Peoples of Mexico: The Mayas
Learn about the culture, religions, and written language of the Mayan people.
- Grades: 3–5
The Mayas were the first people in the Americas to have written language. It consisted of picture symbols called "hieroglyphs" (also called glyphs). Hieroglyphs were put in books to record historic events, instructions for planting crops, or how and when to perform ceremonies. They were also carved in stones called "stela." These tall stone statues were carved with an image of a person in the central portion. Hieroglyphic markings on the sides told of events in the person's life. The Mayas also painted beautiful wall murals.
These peace-loving people wore tattoos as symbols of importance. They created elaborate jewelry to wear as bracelets and pendants on the ears, lips, and nostrils. Babies' heads were wrapped to flatten their foreheads, something the Mayas thought of as beautiful. Important people carried feather fans; the bigger the fan, the more important the person was.
Mayas were accomplished scientists. They tracked the planets and knew a lot about astronomy. They developed three types of calendars for agriculture, religion, and one called Long Count that marked all dates.
Religion played a big part in the lives of the Mayas. Rituals and celebrations brought a sense of enjoyment to everyday tasks. There were many gods who were worshipped and who protected the people. The people were reverent toward animals.