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WELCOME TO ANCIENT MAYA! The First Americans Before the arrival of Spanish explorers, the Americas were inhabited by clever people who are believed to have ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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The First Americans
  • Before the arrival of Spanish explorers, the
    Americas were inhabited by clever people who are
    believed to have migrated from Asia via Berengia
    ---a stretch of land 1,000 miles wide and 60
    miles long that once connected Siberia with
  • These people were nomadic hunters who drifted
    east and south from Berengia in search of wooly
    mammoths, yaks, and edible plants.
  • They came in waves between 35,000 and 12,000
    years ago.
  • Those who settled in the middle, inhabiting the
    southern two-thirds of Mexico and northern
    Central America, have come to be called
  • Among them, ancestors of the Maya are believed to
    have migrated from northern areas of the
    Americans around 9,000 B.C.

  • The term Mesoamerica was coined roughly fifty
    years ago by anthropologist Paul Kirchhoff. It
    is both a geographical and cultural term
    referring to the location, common practices and
    habits of the diverse Mesoamerican peoples.
  • The unifying cultural traits of the high
    civilizations of Mesoamerica (Olmec, Maya, and
    Aztec) include
  • The use of hieroglyphic writing
  • The making of accordion-like books made from
    figbark or deerskin
  • The use of a complex calendar
  • The playing of a ball game that requires a rubber
    ball in a special I-shaped court
  • Engaging in human sacrifice by head or heart
  • The building of pyramids
  • Eating a diet based on maize, beans, chile
    peppers, and squash
  • Practicing a religion made up of many gods

The Olmecs
  • The unifying cultural practices are explained by
    archaeologists with the idea of a mother
    culture one culture that started it all.
  • The Olmec culture is the earliest civilization of
    Mesoamerica that is believed to have been given
    birth to all of the rest
  • These people flourished between 1500 and 400 B.C.
    on the southeastern Gulf Coast of Mexico
  • The Olmecs are said to be the first civilization
    of the Americas, and one of only six original
    civlizations in human history! (Original in
    this sense means a civilization without
    influences or models from the past)

The Creation Story of the Maya
  • https//www.youtube.com/watch?vJb5GKmEcJcwlistP

  • Of all of their many accomplishments, the Olmecs
    were great sculptors most noted for their
    gigantic stone heads.
  • Believed to be portraits of rulers, seventeen of
    these colossal heads have been discovered some
    of them as much as ten feet tall and weigh
    several tons!

Chocolate at Every Meal!
  • The Maya may have been the first humans to have
    consumed chocolate.
  • Residues taken from a broad range of ancient Maya
    vessels reveal that all Maya from peasant to
    kingregularly drank a spicy, foamy, chocolately
    brew perhaps as far back as 2,600 years ago.
  • Hieroglyphs on Maya murals and ceremonial vessels
    show gods, royalty, even animals drinking

  • Made from the seeds of the cacao tree, Maya first
    removed the seeds from their fleshy pods and
    fermented them until they turned a dark rich
  • The fermented seeds were then dried, roasted, and
    ground into a thick paste which was mixed with
    water, maize, and chili.
  • The cacao bean is second only to corn (or maize
    as they called it) in the central role it played
    in Maya culture
  • Cacao beans even served as a form of currency
    vital to trade among the Maya and as well as with
    their neighbors.
  • The cacao seeds were Maya gold, precious to the
    Maya in the same way dollars are to us.
  • When Columbus encountered Maya traders off the
    coast of Honduras, he was astonished to see them
    frantically gathering fallen cacao seeds from the
    bottom of their canoes as if they were gathering
    their own eyes.

Preclassic Period (1800 B.C. A.D. 250)
  • Preclassic Maya is defined by three principal
  • They lived in densely populated villages in
    thatched-roof houses no different from those
    inhabited by modern Maya
  • They farmed. Farming is the most important
    invention of the Preclassic period. Agriculture
    and the settled life brought about improved
    nutrition for these people. (We arent sure
    whether they lived principally by growing maize
    or cassava, an ancient root crop)
  • They made pottery principally thin-walled jars
    and bowls elaborately decorated with as many as
    three different colors as well as surface carving
    and modeling.

  • Ancient Egyptians were not the only early
    civilization to use picture-symbols to create
    complex meanings.
  • The Ancient Mayas had their own hieroglyphic
    system, as well!
  • On the following document, there is a set of
    Egyptian hieroglyphs and a set of Maya
    hieroglyphs. Compared to Egyptian hieroglyphs,
    the meaning of which can sometimes be guessed,
    Maya writing is more difficult to interpret. Can
    you guess what each symbol means? ?

The Rise and Fall of the Maya
  • https//www.youtube.com/watch?vDOckLspTwGAlistP
  • https//www.youtube.com/watch?vOkTaSiAmnwgindex

(No Transcript)
  • Stone pillars commemorating important people and
    events can be found all over the Maya world
  • Carved or inscribed with hieroglyphic writing,
    stelae describe deaths, births, battles, the
    reign of kings and are the principal source of
    information about the lives of Ancient Maya.
  • While Maya are believed to have written thousands
    of books, only four survive.
  • Thus, Stelae are central to unraveling the
    mystery of the Maya people.

