he Mayan Civilization was the first great Mesoamerican historical culture. After a vast indeterminate period that could be traced back to the year 1000 BC the Old Empire would have extended from before the year 374 of our era, until the year 610.
This Ancient Empire divided into three periods, would have been marked by the foundation of the main Mayan cities: Uaxac-tun, Tekal, Copan and Piedras Negras, Then Palenque, Yaxchilan, Bonampak and Quriguá would come.
According to Morley, an emigration of the Mayan people to the north of the Yucatan Peninsula would have devastated the disappearance of the Old Empire and given rise to the new.
The cradle of the Mayan civilization can be located in the city of Uaxac-tún, although for many historians the cultural roots of the Mayan people were in the Olmec people.
The writing and calendar of the Maya and the conceptions of the jaguar as a symbol of heaven, are indeed of Olmec origin.
The Maya, initially located in Uaxactún, demonstrated enormous power of diffusion and their culture descended throughout the Petén to beyond the Usumacinta River through the Yucatan region.
The Mayan cities were always autonomous from each other, even when they were held together by ties of race, language, culture and economy.
Only at much later times, the Mayapán confederation occurred, which was only a confederation.
Maya society was divided into four social classes:
– The hereditary rulers or halach uinic. (true men)
– The hereditary nobility or ahmehe-noob. (someone’s children)
– Farmers- artisans or ahchembaloob. (common people)
– Slaves or ahp-pentacoob.
The economic base of the Maya was corn farming.
Like the great civilizations of the Middle East, the priestly establishment monopolized knowledge, writing and astronomy, so essential for the establishment of the calendar and the tasks of the field.
Under the appearance of Trinitarian harmony – those who rule. Those who work and those who pray – covered up a society with a minority of dominant families and a huge oppressed crowd.
From the first to the last city, it is the religious faith that impresses observing the ruins. Each pyramid is crowned by a sanctuary, which is sometimes an astronomical observatory for cultural purposes.
The Maya was a polythenist people, although they did not completely forget the idea of a supreme god. He had divinized the forces and elements of nature and represented them in very changing ways.
The creator and maintainer of the world was Hunabku or Hunaphpu, with vestiges of having been the supreme being, father of the other gods and invisible, so he lacked images or outside worship.
His son was Itzamná (lord of wisdom), the leading figure of the Mayan religion.
It was undoubtedly agriculture that prompted the Mayans to be interested in the exact calculation of natural events; and the study and measurement of time which contributed to the development of his mathematical knowledge.
Another cultural characteristic of the Mayan people was an original graphic system: a hieroglyphic writing, originally considered as ideographic, but today considered phonetic, although it has not yet been fully deciphered.
After 1441 the cities began to unflock and the peasants to fight each other.
At the arrival of the Spaniards the Maya civilization was completely dead.