Discovering The Three Phases of Mayan Civilization

The Mayan Civilization During The Pre-Classic Period (~2000 BCE – 200 BCE)

The exact date of the Mayan civilization’s inception remains unknown; the primary artifacts from the early Maya are already carbon-dated to around 2600 BCE, nevertheless the initial formed townships possibly were seen roughly after 800 years. The local tribes were wandering foragers and developed into a more permanent settlers and sedentary villages; this is how early villages began as simple farming communities. They tried and tested many things such as mining for gems, pottery and agriculture; clay figurines and bowl remains are among the artifacts left from this period. The proof of an important foundation as the larger Mayan economy developed was the Mayan control over the trade of precious stones such as obsidian and jade in the highlands of Guatemala. Even though nearly all of their sizeable buildings plus cities have not been constructed after several years, but one significant innovation appeared in the Pre-Classic period which is the Mayan system of hieroglyphic writing, that made it possible for the Mayans to date and record their history, and, much later, let archaeologists to commence decoding it.

The Classic Period Of The Mayan Civilization (200 BCE – 900 AD)

Generally measured from about 200 BCE to just before the turn of the millennium, it turned out that the Classic Period Mayans became the uncontested masters not only of the Yucatan peninsula but much of Central America as well. It was during this period that they put together their major metropolises, invented their calendars and know-how about astronomy, and also modified agricultural large scale methods which will provide food to their sizeable and growing urban centres.

The lands of the Maya were not one unified state during the Classic Period, but instead a city-centred empire as well as trade network which generally relied on a shared faith and alliances between city-states for economic stability. Conflict and war was actually common, as the competition between Chichen Itza and Coba in the Yucatan and the struggle between Tikal and Calakmul in Guatemala illustrate; generally, changing allegiances caused a complete reversal of circumstances, and the influential city which could draw in the highest number of vassal lands eventually won.

The modern day remembers the Classic period mostly for its majestic architectural structures such stepped pyramids Temple of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza, most notably. Stelea are additionally one common relic during this time, while they appear in most cities; these carved stone slabs are crucial for researchers, mainly because the Mayans recorded the details of the reign of their rulers, conquest and wars upon them like a kind of irreparable public history. The expansion of trade was considered by many cities so as to establish contract with other cultures; along the Central American coast, a long-distance trade route delivered Mayans into contact with Mexican cultures like Teotihuacan and Zapotec, and the commodities for trade which include salt, seashells, as well as precious stones may even have extended so far as the Caribbean, Panama, and the Inca lands of Peru to the south.

The Fall Of The Mayan Civilization And Post-Classic Period (~900 AD-1500 AD)

For reasons which are still debated today, the cities of the southern lowlands went through a rapid decline which lead to the mysterious abandonment during 8th-9th centuries. Even though the greater cities of the Yucatan fared better, the general the domination of the Mayan civilization had made it to its pinnacle; in somewhat a short time, it failed and declined, completely ceased the construction of majestic monuments which they became well known for, and with plenty of cities expediently emptied of their significant populations.

Hypotheses regarding as to the primary reason for this unusual extinction, from epidemic disease to natural disaster, to climate change, to the Mayans simply extending their cities too fast and overburdening the land that could no longer sustain their numbers. Recent studies of lake beds in the Maya’s’ southern lands have increased questions that a severe 200-year-long famine seemed to be the significant culprit; plus the decimation of thousands of acres of rainforest which provide space for farms which would support the booming cities, the problem may have piled up and spiraled and that the Mayans lack the ability to cope.

While the cities of the south are silently falling apart, the northern settlements such as Uxmal and Chichen became the heart of the Mayan world; their various populations and plenty of trade contacts may have ultimately protected them for the misfortune which shaken their southern neighbours. The Mayan world thus persevered up to the invasions of the Spaniards during the 16th century, that had been fiercely resisted yet in the long run conquered them. Even though the diseases and also invaders’ military power have shown extremely strong for the Mayan warriors to beat, the Spanish invaders gave a high price as a payment for the lands they conquered: all told, it took approximately two centuries not to mention tens of thousands of lives to fully overpower the previously insurmountable Maya.

Do you want to learn more about the Mayans and their civilization? One great way to learn more about them is to visit their ruins.

Read more about the ancient Mayan civilization here: Ancient Mayan History. Those who enjoy getting to know a specific Mayan site, can try Chichen Itza.

About the author

Frank D. Gardner