E-Groups are specific structural configurations present at a number of centers in the Maya area. These complexes are oriented and aligned according to specific astronomical events (primarily the sun's solstices and equinoxes) and are thought to have been observatories. These structures are usually accompanied by iconographic reliefs that tie astronomical observation into general Maya mythology. HP Compaq HSTNN-I44C-B Battery
The structural complex is named for Group E at Uaxactun, the first documented in Mesoamerica.
Pyramids and temples. Often the most important religious temples sat atop the towering Maya pyramids, presumably as the closest place to the heavens. While recent discoveries point toward the extensive use of pyramids as tombs, the temples themselves seem to rarely, if ever, contain burials. HP Compaq HSTNN-I45C Battery
Residing atop the pyramids, some of over two-hundred feet, such as that atEl Mirador, the temples were impressive and decorated structures themselves. Commonly topped with a roof comb, or superficial grandiose wall, these temples might have served as a type of propaganda. As they were often the only structure in a Maya city to exceed the height of the surrounding jungle, the roof combs atop the temples were often carved with representations of rulers that could be seen from vast distances. HP Compaq HSTNN-I45C-A Battery
Observatories. The Maya were keen astronomers and had mapped out the phases of celestial objects, especially the Moon andVenus. Many temples have doorways and other features aligning to celestial events. Round temples, often dedicated to Kukulcan, are perhaps those most often described as "observatories" by modern ruin tour-guides, HP Compaq HSTNN-I45C-B Battery
but there is no evidence that they were so used exclusively, and temple pyramids of other shapes may well have been used for observation as well.
Ballcourts. As an integral aspect of the Mesoamerican lifestyle, the courts for their ritual ball-game were constructed throughout the Maya realm and often on a grand scale. HP Compaq HSTNN-I48C-A Battery
Enclosed on two sides by stepped ramps that led to ceremonial platforms or small temples, the ballcourt itself was of a capital "I" shape and could be found in all but the smallest of Maya cities.
The Maya writing system (often called hieroglyphs from a superficial resemblance to the Ancient Egyptian writing) was a combination of phonetic symbols andlogograms. HP Compaq HSTNN-I48C-B Battery
It is most often classified as a logographic or (more properly) a logosyllabic writing system, in which syllabic signs play a significant role. It is the only writing system of the Pre-Columbian New World which is known to represent the spoken language of its community. In total, the script has more than a thousand different glyphs, although a few are variations of the same sign or meaning, HP Compaq HSTNN-I49C Battery
and many appear only rarely or are confined to particular localities. At any one time, no more than around 500 glyphs were in use, some 200 of which (including variations) had a phonetic or syllabic interpretation.
The earliest inscriptions in an identifiably Maya script date back to 200–300 BC. HP Compaq HSTNN-I50C-B Battery
However, this is preceded by several other writing systems which had developed in Mesoamerica, most notably that of the Zapotecs, and (following the 2006 publication of research on the recently discovered Cascajal Block), theOlmecs. There is a pre-Maya writing known as "Epi-Olmec script" (post Olmec) which some researchers believe may represent a transitional script between Olmec and Maya writing, HP Compaq HSTNN-I54C Battery
but the relationships between these remain unclear and the matter is unsettled. On January 5, 2006, National Geographic published the findings of Maya writings that could be as old as 400 BC, suggesting that the Maya writing system is nearly as old as the oldest Mesoamerican writing known at that time, Zapotec. HP Compaq HSTNN-I64C-5 Battery
In the succeeding centuries the Maya developed their script into a form which was far more complete and complex than any other that has yet been found in the Americas.
Since its inception, the Maya script was in use up to the arrival of the Europeans, peaking during the Maya Classical Period (c. 200 to 900). HP Compaq HSTNN-I65C-5 Battery
Although many Maya centers went into decline (or were completely abandoned) during or after this period, the skill and knowledge of Maya writing persisted amongst segments of the population, and the early Spanish conquistadors knew of individuals who could still read and write the script. Unfortunately, HP Compaq HSTNN-IB05 Battery
the Spanish displayed little interest in it, and as a result of the dire impacts the conquest had on Maya societies, the knowledge was subsequently lost, probably within only a few generations.
