Mayan Culture


The Mayan civilization or culture was one of the main civilizations that developed in ancient Mesoamerica . Culture very prominent for their elaborate writing systems , numerical and use the calendar as well as for its impressive art and architecture . The ancient Maya are well known for their writings, a large part of which can be read as they were deciphered after being found, as well as for their advanced mathematical , astronomical and calendrical calculations.


What is the Mayan culture?

The Mayan culture was a great pre- Columbian civilization of Mesoamerica , which emerged during the Classic Period of history, and which was known for its written language , for its art , architecture and for the mathematical and numerical systems that they executed, as well as the use of the astronomy.



The Mayan culture was one of the largest in the world, it interacted with many civilizations so that cultural diffusion was present in it. His advances in writing , epigraphy and the use of the calendar were developed in this culture. It is a civilization that has been maintained over time, and it still exists. The peak of the growth and prosperity of culture occurred during the years 250 and 900 BC, a period known as the Age Classic, which was the peak of the Maya civilization, a period in which styles emerged of advanced construction and records of stone carved called stelae. Great ceremonial centers were built in the cities that included massive stone pyramids , ball courts, and platform temples.


Characteristics of the Mayan culture

Among the main characteristics we can mention the following:

  • It was a classicist culture
  • It was made up of cities and states , all of them independent.
  • They used hieroglyphs to write.
  • His murals were full of color .
  • They measured time by means of the stars .
  • They had knowledge of engineering and mathematics .
  • They were dedicated to agriculture , hunting and fishing .


Religion played a very important role in the Mayan culture, they performed public ceremonies and worshiped different gods , as they were polytheists . They performed self-sacrifices , pierced their bodies and sexual organs to offer the blood as an offering . They also performed human and animal sacrifices . They practiced fasting and sexual abstinence . They used a calendar where they established their festivities and ceremonies .


Some of the most important gods of the Mayan culture were:

  • Hunab Kú : It means “a single god” or Creator God. He was the main Mayan god, the one who had created the world and humanity from corn.
  • Itzamná : Considered as the lord of the skies, the night and the day and the son of Hunabkú.
  • Kukulkán : Represented the wind god or feathered serpent
  • Kinich Ahau : He was the Sun God, son of Itzamná
  • Ixchel : The goddess of the Moon, floods and pregnancy.
  • Chac : He was the god of rain that was divided into the 4 cardinal points .
  • Wakax Yol K’awil or Nal : Considered the god of corn or agriculture


Agriculture was the base of the economy of the Mayan culture, and its main crop was corn, although they also planted cotton, beans, potatoes, yucca and cocoa. They gave the name to the ” milpa “, which is the place where corn was planted.

Cultural manifestations of the Mayan culture


Mayan art was highly appreciated for its manufacture , carvings and reliefs made in palenque. Mayan art ended in the 16th century, with the Spanish conquest that destroyed the culture and put an end to its artistic tradition. The main forms of traditional art still in use today are the production of textiles and peasant houses .


Its architecture depended on the terrain , and based on it the different forms and structures were built . They built large ceremonial platforms that had figures carved into the latos, with altars and censers.  Pyramids that had a pyramidal geometric volume, temples with vertical walls, without windows and in a rectangular shape. They applied the cresting to almost all their decorative elements and their constructions were oriented with the cardinal points.


They were great sculptors of stone and stucco . They did relief work , bas-relief and some three-dimensional sculptures . His works represented the gods and were related to the start and out of the sun. Many sculptures were attached to facades and columns. They made stelae on tombstones and altars for what is considered to be linked to writing.


Its painted pottery was done to perfection and with elegance, accompanied by hieroglyphic texts that dealt with historical themes of the time and focused on religious themes . The uses that were given to ceramics ranged from being instruments of feeding , to becoming gifts of the highest social class. It was a polychrome ceramic , fired, which followed the slip technique.

Mayan language

The Mayan languages ​​are a linguistic family that is spoken in Mesoamerica , mainly in Belize, Guatemala, and southeastern Mexico . It comes from Protomaya , a language that may have originated 5000 years ago. It is part of the Mesoamerican linguistic area . It used nouns with prepositions to indicate relationships and had a series of grammatical and typological features that made it unique.

Customs and traditions of the Mayan culture

Some of its main customs and traditions are:

  • The names of the babies were only known by those close to the families and during the presentation ceremony they were assigned a nickname .
  • Babies had a board placed on their foreheads to achieve the perfect aesthetic of having a straight skull .
  • They performed the piercing in the pits nasal and an earring made of jade were placed.
  • They practiced mutilation of the teeth and embedded small jade discs in their place.
  • They made human sacrifices .
  • They practiced the Mayan ball game, known as ” pok a pok “, which was seen as a fight between light and darkness .
  • They were worshipers of the cenotes .

Political and social organization

The Mayan culture never had a unified state , on the contrary, they formed groups of independent cities from each other. The maximum power was in charge of the chief who was advised by the council. They were very religious and formed a hierarchical society . They were governed by a political authority, the Halach Uinic , who was the supreme head , whose dignity was hereditary by male line, and the Alma Khan , high priest . The supreme chief was the one who delegated authority over the communities and to the local chiefs or bataboob, farm foremen who performed civil, military and religious functions.

Economy of the Mayan culture

The main economic resource of the Mayan economy is agriculture , which was practiced through intensive agriculture on the banks of rivers and lakes. They also worked in hunting and fishing . They planted crops such as cotton, tobacco, annatto, seeds, and corn. They hunted and fished and used the skins of animals to make clothes .


The basis of their diet was corn with which they also made alcoholic beverages . The cooking technique they used the most was underground baking, which was known as pibil. They also ate products derived from cocoa , from which chocolate was made . They also consumed chaya , a plant similar to nettle rich in vitamins, chewing gum, extracted from sapodilla and salt , which they extracted from the sea with very rudimentary methods, while the meats were very varied and were obtained from deer, peccary, rabbit , manatee, pigeon, partridge and other birds andmammals .

Mayan calendar

The Mayan calendar was a precise and sophisticated calendar . It was the center of his life and his greatest cultural achievement. Its accuracy comes from the fact that it is based on a continuous and uninterrupted count of the days from an initial zero day and based on the astronomical observations that they made. The sacred Mayan calendar was also known as Tzolkin , and it had 13 months with 20 days each, making a total of 260 days . The Tzolkin is the most important calendar for the Mayans. This calendar for the Mayans was sacred , as it related to their 13 gods creators and demons with the number 20 , which was the basis of their number system and was seen as a sacred number.

Main cities

Some of the main cities of the Mayan culture are the following:

  • Tikal in Guatemala
  • Chichen Itzá in Mexico
  • Copán in Honduras


The Mayan culture extends for more than 350,000 kilometers, much of it is located in the Mexican southeast , such as the states of Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo. It also took part of central Belize and northern Guatemala , including the northwestern border of Honduras

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