The Mayas

(300-900 Ad) Central America and southern mexico


  • The Maya were farming people.
  • Rulers of the Maya city-states claimed to be descended from the gods.
  • There was a system of rulers, nobles, scribes, priests, peasants, townspeople (artisans, merchants, officials)
  • There was a clear cut division of labor. The men fought and hunted, while the women stayed home, raised the children, and made food.
  • Spiritual perspective was crucial to Maya civilization (all of life was in the hands of divine powers)
  • The Mayas practiced human sacrifice.


  • The Mayas were located on the Yucatán Peninsula.
  • The Maya Civilization included much of Central America and Southern Mexico.
  • Around 800 AD civilization in Central Yucatán Peninsula began to decline.
  • Historians have not yet figured out what the cause was but they have a few ideas, (invasion, internal revolt, volcanic eruption)


  • Cornmeal was the basic food of much of the population.
  • Cultivated Cacao Trees (chocolate) was used as a beverage for upper classes
  • The Mayas also ate beans, squash, cassava (root of a tropical tree requiring careful preparation to remove traces of cyanide from the flesh)


  • The Mayas created Hieroglyphs. They wrote on bark, folding accordion style to make books.
  • They also created the Maya Calendar
  • Their tools were usually made of jadeite (tough material with a great resistance to breakage) but they were also made of stone (limestone, granite, obsidian) and bark.


  • The Mayas built splendid temples and pyramids.
  • Maya Cities were built around a central pyramid topped by a shrine to the gods.
  • Over 100,000 inhabitants may have lived in urban centers.
  • Peasant farmers lived on tiny plots or on terraced hills in the highlands, houses were made with adobe and thatch.

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