The Mayans are peoples that lived between 1800 B.C. and 900 A.D. Their successors live in today’s Central America, the United States, and Mexico. Mayan people had a distinct culture and they are widely known for their architecture. This paper presents a brief history of the Maya and discusses their artistic contributions, values, religion, and gender roles. The report argues that the Mayans represent a significant part of the world’s cultural heritage.
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The Maya are indigenous peoples that lived in Mesoamerica, the historical region that is located in today’s Central America and Mexico. The “Maya” is a collective name for the peoples of the area that refers to several populations and ethnic groups that had distinct linguistic and cultural differences. Early Maya cities are dated around 1800 B.C. and the civilization reached its peak around the sixth century A.D. (Jarus, 2017). The majority of Mayan cities were abandoned by 900 A.D. (“Maya,” 2018). The earliest Maya were agricultural populations. They are also known for the construction of cities and pyramids, as well as inscriptions on stone monuments, including Mayan calendar.
The Maya in the US
Mayan Americans represent the Maya culture in the United States, most of whom come from Mexican regions and Guatemala. Mayan languages are present in America, too. For example, Mam and Quiché are the most spoken languages of the country’s immigrant population (Carcamo, 2016). Mayan Americans are mostly found in the South, Southeast, and Southwest of the United States. Some of them experience language barriers and discrimination because of their cultural distinction.
Collectivism in Mayan Culture
Mayan culture can be considered collectivistic, as the Maya emphasized the needs of the group over individuals’ ones. For example, the agricultural process was a collective effort, and families worked together to collect harvested items (Grahame, 2018). In addition, human and animal sacrifices were common to avoid gods’ punishment for the Maya population (Jarus, 2017). Guatemala, the region where many Mayan people lived, remains collectivistic to this day.
Some of the most significant and well-known architectural contributions of the Maya are ancient Maya temples, such as Mundo Perdido in Tikal, Guatemala or Chichén Itzá in Yucatán, Mexico. In this temple, Mayans performed rituals and religious ceremonies (Minster, 2019). Mayan art is a significant part of its artistic contribution too. The Maya are known for stone sculptures, stucco modeling, and woodcarvings. The famous examples of Mayan art include Altar Q and the Princeton Vase, which can be considered a key piece of the world’s pre-Colombian collection of art.
It is possible to say that Mayan values included a belief in gods, a commitment to doing good, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The Maya were religious people and serving to gods was one of their primary activities, which will be discussed in detail below. They wanted to do good and sought gods’ approval by making sacrifices and performing rituals on special occasions, for instance, when a new ruler was selected. Finally, they valued health, as they tried to enhance the nutritional value of their food and used the nixtamalization process (Jarus, 2017).
The Maya people were highly religious, although their religion did not have a particular name. The Mayans worshiped gods that represented nature, for instance, the gods of the moon and the rain. Mayan kings were named “kuhul ajaw” (holy lords) and they were believed to be related to gods (“Maya,” 2018). They performed religious ceremonies serving as mediators between the Mayan gods and their worshipers. The planet Venus played a significant role in Maya religion, too, as the Mayans had rituals related to its phases (Jarus, 2017).
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Gender Role Differences
Gender boundaries and traditional gender roles were present in Mayan society. Women were responsible for domestic duties, such as taking care of children and household animals, and preparing food, while men were not engaged in these activities (Grahame, 2018). Hunting was a male occupation; Mayan boys were expected to learn the necessary skills from a young age. Women, at the same time, held a role of helping men to prepare for battles. For this purpose, they were even engaged in bloodletting as a measure of sacrifice to gods for their husbands (Grahame, 2018). According to these traditional gender roles, rules were generally male; however, rare exceptions existed. Women from royal circles, such as rulers’ wives and mothers, could affect governmental decisions.
Acculturating into the Mayan Culture
To acculturate into the Mayan culture, one would need to learn more about the gods the Maya worshiped, including Itzamna, Ek Chuaj, and Zipacna. It would be necessary for engaging in their daily activities, prayers, and ceremonies. Moreover, learning a language of the Mayan ethnic group would be necessary too, as each of them had a distinct dialect, without which it would be hard to communicate with the local population.
The paper shows that the Maya were part of the world’s cultural heritage. They had distinct cultural and linguistic features, as well as made significant architectural and artistic contributions. The Mayan people are notable for their religious commitment too. Mayan Americans, as well as the Maya’s successors from Central America and Mexico, share features of their ancestors and represent a valuable group of the world’s population.
Carcamo, C. (2016). Ancient Mayan languages are creating problems for today’s immigration courts. Web.
Grahame, A. (2018). The roles of men and women in the Maya tribe. Web.
Jarus, O. (2017). The Maya: History, culture & religion. Web.
Maya. (2018). Web.
Minster, C. (2019). Ancient Maya architecture. Web.