The Mayans developed a hierarchical government ruled by kings and priests. They lived in independent city-states consisting of rural communities and large urban ceremonial centers. There were no standing armies, but warfare played an important role in religion, power and prestige.
The five levels of the Mayan social pyramid are the ruler, nobles, artisans and merchants, peasants, and finally slaves.
Families lived in great cities like Yax Mutal and Palenque, and also in surrounding farmland. Adults worked as farmers, warriors, hunters, builders, teachers and many other things. Children from noble families could learn maths, science, writing and astronomy, but poorer children were only taught their parents’ jobs.
The class structure can limit what people did . Since people were born in to what class they were in, they can only obtain certain jobs. List the three main periods of Mayan Civilization and include the years each covered.
The Maya Military Members of the highest ruling class often were military and spiritual leaders of the cities and their capture during battles was a key element of military strategy. It is believed that many of the cities, especially the larger ones, had large, well-trained armies available for attack and defense.
Maya society was rigidly divided between nobles, commoners, serfs, and slaves. The noble class was complex and specialized. Noble status and the occupation in which a noble served were passed on through elite family lineages.
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. By extension, the sacrifice of a human life was the ultimate offering of blood to the gods, and the most important Maya rituals culminated in human sacrifice .
Nobles and Priests: The only people who could read and write in the ancient Maya world were most of the priests and some of the nobles.
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 dead were laid to rest with maize placed in their mouth. Maize, highly important in Maya culture, is a symbol of rebirth and also was food for the dead for the journey to the otherworld. Similarly, a jade or stone bead placed in the mouth served as currency for this journey.
Mysterious Decline of the Maya One by one, the Classic cities in the southern lowlands were abandoned, and by A.D. 900, Maya civilization in that region had collapsed. The reason for this mysterious decline is unknown, though scholars have developed several competing theories.
K’inich Janaab Pakal
Maya cities were not planned out in detail like the cities of the Aztecs. They tended to grow out from the center over time. The center complexes, however, do appear to be planned with buildings often built in alignment to the sun. Each city was home to the local king who lived in a palace within the city .
Pyramids were used not only as temples and focal points for Maya religious practices where offerings were made to the gods but also as gigantic tombs for deceased rulers, their partners, sacrificial victims, and precious goods.