The Maya
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The Maya

Ancient innovators

Ancient innovators

Journey to the vibrant heart of Mexico to meet the modern day Maya, keeping their time-honored traditions alive against the odds.

Explore the origins of the ancient Maya empire renowned for being remarkably ahead of its time, yet even now shrouded in mystery. The empire stretched across Central America leaving behind a legacy of many different types of Maya communities spread out over these lands.
Snapshot

Snapshot

  • Region is North America

  • Climate here is Tropical

  • The challenge here is Casual

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers

Life

Life

The majority of the Maya continue to work in agriculture. The main crops are beans and corn; the fields are still prepared and cleared by cutting and burning, as was done by the ancient Maya so long ago.
Home

Home

Ancient Maya houses have not changed for well over a thousand years. Usually there is one main house for the family, with a separate house used for cooking. The most common forms of housing had walls made of stone or mud covered with hay.

Culture

Social Structure

The ancient Maya social structure featured priests and kings along with royal families at the top of the ladder, followed by wealthy nobles. With commoners, servants and workers in the levels below.

Religion

The Maya have their own form of Christianity which consists of characteristics of old tribal religions and Roman Catholicism. Catholic Maya often perform ceremonies that also have characteristics of traditional shaman rituals.

Traditions

One of the most interesting Maya traditions is the intricate calendar system they invented, which allowed them to plot time for the next 400 million years. It enabled them to predict the movements of the planets, as well as solar and lunar eclipses down to the nearest second.

Language

Some speak Mexico’s official language, Spanish, as it is used in church, trading, and tourism. But, many of the community still speak their native dialects from the two dozen languages spoken by the Maya.

Art

Maya design is instantly recognizable, especially the architecture of terraced pyramids—one of the greatest Maya accomplishments. Other art forms include unglazed pottery, woven goods, and wooden masks used in ceremonies.

Mayan women are excellent weavers. They used their ancestors’ back-strap loom to produce plain white and striped cloth, which is then made into children’s clothes, shirts, and shawls. They still frequently use designs that are more than
1,200 years old.

Celebrations

Due to the rise of Catholicism, modern Maya observe holidays in the Christian calendar. They also have some observances close to those of their nature-worshiping ancestors.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

Discussing the prediction by the Mayans of an apocalypse on December 21 2012 can be disrespectful. This came from a dug-up version of their ancient calendar, yet this wasn’t their interpretation.



Photo credit: Mexico, Chichen Itzá, Yucatán
iStock.com/IR_Stone

Other photos credit: Totonal / Mexico