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The Maya Civilization, Part 2

The people of the Maya civilization were hard workers. They must have been to have
built the cities in which they lived. Each city-state had its own beauty. Each city-state
had its own problems.

The Mayas lived in a large area. The northern boundary was roughly the Yucatan
Peninsula. This is the piece of land that sticks out into the Gulf of Mexico like a
thumb on Mexico's northeast coast. The southern boundary lies near modern day
Guatemala. In this area you would find mountains, rain forests, and flat lands. The
people had to learn to live in their differing regions.

The forests contained many fierce animals. Jaguars, crocodiles, and poisonous snakes
were dangerous enemies of anyone or anything in their way. The Mayas hunted for turkey, rabbits, and rodents in
the forests. They were good sources of food. Monkeys and colorful birds could be found in the rain forests.

Farmers in the flat areas grew maize (corn), squash, beans, chili peppers, and cacao. They grew cotton which was
used to make cloth. They grew sisal which was used to make rugs and rope. Crops couldn't grow in the mountains
or highlands. In these areas, Mayas found obsidian, jade, cinnabar, and hematite that were used in trade. The
metals were brought from the highlands to the lowlands and transported on the many rivers. Some of the lowlands
received as much as 160 inches of rain a year. That kept the rivers full and flowing.

Each Mayan city-state had its own ruler. At the death of one ruler, his son became the next ruler. When a son was
born to a sitting ruler, the ruler was required to draw blood from his own body and offer it to the gods. The son
could not become the next ruler until he had captured an enemy. The captive was held until it was time for the new
ruler to take his place as ruler. At that time, the captive was killed as a sacrifice. It is believed that this was done to
assure that the gods would keep the universe going.

The Mayas presented two gifts to the world which have withstood time. They developed their own form of
writing. This writing consisted of words and pictures. Hieroglyphs were symbols which stood for an entire word or
a sound found in a word. These symbols often contained pictures which help to show action or help the reader to
understand what was being said. Examples of Mayan writing can be seen today on the walls of buildings which
have survived. Books written by the Mayas were destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors. Only four such Mayan
books have survived until today. The second gift the Mayas created was a calendar. Much of today's calendar is
based on what was developed by the Maya.

Art was important to the Mayan cities. The art came in different forms. Statues and small figurines were fashioned
by artists. Pictures showing the lives of the people and their beliefs adorn the walls of monuments and temples.
Clothing also became an art form. Peasants became skilled at decorating cloth in their weaving. They also used
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thread to sew designs onto the cloth. The color and shape of the garment helps archaeologists in deciding where the
garment came from. Rulers used art to show their importance. They required artists in their city-state to create
tributes to them that would last. They wanted future generations to know just how important they were.

Perhaps we will never know just what caused the Mayan people to abandon their elaborate homes. We are able to
enjoy the fruits of their labor by visiting the ruins at Palenque and Tikal. These natives had no metal tools to work
with, yet they fashioned a lasting tribute to their lifestyle which has endured for centuries.

The Maya Civilization, Part 2

Questions
1. Each Mayan city-state had its own ruler.
A. true
B. false

2. How would you describe Mayan writing?

3. Which of these did the Mayan people invent?


A. calendars
B. gods
C. roads
D. pyramids

4. How did someone become ruler of a Mayan city-state?

5. What might you find in a Mayan rain forest?


A. wolves
B. monkeys
C. tigers
D. lions

6. Who or what destroyed all Mayan books?


A. the ruler
B. the Spanish
C. wild animals
D. a hurricane
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7. How did the Mayans transport trade items?


A. by horse
B. by foot
C. on the rivers
D. by wagon

8. What is the "thumb" on Mexico's east coast called?


A. the Belt of the Maya
B. the Yucatan Peninsula
C. Tikal
D. the Gulf of Mexico
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How many of these can you write about? Think! Write! Check all the ones you answered.
What would the life of a Maya be like? Were they friendly?

What did the Mayas invent that is still used today? What would you like to invent that would last for
centuries?

Don't stop writing. Use a blank piece of paper to continue.