Maya Civilization and their Contribution to Literature and Calendar

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The Maya go down in history as the people of America with the longest recognizable history. This is due to the fact that their social traditions, physical traits, and original languages have withstood time and civilization's challenges. The Mayan civilization is one of the oldest American civilizations, having progressed to become the most advanced in the region. Geographically, the Maya settled in what is now eastern and southern Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, western Honduras, and Belize. Their settlement areas had unique characteristics such as massive stone pyramids, sculptures, and temples which are considered to be the homes of great and complex achievements in areas like mathematics and astronomy. Most of these achievements are recorded in hieroglyphs. This paper looks into the civilization of the Maya based on the contributions they made in literature and the calendar.

Maya Civilization

Maya civilization is divided into the formative, pre-classic and the classic periods. The Pre-classic period saw the Mayans strengthen their levels of modern civilization based on the fact that they saw massive developments in their social, cultural and religious lives which led to a strengthened society. Early Mayans practiced agriculture. They used crude instruments like sticks to dig their farms but later transformed to adopt advanced techniques. Since their main source of life was farming, the Mayans took their worship to agricultural gods like the corn god and rain god (History). This made them develop the belief that they are the gods who controlled their day to day activities and made sacrifices to win their favors. Some of the greatest contributions of this period included astronomical calculations based on the movements of the sun, moon and stars, the almanacs and architecture.

Classic Maya civilization was characterized with great complexities based on the fact that there was a population bulge. This led to an increment in the number of centers in highland areas and the extents to which the inhabitants of the lowland areas cooperated and competed with one another (History). During this period, trade and warfare were greatly embraced as instruments of cultural growth and development. As a result, the levels of societal complexity increased, leading to a rise in social classes.

In the classic period, kings performed similar roles as priests and directed the inhabitants of the lowland regions to develop. This led to the rise of jungle cities which were filled with huge stone and masonry palace complexes and temples. Warfare in this period was limited and performed for ceremonial reasons. The rulers captured and sacrificed each other for [political and ritual reasons. Most of the destructions in this period were carried out by rulers with directives from temples in ceremonial precincts. However, the center in lowland areas took the form of true cities whose massive population consisted of the commoners with the responsibility of sustaining the ruling elites by paying tribute in the form of labor and goods.

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Contributions of Maya Civilization to Literature and Calendar

Contributions to literature

The contributions of Mayans to literature are enshrined in their mythologies which were based on their traditions and religious stands. Mayan mythology bears a lot of fascination. This is despite the fact that most of these works of literature were destroyed by the Spanish invaders and Christian conquerors. The legend of Aluxes, the legend of Xtabay, the love story of Sac-Nicte and Canek and the Legend of the Uxmal dwarf go to record as some of the greatest contributions of Mayan civilization in literature (Richards, 1999).

Mayan mythologies attribute a lot of strength to small things. For instance, in the legend of aluxes, the aluxes are small beings made from clay and considered as sources of protection. Even today, the aluxes still find applications in Mayan homes and towns like Valladolid. The legend of Xtabay portrays the evil and good that come from two sisters of contrasting morals. Such legendary stories went a long way in strengthening Mayan literature which is adored to date.

Contributions to the calendar

A part from their mechanical skills, achievements in mathematics and astronomy, Mayans made significant accomplishments in coming up with dates. For instance, they used their intellectual states to come up with interlocking calendars which were vital in scheduling ceremonies (History). These people successfully came up with complicated hieroglyphic systems of writing to enable them keep records of calendric calculations and astronomical observations.


In conclusion, the Maya civilization saw massive developments to become one of the most advanced in the Americas. With their strong religious belief, Mayans made significant steps in literature and the calendar. The love for complex astronomical pursuits and cultural development explains their rich literature.

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Work Cited

History, W. History of the Maya. The Maya then and now. Historyworld 1 (2017).

Richards, Edward Graham. "Mapping time. The calendar and its history." Mapping time. The calendar and its history., by Richards, EG. Oxford University Press, Oxford (UK), 1999, XXI+ 438 p., ISBN 0-19-286205-7, Price£ 8.99. (1999).

August 18, 2021

Art History


Mesopotamia Mesoamerica

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