The Mayan language was spoken in southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. Maya languages were also formerly spoken in western Honduras, and western El Salvador. The Maya was sub-divided into the Huastec, Yucatec, Western Maya, and Eastern Maya groups. The most important eastern Maya languages are Quiche, and Cakchiquel, but there are also Mam, Teco, Aguacatec, Ixil, Uspantec, Sacapultec, Sipacapa, Pocomam, Pocomchi, and Kekchi. The largest Western Maya language is Tzeltal, spoken in Chiapas, Mex., but other Western Maya languages include Chontal, Chol, Chorti, Tzotzio, Tojolabal, Chuj, Kanjobal, Acatec, Jacaltec, and Motozintlec. Yucatec is the most important language spoken in Yucatan, northern Guatemala, and Belize.


Each large city had one supreme chief who usually ruled over the city and the surrounding region for life. Upon his death, a son or brother took over. In some cases, the rulers wife might be next in line. If no family successor was available, a new ruler was selected from the upper class. Each Maya city or state also had several less important chieftains, who served jobs somewhat like our mayors. These men might have other occupations (other than a chieftain). They were considered the "leaders" of their Mayan city and they were also responsible for leading their people. Chieftains also served as judges and were held responsible for the consequences that applied for certain crimes. A thief became the servant of his victim. The murderers were put to death, sometimes as part of ritual sacrifice. For minor crimes, a criminal's hair was cut off as a sign of disgrace. There was a somewhat big separation between the life of the ruling class and that of the common people. Certain luxury items, such as jade, feathers, and jaguar pelts, were only to be used by members ruling class. It was the commoners job to provide these items as offerings. When members of the upper class traveled, workers were expected to carry them in litters. Warriors were a separate class, whose main goal was to capture enemy prisoners. Sometimes farmers and other members of the lower class were forced to serve as soldiers. Captured enemy soldiers became slaves. Defeated officers became human sacrifices. Armies did not begin fighting until after an elaborate religious ceremony. Warriors wore feathered headdresses, and many carried bright pennants. In battle, soldiers carried shields made from thick animal hides. The warriors fought with wooden clubs, flint knives, spears, and slingshots. Warriors were also known to use hornet bombs, in which a hornet's nest was thrown into a group of enemy soldiers. All fighting stopped each evening, and there was a truce that lasted till morning. If any armies commander was wounded or killed, his army retreated and the battle ended.


Religion was an important part of Mayan life that regulated almost everything. Priests were considered to Be the most important out of all the people in the Mayan tribes. They were usually the ruling chiefs and only they were educated to know all of what their gods meant (rituals, prayer, etc.). They believed their gods had destroyed and recreated their earth several times, that is why they always tried to please their gods (with sacrifices) and why they were always frightful when natural events occurred such as droughts, storms, and other natural disasters. All their gods related to nature and were referred to as a god of some part of nature (gods of sun-rise, sun-set, rainfall, and sunshine, which all had to do with the peoples survival). Their supreme being and creator of the universe was called Hunan Ku, whom of which they lead all actions and creations to. The next most important gods were the Sun and Moon gods. The Maya also thought that the Moon and Sun gods were the parents of humans (the Sun god was the father and the Moon god was the mother). The corn god was responsible for the crops and harvest. Statues show him wearing a headdress made from ears of corn (maize). Four rain gods, called Chacs (who controlled rain fall, thunder, lightning, storms, etc.). The Chacs as well were depended on for the Mayan farmers. Every job or activity in Maya life had a god/goddess.


Beauty was very important to the Mayan people. One of the examples of beauty that the Maya practiced, was that they pressed their children's faces (width wise) when they were young, so that when they were older they'd have some beauty in them. Body piercing was one of the major parts of how Mayans looked (appearance wise). Most Mayans were somewhat tan and usually had black hair (as well as eyes). The Mayans also wore very little clothing and considered it as not a big importance as far as their appearance went. Feather's and other common animal type coats were used for clothing and other parts of jewelry. The Mayans were also barefoot and wore very little feet coverings. Jewelry was somewhat considered to be an important part of the appearance, but other parts of fashion and overall appearance came first. Jewelry, when it was made was made carefully and neatly, unless they were not given as sacrifices for their gods and leaders. Bones, rocks (off many forms), and beads were used for making normal, every day necklaces, rings, bracelets, etc. Headdresses were worn for ceremonies and special events, other than the leaders who wore headdresses (and other forms of great wealth) almost all the time. Mostly everybody had somewhat long hair (both males and females) as far as length of hair went.


Many Mayan tools ( including weaponry) were made from bone, parts of animals, soil, stone, metal/copper, and wood, all of which were usually used to create most of the Mayan tools. Tools as well as weaponry were not decorated much at all, in fact hardly any tools were even cleaned, or made to look nice(r). The blades of weapons were usually sharpened greatly, and cut to work in a divine yet easy way, for both the person using it, and in some cases the person it was being used on. Many of their blades were curved and made with a somewhat confortable handle made from bone, both of which clearly showed great artifice within the Mayan culture/tribe. Farming tools were usually made with wood, stone, and some ride to hold it all together. These tools made a big difference in the quality of their crops. Farming tools in particular were made to relieve any extra work and make current work easier. The Mayan people's shelter consisted mostly of temples, small huts, and sub-shelters (of their temples). Most of their shelters where made from rock, and occasionally wood, which was usually used to support other smaller shelters. The Mayans only real method of transportation was by foot, unless on water, then they traveled by canoe.


Most of the Mayans surrounding environment consisted of tropical (or somewhat tropical) rain forest which was one of their main sources of resources (food, clothing, weapons, tools, etc.). It was hardly ever cold during the day time and rained almost everyday (sometimes resolved to a continuos rain that went on for days). The Mayans environment mainly needed rain, and heat in order to survive (both the animals/nature and the humans). Had the Mayans inhabited another completely different environment, then they would have become a totally different tribe than they were. Environment reflects many important things, such as art/clothing, language, appearances, and the overall way that a tribe/culture acts (such as the Maya).


The Mayans way of education was taught to only the higher authority such as priests, leaders/chiefs, war leaders, etc. As far as the rest of the Mayan population went, education and learning were both a thing that existed in their house, where their parents taught them information that they knew from growing up and information that passed down to them generation to generation, etc.


The Maya first settled in 1500 BC and developed small villages and beliefs as well as ways/methods of doing things such as planting crops, making clothing/jewelry, etc. all of which started the Mayan culture/tribe. The Maya began to build ceremonial centers around 200 AD, which contained courts for playing ball, plaza's, temples, pyramids, etc. The Mayans also developed a highly sophisticated calendar system and hieroglyphic writing. There ways of using as well as writing numbers was exstrordanary and even lead to the discovery of the number 0. The Maya also practiced slash and burn agriculture, but they at the same time used advanced techniques of irrigation and terisan. Their crops quality was probably great, because of there ways/methods of farming (which for the Maya was the slash and burn method/technique). The Mayan's classic age began at around 250 AD and ended in about 900 AD During the Mayan's classic age, they controlled over 40 cities which contained 5,000 to 50,000 people. The Mayan's post classic period lasted from 900 AD to 1500 AD Cities such as Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Mayapan in the highlands of the Yucatan Peninsula flourished for several more centuries. In the 16th century when the Spaniards came, the Mayan culture had evolved to a mere village dwelling agriculturists like culture who practiced the religious cities of the forefathers (or forebears).

Go back to the Main Page...

Send us: