Sample Essay on Medieval Mayan Civilization

Medieval Mayan Civilization


The medieval Maya was the Mesoamerican civilization established by the Maya people. The Maya civilization was well-known for the hieroglyphic scripts it developed that subsequently became the commonly known and established writing system during the pre-Colombian times. The Maya people are also famous for their art, mathematics, architecture, astronomical system, and calendar.[1] Primarily, the Maya civilization occurred in the regions that included the present day southeastern Mexico, entire Belize and Guatemala, and western areas of El Salvador and Honduras. Precisely, these areas consisted of the lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula, Sierra Madre highlands that run from the Mexican state called Chiapas, lowlands of the Pacific littoral plains, and across the southern areas of El Salvador and Guatemala. Many achievements can be pointed from the medieval Maya civilization that would drastically change the shape of the world.

Medieval Mayan Civilization

Firstly, the Maya developed early forms of agriculture, and the growing population primarily fueled this. The expanding community in the Maya region needed enough food for eating. Thus, cultivation of crops became necessary. The Archaic period, particularly around 2000 BC, has pointed to establishment of farming as well as development of earliest villages in the Mayan region. The Maya-controlled areas had refined forms of food production at that time, and the communities mostly cultivated staple foods such as maize, squashes, bean, as well as chili peppers. Similarly, wax, as well as honey production, occurred in Mayan society. Hence, advancement in food production through established agricultures is one of those unique things that the Mayan people were able to do.

Secondly, the Mayans developed a complex writing system and even constructed large urban centers for their people. The first Maya cities are thought to be developed between 700 BC and 450 BC. These towns and cities erected monumental pieces of architecture that encompassed massive temples with intricate stucco façades.[2] In fact, of all the Mesoamerican developments, the Maya building style has become highly recognized because of its large step pyramids. The latter were constructed for honoring Mayan gods as well as their past leaders whose images were predominantly found deep within the buildings. Other essential constructions of the Maya were usually associated with religion, observatories, administration, or even high influential citizens. Therefore, understanding these early forms of architecture gives insight into the ways and customs of the medieval Maya civilization.

Thirdly, the Mayans were also keen on keeping records or even track of the main activities they were involved in. The vast number of administration buildings, invention of the calendar and records carved on the stone stelae present some of the evidence of a wholly organized society. This also aids in deciphering the signs of the people that lived in those regions, interpretation of who they worshipped, significance of respect through bloodletting, their ways of communication and culture. Nonetheless, many historical records of the Maya people disappeared during the Spanish rule when the colonists burned Mayan books and files. The books could have offered insights into the Mayan culture as well as necessary information needed to decipher their hieroglyphs.

In addition, the Mayans practiced trade that formed a vital part of their society as well as helped in establishment of their civilization. The cities that appeared in the Maya region turned out to be vital since they controlled the access to valuable goods and even portage routes. Precisely, the cities such as Q’umarkaj and Kaminaljuyu found in Guatemala or Chalchuapa in El Salvador regulated sources of obsidian at various phases of the medieval Mayan history[3]. The ancient Maya were involved in different long-distance trades all over their territories as well as across the larger Mesoamerican region and beyond. All these trading activities are another sign of Mayan prosperity. Trade was of tremendous benefit to the Maya since they were able to acquired some of the items they lacked but critical for their daily needs. Some of building materials, such as limestone and flint, could be obtained only through trade while others, such as cement and lime stucco, were readily available.


The evidence of the medieval Maya civilization shows how far it advanced. As a society, the Maya had vast knowledge about agriculture and used land to their benefit. Their cultivation of staple crops such as maize, beans, and squashes helped their growing population to stay safe from hunger. Mining of precious rocks and materials such as limestone were used in trade and construction of various buildings. Moreover, the Maya people were sufficiently skilled in record keeping. Their society was able to construct on the Olmec civilization and even design their innovative calendar system, astronomy, as well as hieroglyphic writing. Even though it may appear farfetched, the Maya had substantial influence on current calendars as well as construal of astronomy as a science. In fact, Mayan innovations are still used and even form part of contemporary education.

Works Cited

Demarest, Arthur. Ancient Maya: the rise and fall of a rainforest civilization. Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Haug, Gerald H., et al. “Climate and the collapse of Maya civilization.” Science, vol. 299, 2003, pp. 1731-1735.


[1]Demarest, Arthur. Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization. Cambridge University Press, 2004.

[2]Haug, Gerald H., et al. “Climate and the Collapse of Maya Civilization.” Science, vol. 299, 2003, pp. 1731-1735.

[3]Haug, Gerald H., et al. “Climate and the Collapse of Maya Civilization.” Science, vol. 299, 2003, pp. 1731-1735.