Anthropology 2100 Lecture Notes - Imperial Cult, Linda Schele, Epigraphy

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Published on 11 Mar 2013
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March, 11, 2013
The Maya and the Aztecs
The Maya:
-The Maya occupied about 324,000 square km in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras
-It was a varied landscape with lowland jungles on a limestone shelf in an area that is flat, hot and humid, and with
few rivers, to mountainous uplands that were productive agriculturally because of the rich soils
-The Maya were made up of about 40 independent states that were never highly urbanized but population
densities were very high around ceremonial centres which formed the core of their cities
-There was an indigenous development in both the lowlands and the uplands
The Preclassic Maya 1000BC 250 AD:
Nakbe - 600 and 400 BC:
-It had stone buildings on platform mounds and a “royal compound” with buildings up to 45 m tall
-There were carved stone stelae and they made plaster masks on pyramids and this would have required
coordination of a large labour force and there was the emergence of a religious elite
El Mirador 550BC-150AD:
-The site covers 16 square km with a core area of 2 sq. km with two groups of stone pyramids, plazas, platforms,
and causeways
-The Tigre Pyramid there is 55 m high and recent investigations have been conducted by Richard Hansen from
Idaho State and it is a major multi-disciplinary study and he believes the 45 mapped sites in the Mirador basin
formed the earliest state in Mesoamerica
-The La Danta Pyramid is 70 m tall with a volume of 2.8 million cubic metres and it is one of the largest ancient
structures in the world
Cerros - 50 BC - AD 100:
-The area developed a large ceremonial centre and temples were built on flat topped pyramids and glyphs show
ritual bloodlettings and sacrifices and sacred kingship had developed by 50 BC
The Classic Maya 250AD 900AD:
-Archaeologists once thought settlement patterns involved small hamlets clustered around ceremonial centres but
they did not investigate many hamlets or commoner sites
-Recent surveys show very high population densities around ceremonial centres like Tikal, Uxmal, Palenque,
Calakmul and Copan demonstrating that they were cities
Maya Economy:
-Initially they were slash and burn farmers of maize, beans, squash, peppers, and cacao and they intensified
agricultural production as population grew
-They constructed raised fields in swamps, irrigation canals, reservoirs, and terraced slopes and they harvested
small fish from irrigation channels created around the raised fields
-There was trade in salt, obsidian, cacao, and feathers and the overland trade was done using human porters and
sea trade using large canoes with cocoa beans sometimes used as currency
Marco Gonzales Site, Belize - 100 BC 1200 AD:
-It was a coastal trading site located on the southern tip of Ambergris Caye and it covered 7.5 acres with 49
structures mapped and a population of an estimated 20,000 people
-There is evidence for extensive conch harvesting (shell mounds), salt making, and trade links to Lamanai
Caracol - Caana (Sky Place):
-It is the largest Maya structure in Belize and there are three smaller temples built on top of it
-There is a ball court there and an altar stone within it
Chocolate:
-There has been cacao residue identified at the Preclassic Maya site of Colha (dated to 600 BC) and chemical
analysis has found the residues in ceremonial “teapots”
-Mayan hot chocolate was thick, foamy, and spicy because it was flavoured with chillies, vanilla and hallucinogenic
mushrooms and it was the “food of the gods”
Classic Maya Cities:
-Tikal, Uxmal, Palenque, Calakmul, and Copan all have impressive public architecture in the form of temples,
pyramids, platform mounds, palaces, and carved stelae
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Document Summary

The maya occupied about 324,000 square km in southern mexico, guatemala, belize and honduras. It was a varied landscape with lowland jungles on a limestone shelf in an area that is flat, hot and humid, and with few rivers, to mountainous uplands that were productive agriculturally because of the rich soils. The maya were made up of about 40 independent states that were never highly urbanized but population densities were very high around ceremonial centres which formed the core of their cities. There was an indigenous development in both the lowlands and the uplands. The preclassic maya 1000bc 250 ad: It had stone buildings on platform mounds and a royal compound with buildings up to 45 m tall. There were carved stone stelae and they made plaster masks on pyramids and this would have required coordination of a large labour force and there was the emergence of a religious elite.

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