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The Mayas Chapter 16.

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1 The Mayas Chapter 16

2 The Mayan People The Mayan culture spread throughout southern Mexico and Central America. It included the Yucatan Peninsula and Guatemala to the south. It stretched from the Gulf of Mexico in the west to the Caribbean Sea in the east The land included rugged highlands as well as dense swamps.


4 Location of the Maya Civilization

5 Mayan City-States The Mayans picked the Peten, present day Guatemala, to settle in. The Peten’s dense forests nearly blocked out the sun. Stinging insects filled the air. Poisonous snakes slithered on the ground. Monkeys and parrots screeched in the treetops.

6 Underground Water The Mayas saw what others missed. The area was filled with underground rivers and streams! They served as wells. They had a steady supply of water.

7 The Maya To find the ruins of ancient Maya cities hidden deep in the rainforest, archaeologists have to hunt on foot. The rain forest is home to many poisonous animals. Some archaeologists are willing to brave the dangers to learn more about the clever Maya. Teacher’s notes: Maya is the name of the people and their civilization. Mayan is the language.

8 The Mayan People The Mayan people were short. The average height for men was just over five feet. The Mayas had straight black hair, and many painted their bodies blue, red, or black. They also often had tattoos. They valued cross eyes and tied objects to infants heads to encourage the eyes to cross. Flat heads were also valued, so they tied boards to the children’s heads to flatten them.


10 Mayan Cities The Mayan set up city-states. The rulers of the city-states said they were descended from the sun. They claimed the right to rule as god-kings and expected everyone to serve them. Huge monuments were built to honor them.

11 Monument to the god-kings

12 Maya Cities Two thousand years ago, the Yucatan Peninsula was a busy place. The Maya did not have metal tools—they used stone, bone, and wood tools to build hundreds of magnificent cities. Cities were centers of religion and learning. The Maya studied art, mathematics, architecture, drama, medicine, and music.

13 Maya Cities Every Maya city had an impressive palace for its ruler, a bustling marketplace, an open-air plaza where people could gather, and at least one huge pyramid, a large temple, and one ball court similar to the stadiums we have today. People came to town to shop, to worship, and to cheer at the ball games.

14 Mayan Ball Court

15 Cities Question Two of the largest cities were
Tikal (tee-KAHL), located in the present-day country of Guatemala Copan (ko-PAHN), located in the present-day country of Honduras QUESTION: What were three things you could find in every Maya city?

16 Human Sacrifice One way to please the gods was human sacrifice!
The Maya believed that the gods gave them the life-giving fluid, rain, to make humans strong. So humans had to give the gods their on life-fluid, blood.

17 Sacrifices included gifts, their
own blood, and human sacrifices. Often, the priest took the victim to the alter at the temple and cut the heart out of the living victim and presented it to the gods. Sometimes the priests tied the victim to a wooden pole and threw spears and arrows at the victim’s chest.

18 Mayan Gods When the Mayan marched into battle, they wanted captives more than they wanted land. Mayans believed that the gods controlled everything that happened on Earth. A huge pyramid with a temple at the top towered over city.



21 Gods of Nature The Maya worshipped the gods of nature. Some of their gods included Lady Rainbow, and the Gods of Rain, Maize, and Sun. Without the help of these important gods, there would be no crops and everyone would starve.

22 Priests The priests, along with the leaders in each city-state, were the most powerful people in the Maya civilization. The Maya believed that their priests could talk to the gods. The priests decided when to plant crops and when people could marry and to whom. Before doing pretty much anything, one had to ask for a priest’s approval. Teacher’s notes: The Maya believed their priests could talk to the gods. This gave the priests incredible power.

23 The Underworld The Maya believed in an underworld, the Place of Awe. The priests held ceremonies to keep demons and spooky creatures locked inside the underworld, where they belonged. During these ceremonies, priests wore scary masks and jaguar costumes. They wanted to look as scary as the magical creatures in the underworld.

24 The Legend of Mirrors The Maya believed that one could communicate with a god by looking into a mirror. Legend says…warriors going into battle wore mirrors on their backs. The idea was that if an enemy warrior tried to sneak up on a Maya warrior, a demon might reach out from the underworld and snatch the enemy. Teacher’s notes: According to the Maya, demons were always trying to escape from the underworld into this world. The priests’ job was to make sure this did not happen. The Maya believed that looking into a mirror was a risk, because a mirror was a portal to all the gods, both in heaven and in the underworld. Since it was regarded as so dangerous, women were not allowed to look into mirrors. Only men could use mirrors, and many did each day to prove their bravery and to seek direction.

25 Mayan Astronomy The Maya needed to know when to plant crops, so by watching the sky they created a 365 day calendar. They used it to predict eclipses and to schedule religious festivals.

26 Mayan Writing The Maya also invented a written language to record numbers and dates. They used a system of hieroglyphics. Symbols represented sounds, words, or ideas. Only nobles could read them.

27 Mayan Math The Mayas were perhaps the first people to use the idea of zero. They used a picture of a shell to equal zero. They also used a dot to equal one. A bar equaled five. They Mayas used a base 20 the same way we use a base of ten.


29 What Happened to the Mayans?
Around A.D. 600, Teotihuacan started to decline. No one is sure why this happened. Some experts say overpopulation drained the city of food and resources. Others blame a long drought, or period without rain. Others say there was a rebellion against the rich rulers.

30 Mayan Descendents

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