Ancient Mayan Civilization


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Ancient Mayan Civilization


The Ancient Mayan Civilization was built upon a rigid social structure based on their religious beliefs. They used a caste social structure in which divisions were based on wealth, inherited rank, privilege, profession, or occupation. Their beliefs were based on the fact that nature elements had the power to either help or harm. The Ancient Mayans used their social structure and beliefs to shape their daily lives.

The Maya were a very religious people. They believed in many gods. All events centred around their religious beliefs. They wanted to stay in favour with the gods. In their belief system, the gods would bring the rain, heal the sick, bring plentiful harvests, and ensure the health and safety of the people if they were honoured. If the gods were angry, they would send drought, famine and disaster to the people. In order to keep the gods happy, they believed that a daily sacrifice of blood was necessary. They would open a wound and let the blood drip onto a paper. The paper would then be burned in an offering to the gods. It was believed that the priests could see the spirits in the smoke.Kings would also give blood offerings, which would please the gods. The Maya had a strong belief in the afterlife. When a king or nobleman died, the Maya people believed that he became one with the gods and would go to live in the sky with them. The Maya worshipped their ancestors as if they were gods. The dead were buried with food, tools, clothing, and whatever would be needed for their journey. Tombs were built to bury their rulers, and sacrifices and special funeral rituals were performed there. Religion was used to explain natural forces that organized the cosmos into an ordered place. Its ideological function was to comfort individuals, unify the society, justify wars, and to demonstrate the authority of ruling elites.

At the top of the society were the ruler, k'ul ahau, his family, their retainers, courtiers, and priests. Others, including the most skilled and influential architects, merchants, and craftsmen were also part of the noble elite, providing their skills were useful to the ruler. In both the priesthood and the ruling class, nepotism was the prevailing system under which new members were chosen.Primogeniture was the form under which new kings were chosen as the king passed down his position to his son.

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Priests were considered to be the most important out of all the people in the Mayan tribes. They were usually the ruling chiefs. Each large city had one supreme chief who usually ruled over the city and the surrounding region for life. Each Mayan city or state also had several less important chieftains. They were considered the "leaders" of their Mayan city and they were also responsible for leading their people. Chieftains also served as judges and were held responsible for the consequences that applied for certain crimes. A thief became the servant of his victim. Warriors were a separate class, whose main goal was to capture enemy prisoners. Sometimes farmers and other members of the lower class were forced to serve as soldiers. Captured enemy soldiers became slaves. Beneath the noble rank were the general specialists, artisans, craftspeople, managers, and bureaucrats. These groups were ranked in importance and resemble our middle class today. Except that it was more difficult in the Mayan society to move up or within a group than it is today. Below the middle class were the essential service people; all the people responsible for making the city run.

Maya women rose and started the fires before 4:00 AM. Women made breakfast toasting leftover cornmeal pancakes. By 5 AM men had finished eating and left for the fields with their sons. There they harvested their maize. At mid-afternoon men and boys would return from the fields and sometimes hunt or check their traps along the way. They would kill birds with blowpipes and clay pellets. Sometimes they hunted with spears. When the men got home they had hot baths waiting for them. After bathing men had dinner but the woman didn't eat with the men. The women served the men and then ate their dinner later. Dinner could include cornmeal, black beans, meat, maize, rabbit and turkey. The men after dinner worked at making wooden and jade things, which were sometimes used in trade. Women would spin cotton and weave.

The people of Ancient Maya used their beliefs to shape their social structure and daily lives. Their beliefs were based around 166 deities, which they had to please. Their social structure gave way to their daily lives. Their daily lives were in cooperation of their beliefs and social structure.


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