Visiting the Remnants of Mayan Civilization is A Breath-Taking Experience

by Giselle Sanchez, age 11 

Imagine standing at the foot of a huge Chichén Itzá pyramid in Mexico, as I did recently during a family trip. I took in the enormity of the pyramid and its vast desert-like surroundings. I felt speechless at the thought that many years ago the place where I was standing was the heart of the Mayan civilization. The Mayan civilization flourished for more than seven hundred years.

The Maya lived in organized city-states in Central America from 200 A.D. to the early 1500s when Spanish explorers took over. Each city-state regulated trade of cacao, cotton, grain and other goods with neighboring city-states. The largest Mayan city was Tikal, in what is now known as Guatemala, with a population of 60,000.

Farming was a big part of Mayan life. The Maya grew beans, corn, squash, onions, and carrots. Some animals that the Maya had were turkeys and kept bees. Dogs were the only domesticated animals, during that time.

Religion was a very important part of Mayan culture. In the square, priests foretold when the next eclipses of the moon and the sun could occur. To get a favor from the gods the citizens would sacrifice animals and sometimes even humans.

The Maya also made time for fun. They invented a sacred game using a rubber ball, which they hit with their hips through a stone hoop. On my trip I saw how thick the hoops actually were. They were a sight to see.

The Maya were very intellectual. They invented the first writing in America, they wrote codexes, folding books that were written on tree bark. Only three codexes survive today. Unlike our number system, the Mayan number system was based on 20 (instead of 10), and their farmers’ calendars had 18 months of 20 days each.

Mayan culture began to die off during the 1500’s, most likely as a result of the Spanish conquest of Central America. We are still not sure why the Mayans disappeared but some think it was because of a disease. The Mayan language has been passed on and some people still speak it today.

[Source: World History Encyclopedia]

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Xunantunich and Cahal Pech in Belize. It was very cool to see all the carvings and to walk around the ball courts and see the places where they slept. Your article really captured that experience well. I also learned a lot from reading it. I didn't know that they had an 18 month calender, or that they kept bees. It's too bad that their civilization is gone now. – BenMadison (2014-05-31 12:48)
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