While there is little evidence of monarchies in early Maya cities, the Classic period saw the rise of one legendary revered king. The rule of K’inich Janaab ‘ Pakal the Great , or Janaab’ Pakal I , of the Late-classic city of Palenque was one of great acclaim.
Responsibilities. A Mayan king was expected to be an excellent military leader. He would often carry out raids against rival city-states. The Mayan kings also offered his own blood to the gods.
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.
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 .
K’inich Janaab Pakal
The ancient Maya never used coins as money . Instead, like many early civilizations, they were thought to mostly barter, trading items such as tobacco, maize, and clothing.
Mysterious Decline of the Maya From the late eighth through the end of the ninth century, something unknown happened to shake the Maya civilization to its foundations. 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 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 .
The elites were the ones who ruled the government and waged war. But their responsibilities also included religious and intellectual pursuits, like serving as priests , studying astronomy, and maintaining the Mayan calendar. Below the Mayan nobles were commoners.
The Maya have lived in Central America for many centuries. They are one of the many Precolumbian native peoples of Mesoamerica . In the past and today they occupy Guatemala, adjacent portions of Chiapas and Tabasco, the whole of the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, and the western edges of Honduras and Salvador.
The Maya today number about six million people, making them the largest single block of indigenous peoples north of Peru. Some of the largest Maya groups are found in Mexico, the most important of these being the Yucatecs (300,000), the Tzotzil (120,000) and the Tzeltal (80,000).
The Maya believed that when people died, they entered the Underworld through a cave or a cenote. When kings died, they followed the path linked to the cosmic movement of the sun and fell into the Underworld; but, because they possessed supernatural powers, they were reborn into the Sky World and became gods.