Mayan Civilization

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Recently, researchers have discovered the ruins of a large Mayan town buried beneath the rainforest while surveying northern Guatemala from the air.

Why in News?

  • The discovery was made using LiDAR (light detection and ranging) by a team of researchers from several American universities as well as collaborators from France and Guatemala.

About Mayan Civilization

  • The Maya are probably the best-known of the classical civilizations of Mesoamerica. 
  • Originating in the Yucatán peninsula around 2600 B.C., they rose to prominence around A.D. 250 in present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, northern Belize and western Honduras.
  • Building on the inherited inventions and ideas of earlier civilizations, the Maya developed astronomy, calendrical systems and hieroglyphic writing. 
  • The Maya were noted as well for elaborate and highly decorated ceremonial architecture, including temple-pyramids, palaces and observatories, all built without metal tools.
  • They were also skilled farmers, clearing large sections of tropical rain forest and, where groundwater was scarce, building sizable underground reservoirs for the storage of rainwater. 
  • The Maya were equally skilled as weavers and potters, and cleared routes through jungles and swamps to foster extensive trade networks with distant peoples.
  • The Maya made paper from the inner bark of wild fig trees and wrote their hieroglyphs on books made from this paper. Those books are called codices.
  • Their society consisted of many independent states, each with a rural farming community and large urban sites built around ceremonial centers. It started to decline around A.D. 900.
  • The Maya peoples never disappeared, neither at the time of the Classic period decline nor with the arrival of the Spanish conquerors and the subsequent Spanish colonization of the Americas. 
  • The Maya remain in contemporary Mesoamerican societies, and maintain a distinctive set of traditions and beliefs, combined with more recent practices such as the almost total adoption of Roman Catholicism.

Where is the Yucatan Peninsula?

  • The Yucatan Peninsula is Mexico’s southeastern projection, extending into the Atlantic Ocean.
  • It separates the Gulf of Mexico to the north and west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. 

What is meant by Mesoamerica?

  • It refers to a geographical and cultural area which extends from central Mexico down through Central America, including the territory which is now made up of the countries of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.

What is LiDAR (light detection and ranging)?

  • It is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. 
  • These light pulses—combined with other data recorded by the airborne system — generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.


Q1) What are Codices?

The Maya made paper from the inner bark of wild fig trees and wrote their hieroglyphs on books made from this paper. Those books are called codices.

Source: 2,000-Year-Old Mayan City Discovered Beneath Guatemala's Rainforest