At a rough estimate, in excess of 10,000 individual texts have so far been recovered, mostly inscribed on stone monuments, lintels, stelae and ceramic pottery. HP Compaq HSTNN-IB08 Battery
The Maya also produced texts painted on a form of paper manufactured from processed tree-bark, in particular from several species of strangler fig trees such asFicus cotinifolia and Ficus padifolia. This paper, common throughout Mesoamerica and generally now known by its Nahuatl-language name amatl, HP Compaq HSTNNIB12 Battery
was typically bound as a single continuous sheet that was folded into pages of equal width, concertina-style, to produce a codex that could be written on both sides. Shortly after the conquest, all of the codices which could be found were ordered to be burnt and destroyed by zealous Spanish priests, notably Bishop Diego de Landa. HP Compaq HSTNN-IB16 Battery
Only three reasonably intact examples of Maya codices are known to have survived through to the present day. These are now known as the Madrid, Dresden, and Paris codices. A few pages survive from a fourth, the Grolier codex, whose authenticity is sometimes disputed, but mostly is held to be genuine. HP Compaq HSTNN-IB18 Battery
Further archaeology conducted at Maya sites often reveals other fragments, rectangular lumps of plaster and paint chips which formerly were codices; these tantalizing remains are, however, too severely damaged for any inscriptions to have survived, most of the organic material having decayed. HP Compaq HSTNN-IB28 Battery
The decipherment and recovery of the now-lost knowledge of Maya writing has been a long and laborious process. Some elements were first deciphered in the late 19th and early 20th century, mostly the parts having to do with numbers, the Maya calendar, and astronomy. Major breakthroughs came starting in the 1950s to 1970s, and accelerated rapidly thereafter. HP Compaq HSTNN-IB51 Battery
By the end of the 20th century, scholars were able to read the majority of Maya texts to a large extent, and recent field work continues to further illuminate the content.
In reference to the few extant Maya writings, Michael D. Coe, a prominent archaeologist at Yale University, stated: HP Compaq HSTNN-IB52 Battery
"[O]ur knowledge of ancient Maya thought must represent only a tiny fraction of the whole picture, for of the thousands of books in which the full extent of their learning and ritual was recorded, only four have survived to modern times (as though all that posterity knew of ourselves were to be based upon three prayer books and 'Pilgrim's Progress')." HP Compaq HSTNN-IB55 Battery
(Michael D. Coe, The Maya, London: Thames and Hudson, 4th ed., 1987, p. 161.)
Most surviving pre-Columbian Maya writing is from stelae and other stone inscriptions from Maya sites, many of which were already abandoned before the Spanish arrived. The inscriptions on the stelae mainly record the dynasties and wars of the sites' rulers. HP Compaq HSTNN-IB62 Battery
Also of note are the inscriptions that reveal information about the lives of ancient Maya women. Much of the remainder of Maya hieroglyphics has been found on funeral pottery, most of which describes the afterlife.
Although the archaeological record does not provide examples, Maya art shows that writing was done with brushes made with animal hair and quills. HP Compaq HSTNN-LB05 Battery
Codex-style writing was usually done in black ink with red highlights, giving rise to the Aztec name for the Maya territory as the "land of red and black".
