Cozumel and Tulum: The Red Handprints of the Maya

Red handprints can be found on the walls of a number of Maya sites and are associated with the creator god Itzamna. Introduction The Maya sites of San Gervasio (on the island of Cozumel) and Tulum (on the mainland of Mexico in Quintana Roo) are often overlooked for the better-known Chichen Itza or other spectacular[…]

A Brief History of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas

Some indigenous peoples of the Americas supported agriculturally advanced societies for thousands of years. Introduction The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Americas, their descendants, and many ethnic groups who identify with those peoples. They are often also referred to as “Native Americans” or “American Indians,” although such terms are[…]

Mayan Mesoamerican Culture and Civilization

Introduction The Maya civilization is a Mesoamerican culture, noted for having the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its spectacular art, monumental architecture, and sophisticated mathematical and astronomical systems. Unfortunately, a public fascination with the morbid has meant that for many people in Europe and the Americas[…]

The Late Mayan Classical Center of Yaxchilan

By Mark CartwrightHistorian Yaxchilan, located on the banks of the Usumacinta River in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico, was an important Late Classic Maya centre. The Maya dated the founding of their city to 320 CE, but Yaxchilan flourished between c. 580 and c. 800 CE, benefitting from commerce via the Usumacinta River and trading[…]

The Mayan Civilization’s Mysterious Collapse: Human Skull Trophies and Regional Conflicts

Archaeologists interested in what the skull trophies may tell about a tumultuous time of shifting political power. Introduction Two trophy skulls, recently discovered by archaeologists in the jungles of Belize, may help shed light on the little-understood collapse of the once powerful Classic Maya civilization. The defleshed and painted human skulls, meant to be worn around[…]

How the Classic Maya Coped with Changing Climate Conditions

Many people think climate change caused Classic Maya civilization to collapse abruptly around 900 A.D. An archaeologist says that view is too simplistic and misses the bigger point. Carbon dioxide concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere have reached 415 parts per million – a level that last occurred more than three million years ago, long before the evolution of[…]

A Rock, a Human, a Tree: All Were Persons to the Classic Maya

While the social category of ‘persons’ is found in multiple cultural contexts, who or what is recognized as a person can differ. For the Maya of the Classic period, who lived in southern Mexico and Central America between 250 and 900 CE, the category of ‘persons’ was not coincident with human beings, as it is[…]

Ancient Cosmologies: Understanding Ancient Skywatchers, Mayas, and their Worldviews

Since the beginning of humankind, the fascination with the celestial vault has been regarded as an important element in human life, their future, and history. Overview Ancient and pre-modern worldviews of the cosmos originated in practical lifeworld structures and experiences and therefore cannot be analyzed in the same manner as modern cosmologies are. Being embedded[…]

Maximón, a Maya Saint in Sunglasses

Life-size effigies of the saint are distributed throughout the highlands. By Dr. Kathleen McCampbellArchaeologist He sits among gifts of flowers, bread, alcohol, and smoke. He hears pleas for wealth, safety, and luck, and is adored, feared, and hated. He is San Simón, Maximón, Rilaj Mam, Judas, El Tata. A caudillo, cultural ancestor, soldier, and folk saint,[…]

Women’s Voices in a Male World: Actions, Bodies, and Spaces among the Ancient Maya

A greater focus on female activities such as food processing and weaving can provide valuable information on macro-scale social dynamics. Abstract Feminist archaeology has prompted scholars to reconsider gender roles in ancient Mesoamerica.Current research, however, tends to focus on elite women, classes and sites. Although I do not ignore the potential of these sources, in[…]

Investigations into Ancient Maya Domestic and Ritual Activities

Gaining an understanding of the particular social processes involved in the transitional Terminal Classic period in this area of the Maya world. Introduction A fifth season of excavations was conducted between June and September 2005 at the ancient Maya site of Pook’s Hill, Belize (Helmke 2006a). The excavations were conducted as part of the Belize[…]

Texting in Ancient Mayan Hieroglyphs

Because Mayan hieroglyphs have yet to be encoded, the ancient Mayan emperor K’inich Janaab’ Pakal would have to stick to emoji—but that’s about to change. If King Tut were around today, could he send a text in Egyptian hieroglyphics? Yes, with the right font and keyboard. That’s because the writing system of the pharaohs has[…]

How Climate Change Put a Damper on the Maya Civilization

Thousands of years before their collapse, severely soggy conditions lasting for many centuries likely inhibited the civilization’s development. By Olivia Trani More than 4,000 years ago, when the Great Pyramid of Giza and Stonehenge were being built, the Maya civilisation emerged in Central America. The indigenous group prospered for thousands of years until its fall[…]

The Grolier Codex: What the Oldest Manuscript to Survive Spanish Conquest Reveals

Extensive trade networks connected the Maya to the rest of Mesoamerica, producing the dynamic landscapes and bustling ports reported in early Spanish accounts. The Maya were, at their height, one of the world’s great civilisations. In the “classic” period, from AD 250–900, Maya cities with monumental architecture and huge populations spread across a large area[…]

The Maya Civilization: What’s Geography Got to Do With It?

The Maya Civilisation can be traced as far back as 2000 BCE. Introduction Geology is not just about looking at rocks. From finding oil and gas and tackling climate change to manufacturing, archaeology or geopolitics, geoscientists appear in most spheres of today’s world and economy, albeit often behind the scenes. In a new series of[…]