Guide To The Mayan People

The Mayan civilization is essentially a Mesoamerican civilization, which is well-known for its highly developed written language, architecture, art, astronomy and mathematic knowledge. The Mayan Civilization developed in the Pre-Classic period, or around 2000BC. The civilization reached its zenith during the Classic period (500AD).


The history of the Mayan Civilization can be traced back to 2600 B.C. when they first settled in the Yucatan. They became one of the most prominent cultures of the world at around 250 A.D., and their population extended to Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and El Salvador. It’s also believed by certain scholars that the ancestors of the Mayans had crossed the Bering Strait almost 20,000 years ago. The Mayans initially were hunters and gatherers who gradually learnt corn cultivation and the usage of stone tools.

Geographical Area

The Mayans occupied the Yucatan peninsula, which constitutes a third of the Mesoamerican land. The topography of the Yucatan had numerous volcanic mountains. The South of the Yucatan was covered by dense rain forests while the central part, called the Lowlands, was a limestone shelf.

  • Mayan Geography: General information on the geography of Mayan civilization.
  • Maya Atlas: Excellent resource center to everything about Mayan geography.
  • Three Geographic Zones: Provides some information on the three geographic zones of the Mayans.


The Mayans had a system of architecture which was much more advanced than the architecture of that period. They constructed huge buildings and pyramids, which were primary made of limestone. The buildings often had temples on the top. The large buildings were made for the rulers and nobles. For the other important people, the Mayans created large and low buildings with roof combs on top.


The Mayan culture was very rich. They recorded their own history, using stone billboards to record important political and social events. The Mayans also used paper, pottery, and lithic monuments to record history. Their technology is now considered by present day historians as advanced, and their understanding of primary technology is comparable to present understanding of primary technology, which is quite remarkable. The Mayans deeply understood the provisions of nature and utilized it to their advantage.

Political Structure

At around 300 BC, the Mayans created a hierarchical government. The nobles and the rulers were at the helm and during the Classic period, a highly structured government helped in the expansion of Mayan kingdoms. Each of these kingdoms or states had their own rural agricultural workforce as well as large urban population which were oriented around the Mayan ceremonial centres. The Mayan political system thrived up to 1200 A.D. Subsequently, the Mayan civilization began its decline.

  • Mayan Women: Describes the role of Mayan women in politics.
  • Mayan Laws: Offers information about Mayan laws of the past.
  • Mayan Government & Laws: A slide show presenting vital facts about the Mayan government and laws.


Mayan religion was distinguished by their belief in nature gods. They worshipped the god of the sun, corn, and rain. The Mayans also had a priestly class and they believed in astrology as much as they believed in astronomy. They had human sacrifice rituals as well. Even today, there are certain corners of South and Central America wherein Mayan culture and religion are still being practiced.


The Mayans were experts in plant cultivation. One of their primary crops was maize. They were also conversant with irrigation. The Mayans used the “Slash and Burn” form of crop cultivation. Some other popular crops of the Mayans included squash, gourd, chilly peppers, avocados, and pumpkins.

  • Mayan Recipe: A look at some of the Mayan recipes.
  • Mayan Food: Provides information on the most widely consumed Mayan foods.
  • Mayan Life: Discusses the farming techniques of the Mayans.


The Mayan flourished even in the post Classic period. When the Spanish started to their colonization campaigns, Mayan culture began to dwindle. As historians study Mayan culture and technology, they discover a civilization which was far ahead of its time. The Mayan civilization is also noted for cultural dynamism.