Scribes held a prominent position in Maya courts. Maya art often depicts rulers with trappings indicating they were scribes or at least able to write, such as having pen bundles in their headdresses. HP Compaq HSTNN-LB08 Battery
Additionally, many rulers have been found in conjunction with writing tools such as shell or clay inkpots. Although the number of logograms and syllabic symbols required to fully write the language numbered in the hundreds, literacy was not necessarily widespread beyond the elite classes. Graffiti uncovered in various contexts, including on fired bricks, shows nonsensical attempts to imitate the writing system. HP Compaq HSTNN-LB0E Battery
In common with the other Mesoamerican civilizations, the Maya used a base 20 (vigesimal) and base 5 numbering system (seeMaya numerals). Also, the preclassic Maya and their neighbors had independently developed the concept of zero by 36 BC. HP Compaq HSTNN-LB11 Battery
Inscriptions show them on occasion working with sums up to the hundreds of millions and dates so large it would take several lines just to represent it. They produced extremely accurate astronomical observations; their charts of the movements of the moon and planets are equal or superior to those of any other civilization working from naked eye observation. HP Compaq HSTNN-LB51 Battery
Uniquely, there is some evidence to suggest the Maya appear to be the only pre-telescopic civilization to demonstrate knowledge of the Orion Nebula as being fuzzy, i.e. not a stellar pin-point. The information which supports this theory comes from a folk tale that deals with the Orion constellation's area of the sky. HP Compaq HSTNN-LB52 Battery
Their traditional hearths include in their middle a smudge of glowing fire that corresponds with the Orion Nebula. This is a significant clue to support the idea that the Maya detected a diffuse area of the sky contrary to the pin points of stars before the telescope was invented. Many preclassic sites are oriented with the Pleiades and Eta Draconis, as seen in La Blanca, Ujuxte, Monte Alto, and Takalik Abaj. HP Compaq HSTNN-MB05 Battery
The Maya were very interested in zenial passages, the time when the sun passes directly overhead. The latitude of most of their cities being below the Tropic of Cancer, these zenial passages would occur twice a year equidistant from the solstice. To represent this position of the sun overhead, the Maya had a god namedDiving God. HP Compaq HSTNN-OB06 Battery
The Dresden Codex contains the highest concentration of astronomical phenomena observations and calculations of any of the surviving texts (it appears that the data in this codex is primarily or exclusively of an astronomical nature). Examination and analysis of this codex reveals that Venus was the most important astronomical object to the Maya, even more important to them than the sun. HP Compaq HSTNN-OB52 Battery
In common with the other Mesoamerican civilizations, the Maya had measured the length of the solar year to a high degree of accuracy, far more accurately than that used in Europe as the basis of the Gregorian calendar. They did not use this figure for the length of year in their calendars, however; HP Compaq HSTNN-OB62 Battery
the calendars they used were crude, being based on a year length of exactly 365 days, which means that the calendar falls out of step with the seasons by one day every four years. By comparison, the Julian calendar, used in Europe from Roman times until about the 16th Century, accumulated an error of only one day every 128 years. HP Compaq HSTNN-UB05 Battery
The modern Gregorian calendar is even more accurate, accumulating only a day's error in approximately 3257 years.Like the Aztec and Inca who came to power later, the Maya believed in a cyclical nature of time. The rituals and ceremonies were very closely associated with celestial and terrestrial cycles which they observed and inscribed as separate calendars. HP Compaq HSTNN-UB11 Battery
The Maya priest had the job of interpreting these cycles and giving a prophetic outlook on the future or past based on the number relations of all their calendars. They also had to determine if the heavens were propitious for performing certain religious ceremonies.
