~1400 BC. It was linked to the Great Plaza by plaster-paved roads.

62 Las Sepulturas


64 Hills above Copan, where swidden agriculture continues to cause erosion problems.

65 Hills above Copan, in a swidden landscape. Milpa Guamil Not much bosque

66 Cattle is a leading land use in the Copan area.

67 Tobacco used to be more important. These are tobacco drying barns.

68 Some of the barns are being converted to vacation houses. Copan has become a mini-boom town largely as a result of tourism and coffee.

69 School in Mayan settlement ~1 hour hike east of Copan where Maya-speaking Chorti Indians live.


71 Colonial town of Copan Ruinas (~15 minutes west of the ruins). This is where tourist hotels, restaurants, internet cafes and language schools are.

72 The next few slides are from Guatemala City.

73 Remnants of a pre-Classic Mayan site on the outskirts of Guatemala City (Muybridge 1875).

74 Use of archaeological site as landscaping for residential development in 2009.

75 Pre-Classic stelae in same development.

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