The Maya Indians dwelled in Mexico and Guatemala and developed very sophisticated cities and political systems. While many Europeans in the Dark Ages were illiterate, the Maya Indians developed a writing system, in addition to astronomy and mathematics. They developed their own calendar and a sophisticated form of hieroglyphics that still remain today on Mayan ruins.
The Maya Indians first appeared on the Yucatan Peninsula around 2600 BCE and became prominent in 250 CE., although, throughout their long history, Maya Indians had many peaks and declines, as archeologists have found layers of cities built on top of each other. The Maya began as an agrarian people who developed cities and political systems. It is amazing that they built what were, in effect, skyscrapers without using metal tools. The social organization of the Maya Indians was quite sophisticated, and included kings, an aristocratic class, upper and middle class citizens and workers.
Originally, farmers, the Maya Indians made their land arable using slash and burn techniques to clear the land of vegetation. Their main crops were maize, beans, squash and tobacco. Usually the men built the cuts, and the women farmed and cooked. They Maya Indians were a agrarian people for many years, but eventually migrated into cities. One reason put forward is that water shortages made farming difficult, and technology for storing water was more sophisticated in urban areas. These cities were usually grandly built, but short-lived. The Maya Indians seemed to go back and forth between farming and urban lifestyles, as a new regime took power.
The Maya Indians have left us many clues about their way of life, and we see how advanced they were at such an early stage of history. Their art, architecture and statecraft give clues about the daily life of these enterprising and inventive people. There are Maya Indians who remain today, despite the passage of time and the prevalence of intermarriage.
Joseph Paige © 2006