The Maya practiced human sacrifice. HP Compaq HSTNN-UB18 Battery
In some Maya rituals people were killed by having their arms and legs held while a priest cut the person's chest open and tore out his heart as an offering. This is depicted on ancient objects such as pictorial texts, known as codices.Much of the Maya religious tradition is still not understood by scholars, but it is known that the Maya believed that the cosmoshad three major planes, the Earth, the underworld beneath and the heavens above. HP Compaq HSTNN-UB68 Battery
The Maya underworld is reached through caves and deep tunnels. It was thought to be dominated by the aged Maya gods of death andputrefaction. The Sun (Kinich Ahau) and Itzamna, an aged god, dominated the Maya idea of the sky. Another aged man, god L, was one of the major deities of the underworld. HP Compaq HSTNN-UB69 Battery
The night sky was considered a window showing all supernatural doings. The Maya configured constellations of gods and places, saw the unfolding of narratives in their seasonal movements, and believed that the intersection of all possible worlds was in the night sky
Maya gods had affinities and aspects that caused them to merge with one another in ways that seem unbounded. HP Compaq HSTNN-W42C Battery
There is a massive array of supernatural characters in the Maya religious tradition, only some of which recur with regularity. Good and evil traits are not permanent characteristics of Maya gods, nor is only "good" admirable. What is inappropriate during one season might come to pass in another since much of the Maya religious tradition is based on cycles and not permanence. HP Compaq HSTNN-W42C-A Battery
The life-cycle of maize lies at the heart of Maya belief. This philosophy is demonstrated on the belief in the Maya maize god as a central religious figure. The Maya bodily ideal is also based on the form of this young deity, which is demonstrated in their artwork. The Maize God was also a model of courtly life for the Classical Maya. HP Compaq HSTNN-W42C-B Battery
In the 19th century, Maya culture influenced the local forms of Christianity followed in Chan Santa Cruz.
Among the K'iche' in the western highlands of Guatemala the same traditions are used to this day, in the training of the ajk'ij, the keeper of the 260-day-calendar called ch'olk'ij.
The ancient Maya had diverse and sophisticated methods of food production. HP Compaq HSTNN-XB0E Battery
It was formerly believed that shifting cultivation (swidden) agriculture provided most of their food but it is now thought that permanent raised fields, terracing, forest gardens, managed fallows, and wild harvesting were also crucial to supporting the large populations of the Classic period in some areas. Indeed, evidence of these different agricultural systems persist today: HP Compaq HSTNN-XB11 Battery
raised fields connected by canals can be seen on aerial photographs, contemporary rainforest species composition has significantly higher abundance of species of economic value to ancient Maya, and pollen records in lake sediments suggest that corn, manioc, sunflower seeds, cotton, and other crops have been cultivated in association with the deforestation in Mesoamerica since at least 2500 BC. HP Compaq HSTNN-XB18 Battery
Contemporary Maya peoples still practice many of these traditional forms of agriculture, although they are dynamic systems and change with changing population pressures, cultures, economic systems, climate change, and the availability of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. HP Compaq HSTNN-XB21 Battery
Spanish clergy and administrators dating to the 16th century were largely familiar with ancient Maya sites, writing and calendar systems. Published writings of 16th century Bishop Diego de Landa and writings of 18th century Spanish officials spurred serious investigations of Maya sites by the late 18th century. HP Compaq HSTNN-XB24 Battery
In 1839 United States traveler and writer John Lloyd Stephens, familiar with earlier Spanish investigations, visited Copán, Palenque, and other sites with English architect and draftsman Frederick Catherwood. Their illustrated accounts of the ruins sparked strong popular interest in the region and the people, and they have once again regained their position as a vital link in Mesoamerican heritage. HP Compaq HSTNN-XB28 Battery
However, in many locations, Maya ruins have been overgrown by the jungle, becoming dense enough to hide structures just a few meters away. To help find ruins, researchers have turned to satellite imagery. The best way to find them is to look at the visible and near-infrared spectra. HP Compaq HSTNN-XB51 Battery
Due to their limestone construction, the monuments affected the chemical makeup of the soil as they deteriorated. Some moisture-loving plants stayed away, while others were killed off or discolored. The effects of the limestone ruins are still apparent today to some satellite sensors. HP Compaq HSTNN-XB52 Battery
Much of the contemporary rural population of the Yucatán Peninsula, Chiapas (both in Mexico), Guatemala and Belize is Maya by descent and primary language. HP Compaq HSTNN-XB59 Battery,HP Compaq HSTNN-XB61 Battery,HP Compaq HSTNN-XB62 Battery