Introduction to Mayan Kids

Today the Maya homeland is being studied by archaeologists. They unearth buildings to reconstruct local cultures. They date and compare artifacts to determine where the Maya traded and what their daily lives were like.

They work with botanists, who study ancient pollen to detect changes in the climate and environment, and art historians who examine art and architecture.

Epigraphers decipher hieroglyphs to recover the history and stories from the Mayas. Just 30 years ago, a team of scientists figured out that the Maya clearly used complex sentence structure. Before then scientists thought the glyphs (the pictures that stand for words) were lists of dates and heroic feats. The Maya wrote stories that used plays on words and other language techniques. Led by expert scientists, hundreds of students continue to solve the mysteries. They work in thatched huts and work under the direction of Maya archaeologists.

Popular Maya Weaving Pattern

Temple V — Tikal

Tikal was a major city of the Maya. At least 10,000 people lived within its six square miles.

The maps show  3000  temples, palaces, shrines, ceremonial platforms, residences, ball courts, terraces and plazas.

Tikal is located in the middle of Tikal National Park, a wildlife preserve covering 222 square miles and the first park of its kind in Central America.

The park is a magnificent jungle and wildlife preserve. Some of the rainforest trees that grow in the park are Spanish cedar, ceiba, a tree sacred to the Maya, zapotes,  mahogany and  chicle, which is an ingredient in chewing gum.

Living among the ruins are groups of spider monkeys, hundreds of  species of birds, including hawks, hummingbirds, parrots, and golden turkeys. Nearby are jaguar, puma, ocelot, pecarry, small deer, and many other animals, some of which are endangered.

In the main ceremonial area there are 200 stone monuments, known as stelae. Stelae were elaborately carved with glyphs, a form of writing, and other images.

Temple V, originally uploaded by drlopezfranco.

Juego de Pelota

Juego de Pelota, originally uploaded by Aleksu.

Ball Court in Chichen Itza.


Palenque, originally uploaded by Mexicanwave.

Pyramid of the Magician – Uxmal

The temple at the top section has a doorway in the form of a Chac mask. This pyramid is the tallest in Uxmal, but it is also known as the House of the Dwarf (Casa del Enano) because of an ancient legend stating that it was built overnight by an enchanted dwarf who then became the city’s ruler.

At the tourist entrance to the central area is the Pyramid of the Magician, (shown at right) The pyramid is 90 feet tall and built in three sections. Also on the terrace near the Governor’s Palace, is the House of the Turtles, a smaller building taking its name from its wall sculptures of turtles. The Great Pyramid measures 260 feet on each side.

The site of Uxmal is a dry grass area, but the surrounding region is heavily forested. Water was furnished by cenotes (wells formed by sinkholes in limestone) within the city or by rain-collecting pools nearby.
Rainfall and the supply of water were a constant activity for the people who lived there. They often asked Chac (the rain God) to help them. They honored Chac with hieroglyphs and with human sacrifices. Hieroglyphs reveal that an Uxmal ruler took the name “Lord Chac” about 900.

pyramid of the magician, originally uploaded by shapeshift.

Palenque, Chiapas

In a dense rain forest, Palenque covers 15 square miles. The buildings are against a hill. The city was visible from a great distance so that the Maya could find their way back after a journey in the dense forest.

Palenque features many decorative designs not found anywhere else. Some of them seem almost Chinese, which makes one wonder if there was contact with East Asia. This is very unlikely, but the similarity is strange.

So far, only 34 out of 500 ruins have been excavated. But the studies have revealed a lot about ancient Mayan culture.

The Temple of Inscriptions is perhaps the most interesting pyramid. It is the tallest, and has the crypt (coffin) of Pa Kal, a Mayan priest.

Archeologists took out many fine objects which have been taken to other museums for display and study. The most famous piece, Pa Kal’s jade mosaic death mask, has been stolen from the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

Palenque, Chiapas, originally uploaded by carloco2007.

Louvre – A Modern Pyramid

Louvre, originally uploaded by J.Salmoral.

Modern Pyramid

Wall of Skulls (Tzompantli), Chichen Itza

A tzompantli is a type of wooden rack or palisade documented in several Mesoamerican civilizations, which was used for the public display of human skulls, typically those of war captives or other sacrificial victims.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Nunnery, Chichen Itza