Why did the Mayan civilization collapse/location/characteristic

Mayan civilization

Civilization settled in Central America since the 20th century BC. Until the XV d. C. Why did the Mayan civilization collapse

Date 20th century BC C. – XV century d. C.
Location Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
Religion Polytheistic.
Economy Farming.

The Mayans were a civilization, settled in Central America, that lasted from the 20th century BC. Until the XV century d. C., when it came to an end during the conquest of America.

This culture introduced great advances in mathematics, writing, architecture and astronomy , and had its own social, political and religious organization, which influenced the development of later cultures.

Why did the Mayan civilization collapse

The reason that led the Mayan civilization to collapse continues to generate debate among the scientific community. Many theses blame an intense drought or a series of armed conflicts. In reality, those were different effects of the same cause. The decline of the Mayan people responds to a process that took centuries to complete but began very soon, only a few years after deciding to settle in the tropical jungles. “If you leave a community of five hundred Mayans in the jungle and return a hundred years later, you will see that they have completely dispersed,” explains Félix Jiménez, secretary of the Spanish Society for Mayan Studies. This dispersion of the population occurred naturally and as a consequence of its relationship with the environment. ‘The cropping system in the tropical lowlands was based oncut down and burn. In this way, after a couple of years the land stopped being productive and they had to look for new ones ”, adds Jiménez, former director of the Museum of America.

As the Mayans scattered, majestic ceremonial centers began to rise with an important objective, to maintain unity. “People are reminded that even though they live far from each other, they are still part of the same family. The Mayan centers had a clear function of social cohesion ”, he comments. However, once a thousand years have passed, that dispersion reaches such a limit that each group ceases to believe in unity. The divorce between the different Mayan peoples also coincides with a notable change in the climate. “It is not that the amount of rainfall changed, it was simply that it was distributed unevenly due to deforestation. The lack of vegetation reduced the humidity in the region. And as more and more people were working the land, the environmental balance ended up breaking down. Why did the Mayan civilization collapse

The Mayans, great mathematicians, astronomers and architects, had great respect for nature. However, the day they devastated everything without thinking about the consequences, they signed their sentence. Reviewing the history is always useful to avoid repeating mistakes. America should know the effects of deforestation without measure. Brazil is among the countries that injects the most carbon dioxide into the atmosphere today. And the main source of emission is neither its cities nor its factories, but the deforestation of the Amazon.

Location of the Mayan civilization

The Mayans occupied the area of ​​the Yucatan peninsula (Mexico) and its surroundings. There they built large pyramids, monuments and temples.

At present they would occupy the territory of several Central American countries, such as part of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and part of El Salvador and Honduras. This geographical area has a variable topography, volcanoes, mountains and jungle areas with some semi-desert coastal areas.

Today there are ruins of the main Mayan cities: Yaxchilán, Tulum, Cuello, Coba, Copán, Palenque and Chichén Itzá.

Characteristics of the Maya

Among the main characteristics that define the Mayan culture we can highlight the following:

  • They were one of the most important civilizations in America and influenced the emergence and customs of new cultures.
  • They were found in the central area of ​​America, precisely in the Yucatan peninsula and its surroundings.
  • They were polytheists , that is, they believed in various gods and related them to nature.
  • Its economy was based on agriculture, which was carried out by peasants on the outskirts of the city-states.
  • They developed great knowledge of mathematics, astrology, and writing.
  • They built great pyramids as social centers and temples of worship to their gods.

Mayan culture religion

The Mayans were polytheists : they worshiped various gods related to nature.

The interpretation of their deities was linked to the calendar and astronomy . These main gods were Hunab Ku and Itzamná , but they also had gods of rain, wind, sun, agriculture, death, war, among others. Why did the Mayan civilization collapse

There are some religious similarities between the Mayans and the Aztecs , probably due to the close connections they may have had in their origins.

The main people in charge of the religion were the priests, who were dedicated to the cult, the divinatory acts and ritual sacrifices. For the worship of the gods, the Mayans built pyramids as worship temples.

The religious beliefs of the Mayans were reflected in their famous book Popol Vuh.

Gods of the Maya

The main Mayan gods were the following:

Name Function
Hunab Ku Main God, creator of all.
Itzamna God of wisdom.
Ixchel Goddess of fertility and water.
Yum kaax God of agriculture.
Kauil God of fire and medicine.
Kukulkan God of water and wind.

Political and social organization

Political organization Why did the Mayan civilization collapse

The Mayans formed city-states with certain independence and their own governments, and had political leaders with divine and hereditary positions. In turn, the Halach uinic leader of each city-state was the main warrior leader of his community.

Although they were politically organized in states with independent forms of government, all these cities together formed the Mayan civilization, that is, they had the same customs and religion.

Social organization Why did the Mayan civilization collapse

The social organization of the Maya was hierarchically divided as follows:

  • Priests : members of the religious class who were given supreme power, as they were believed capable of communicating with the gods.
  • Rulers : families in charge of governing the city-states. They dressed in a particular and ostentatious way that differentiated them from the rest.
  • Nobility : warrior chiefs, high officials, chiefs and some merchants.
  • Craftsmen and peasants : these used to live on the outskirts of the city in low economic conditions and, in some cases, were considered slaves.
  • Slaves : lower members of Mayan society, who worked for the nobility and the State in a forced way.

Economy of the Mayan culture

The Mayan economy was based on agriculture and produced mainly corn, beans and some tubers, such as beans and sweet potatoes. Why did the Mayan civilization collapse

Through their crops they produced medicines, fabrics and building materials . Its agriculture was highly developed thanks to its advanced techniques of soil irrigation, through canal systems that provided water in the dry season and maintained crops throughout the year.

Mayan culture clothing

Mayan clothing depended on the social level in the political hierarchy of each city-state.

Lower-class women wore long skirts and loose shirts made of cotton, which they could embroider in many colors. The farmer men, in turn, wore a “pati”, a kind of basic breeches, and had bare chests.

The royal family and state servants wore more elaborate garb , inlaid with feathers and stones, and also wore belts and sandals.

Knowledge of the Mayan culture

The main knowledge that stands out from the Mayan culture are the following:

  • Great knowledge of advanced mathematics , with the use of decimals and zero.
  • Hieroglyphic writing advanced for the time.
  • Advanced agriculture and irrigation techniques that allowed them to farm year-round, despite times of drought.
  • They were experts in astronomy and used this knowledge for the benefit of agriculture.
  • They developed the  365-day-per-year civil calendar , just like the one we use today. In addition, they created other complex calendars, such as a 260-day religious calendar.

End of Mayan culture

One of the theories establishes that due to the great demographic growth and the increase in food needs , natural resources were depleted and, added to long periods of drought , the Mayan civilization was weakening. Why did the Mayan civilization collapse

On the other hand, a different theory proposes that the invading tribes from the north were weakening the Mayans, and that the Spanish cultures, with the conquest of America , were the ones that ended up destroying the Mayan culture, which was already in decline.

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