much more attention to such family compounds in order to get a more complete picture of Maya life at that time. Dynasties come and go, political alliances with other city-states are made or unmade, and wars rage and result sometimes in the sacrifice of a king. Over many centuries, the Maya farmer's life continued pretty much the same through it all.
A meal served in such a bowl might have included maize (corn), beans, squash, avocados, chili peppers, pineapples, and papayas. Of all of these, maize was undoubtedly the most important. Maize had its own god and various mythologies associated with it. In addition, being a farming people, gods of rain were very important to Maya farmers.
chocolate, made from the cacao bean, hot chiles, and water. Archaeologists found an ancient Maya pot 2600 years old with chocolate residue, the oldest on record. Another possibility is atole, a drink made from ground maize and water. Women were often the potters, making objects like this from coiled strands of clay.
Weapons and Tools:
Sellos (stamps or seals) were used to decorate the surface of pottery, cloth, and to make temporary tattoos. Using a sello, the craftsman (or woman) could create a repeating design around a pot rim, for example. The museum contained many examples of sellos, some representing animals, or humans, and some abstract. The Maya never made the jump from sellos as tools for decoration to using them as moveable type to create books. That leap didn't occur in human history until Johannes Gutenberg created moveable type and the printing press in 1439 AD, not long before Columbus discovered the New World.
The Maya valued jade above gold. Harder than steel, it is very difficult to carve without metal tools, of which the Maya possessed none. Nevertheless, they were able to create graceful pieces like those shown above. Some of the uses they found for jade, in addition to personal adornment, were for currency, tomb offerings, and treatment for kidney problems.
La Joyanca in the lowland area of Petén. La Joyanca was only recently discovered by archaeologists in 1994 and was immediately recognized as an important site. It is now believed that La Joyanca was occupied for over 1000 years, spanning the late Preclassic to the Postclassic eras. I found these buttons strangely modern in appearance. The shells to make the buttons probably came from the nearby Caribbean Coast, but given the existing trade routes, they could have come from much farther away.
trade networks were important from early Preclassic times through the late Postclassic. Trade even extended to the non-Maya metropolis of Teotihuacan in Central Mexico, north of present-day Mexico City, and to the Zapotec's capital of Monte Alban in present-day Oaxaca. The networks extended southward as well, into Honduras and El Salvador and possibly even to Peru. Maya merchants were an elite group and their activity enabled the development of the artisan classes and the Maya middle classes in general. Shells may have been among the earliest currencies of the Maya world. In later centuries cacao beans functioned as currency.
deformation of the skull. Practiced exclusively by the ruling class and nobility, the parents strapped the heads of their children while still soft so that they grew into an elongated form with a flat forehead.
Human and animal representations
this ancient scene and similar ones occurring on market days in modern Maya villages. Conquistador Bernal Diaz del Castillo wrote of the Spaniards' astonishment at the rich variety of products available in indigenous markets. The fresh foods were probably produced locally, but others may have been brought from as far away as Central Mexico or Oaxaca. Markets were not only places of commerce, but were also used to socialize and gather news of the wider world.
Psychotropic mushrooms were used to produce visions as part of the Maya religious experience. Although there was no identifying sign with this little statue, many like it have been found at Kaminaljuyu in the southern highlands. Most were created in the early Preclassic era (1000 BC - 500 BC). They are absent from the Classic era, but came back into vogue during the Postclassic.
he eagle was a powerful symbol among the Maya. In the Maya calendar, the eagle symbol is called Men. The Maya believed that the sun, which soared across the sky every day, was actually an eagle. An eagle warrior was a spiritual person, with a pure heart and full of quiet, humble wisdom.
Bishop Landa noted that Maya women raised an animal called chic (coatimundi) as a pet and that "they leave nothing which they do not root over and turn upside down." That sounds just like the coatimundi I have seen in action.
This completes my posting on the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. I hope I have given you a feel for the art and artistry of Guatemala's ancient Maya. In my next posting, I will show you the modern market town of Chichicastenango where you will see beautiful examples of present day Maya art and artistry. I always welcome feedback, and if you would like to leave a comment, please do so in the Comments section below or email me directly.
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Hasta luego, Jim