Podcast Ancient Maya Language
  • http//www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/speaking-anci
  • Ten Interesting Facts about the Ancient Mayas
  • https//www.youtube.com/watch?vd0Ul9_DyEOElistP

Fig Bark Books
  • Maya books are called codices.
  • The word codex (the plural is codices) comes from
    the Latin noun code which can mean tree trunk,
    wooden tablet, or book, and may ultimately
    derive from the Latin verb cudere meaning to
  • The paper used in Maya codices was made from the
    beaten bark of fig trees joined in sections or
    folds, accordion like.
  • Many thousands of these books once existed, but
    only four survive today.
  • A Spanish bishop named Diego da Landa burned as
    many Maya codices as he could find in 1562. Da
    Landa wrote, We found a large number of books
    but as they were full of as he believed
    superstition and lies of the devil, all were

  • Reading Pyramids of the Maya, Part I II
  • Chichen itza clip http//video.nationalgeographic
  • https//www.youtube.com/watch?vkyvw6G9Max0index
  • http//www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-225216

Map of Mayan Cities
  • http//www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/map-of-the-ma

Ancient Maya Medicine
  • Maya medicine was a blend of religion and
  • Surgery involved binding wounds with human hair,
    setting bones, amputation, and therapeutic
  • Maya had conflicting ideas about disease.
  • On one hand, sickness was thought to be a
    spiritual problem caused by the hostile actions
    of a god or sorcerer or brought on by spiritual
  • On the other hand, a disease could indicate a
    special relationship with the supernaturala sign
    that one had been tagged or chosen by the gods.
  • If cured, the sick person was believed to have
    acquired special powers and often herself became
    a curer or shaman.

  • Once a shaman determined the cause of an illness,
    the cure usually involved bathing of streams or
    taking sweatbaths.
  • Sweatbathing was a purification ritual practiced
    throughout Mesoamerica. As past of the ritual,
    the sick person was struck with various herbs,
    grasses, and sticks.
  • Not much is known about Ancient Mayan dentistry,
    but it seems to have been practiced for cosmetic
    reasons only.
  • Maya skulls discovered by archaeologists reveal
    that Maya filed and drilled their teeth to
    achieve certain artistic shapes and patterns.
  • Dental inlay was also desired as Maya teeth have
    been found filled with jade beds and bits of
    turquoise and other stones and materials. There
    is no evidence that Maya ever used dental inlay
    to repair cavities.

Ancient Maya Calendar
  • Ancient Maya Calendar Reading
  • The Maya recorded time in a series of cycles,
    including 400-year chunks called baktuns. It's
    these baktuns that have led to rumors of an
    end-of-the-world catastrophe on Dec. 21, 2012 --
    on that date, a cycle of 13 baktuns will be
    complete. But the idea that this means the end of
    the world is a misconception, Stuart said. In
    fact, Maya experts have known for a long time
    that the calendar doesn't end after the 13th
    baktun. It simply begins a new cycle. And the
    calendar encompasses much larger units than the
    baktun (Excerpt from Discovery News)

Lets Play Ball!
  • The Maya were among the first people to play
    organized sports.
  • Here is how the Mayas ball game was played
  • Two teams composed of 2-3 members each
  • Team members hit the ball using their upper arms
    and thighs (hands could not be used) with the
    goal of bringing the ball into contact with stone
    rings positioned high along the alley walls
  • It was at times played for fun and at others had
    a ritual significance tied to the cycle of life,
    death, and rebirth. In some cases, the winners
    decapitated the losers.
  • The Maya of the classic period forced captives of
    war to play the ball game.
  • Defeated captives were bound and trussed and
    themselves used as the ball which was then
    bounced down a flight of stairs
  • The balls were as large as 12 in diameter and
    weigh as much as 7 ½ pounds!

  • More on Maya Ball Games!
  • https//www.youtube.com/watch?vJCzhtTjzWvU
  • Maya Sacrifice and Ball Game
  • https//www.youtube.com/watch?vYmcnZ5lP9tg

Maya Math
  • Counting all over the world is based on either
    ten or twenty depending on whether fingers or
    both fingers and toes are used.
  • Mesoamericans, Maya included, had a base 20
  • Remarkably, the Maya used only three symbols a
    dot for one, a bar for five, and a stylized shell
    for zero combined with a place-value system
    (likely invented by the Olmecs) to record any
  • Whereas our system is horizontal and moves from
    right to left, the Maya system was vertical and
    moved from bottom to top.
  • Symbols occurring in the lowest position have a
    value of one, in the second position a value of
    20, the next highest 400, and so on.

The Maya Today
  • Despite pressures over many centuries that
    continue today, the Maya people still exist.
  • They continue to inhabit the land they have
    occupied for thousands of years and number at
    least 7 ½ million!
  • To some extent, they have maintained their
  • After the Spanish invasion of the early 16th
    century, over 90 of the native population died
    due to disease brought by the Spanish smallpox,
    influenza, and measles.
  • In their weakened state, the Maya adapted to many
    elements of colonial culture.
  • Today, free from Spanish rule, Maya culture
    remains a blend of Maya and Spanish traditions.
  • https//www.youtube.com/watch?v86F10IrvVuslistP
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