Guided by their religious ritual, the Maya also made significant advances in mathematics and astronomy, including the use of the zero and the development of complex calendar systems like the Calendar Round, based on 365 days, and later, the Long Count Calendar, designed to last over 5,000 years.
During the pre-Columbian era, human sacrifice in Maya culture was the ritual offering of nourishment to the gods. Blood was viewed as a potent source of nourishment for the Maya deities, and the sacrifice of a living creature was a powerful blood offering.
Maya Canoe Travel Although both the inland and coastal Maya had knowledge of canoes, travel on the sea required specialized knowledge of currents, weather, shoals, and navigation likely only known to the coastal Maya .
Under the Maya legal system, punishments for various crimes were severe. Murder, rape, incest, treachery, arson, and acts that offended the gods were punishable by death. However, the Maya distinguished between intentional and accidental acts.
The Ancient Mayans developed the science of astronomy, calendar systems, and hieroglyphic writing. They were also known for creating elaborate ceremonial architecture, such as pyramids, temples, palaces, and observatories. These structures were all built without metal tools. The Maya were skilled weavers and potters.
Two thousand years ago, the ancient Maya developed one of the most advanced civilizations in the Americas. They developed a written language of hieroglyphs and invented the mathematical concept of zero. With their expertise in astronomy and mathematics, the Maya developed a complex and accurate calendar system.
Most Maya today observe a religion composed of ancient Maya ideas, animism and Catholicism. Some Maya still believe, for example, that their village is the ceremonial centre of a world supported at its four corners by gods.
Maya priests in the city of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula sacrificed children to petition the gods for rain and fertile fields by throwing them into sacred sinkhole caves, known as “cenotes.” The caves served as a source of water for the Mayans and were also thought to be an entrance to the underworld.
Maya astronomer -priests looked to the heavens for guidance. They used observatories, shadow-casting devices, and observations of the horizon to trace the complex motions of the sun, the stars and planets in order to observe, calculate and record this information in their chronicles, or “codices”.
Allen Christenson, professor of comparative arts and letters and an expert on Mayan society, explained that although the Maya couldn’t predict the exact day of an eclipse , they could predict eclipse seasons by noting when Venus rose above the horizon just before sunrise.
Civilizations like the Olmec, Maya , Aztec and Inca all built pyramids to house their deities, as well as to bury their kings. In many of their great city-states, temple- pyramids formed the center of public life and were the site of holy rituals, including human sacrifice.
The Maya had a system of serfdom and slavery . Serfs typically worked lands that belonged to the ruler or local town leader. There was an active slave trade in the Maya region, and commoners and elites were both permitted to own slaves .
Scholars have suggested a number of potential reasons for the downfall of Maya civilization in the southern lowlands, including overpopulation, environmental degradation, warfare, shifting trade routes and extended drought. It’s likely that a complex combination of factors was behind the collapse.
The Maya had strict laws. Crimes such as murder, arson, and acts against the gods were often punished with death. Punishment for crimes included death, slavery, and fines. Sometimes they would shave the person’s head as this was considered a sign of shame.