Teacher’s notes: Maya is the name of the people and their civilization. Mayan is the language.
Teacher’s notes: The Maya believed their priests could talk to the gods. This gave the priests incredible power.
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.
The Mysterious Maya 400 BCE–900 CE Central America
Natural BarriersFrom about 400 BCE until900 CE, the Maya civilizationstretched from the highlandsof modern day Guatemala tothe hot coastal plain alongthe Pacific Coast, to thetropical rain forest of theYucatan Peninsula.These natural barriers helpedto protect the Mayacivilization for 1300 years.
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.
Maya CitiesTwo thousand years ago, the Yucatan Peninsulawas a busy place. The Maya did not have metaltools—they used stone, bone, and wood tools tobuild hundreds of magnificent cities. Cities were centers of religion and learning. The Maya studied art, mathematics, architecture, drama, medicine, and music.
Maya CitiesEvery Maya city had an impressive palace for itsruler, a bustling marketplace, an open-air plazawhere people could gather, and at least one hugepyramid, a large temple, and one ball court similarto the stadiums we have today.People came to townto shop, to worship,and to cheer at theball games.
Cities QuestionTwo 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 HondurasQUESTION: What werethree things you could findin every Maya city?
Gods of NatureThe Maya worshipped thegods of nature. Some oftheir gods included LadyRainbow, and the Gods ofRain, Maize, and Sun.Without the help of theseimportant gods, there wouldbe no crops and everyonewould starve.
PriestsThe priests, along with the leaders in each city-state, were the most powerful people in the Mayacivilization. The Maya believed that their priestscould talk to the gods.The priests decided whento plant crops and whenpeople could marry and towhom. Before doing prettymuch anything, one had toask for a priest’s approval.
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.
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.