The Ancient Mayan civilization contained nearly two-thirds of Mesoamerica. The area included mostly volcanic mountains to porous limestone, also referred to as the lowlands in the more central regions. Mayan civilization extended from Belize and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the north, to Honduras in the south. What made the Mayans stand out to me the most, were their complex societies, which were built and modernized far ahead of its time in a tropical rainforest climate (Aissen, 1992). Normally, ancient populations lived in much drier climates, where irrigation practices served as the foundation of societies. The Mayans excelled at pottery, hieroglyphic writing, making calendars, science, and mathematics. The Mayan Civilization, which extended through what is now Guatemala, began declining around AD 900, and researchers are debating as to what might have been the cause of this decline.
The golden age of the Mayans occurred at around AD 250. They spread across forty cities, including Altun Ha, Caracol, Lamanai, and Tikal among many others. During this time, the population was around two million people. Farmers, who practiced slash-and-burn farming techniques along with more modern techniques, including terracing and irrigation, surrounded these cities. The Mayans religious beliefs and the complexity of their societies are just a few of the topics that will be covered. In this paper, we will discuss the methods that Mayans used in their respective territories for food, shelter, home remedies and medications, and water. We will also discuss how the Mayans marked and defended their territories, their political views, and their subsistence strategies.
The Mayan Culture and Subsistence Farming
Slash-and-burn farming is the process of chopping down any vegetation in a specific plot of land, setting fire to it, and using the ashes as fertilizer for future crops that will be used for food (Rice, 1983). Also referred to as “milpa,” the Mayans would then plant in other areas while the areas that they burned, was given time to grow back. Terrace farming is the process of cutting terraces into the hillsides to make useable plots to farm. The reason behind terrace farming was so that when farming was taking place on steep hills, water and nutrients would not just flow to the very bottom causing erosion and loss of nutrients for crops at the very top. With terrace farming, Mayans were able to control their agriculture, making sure all of their crops were receiving the proper amount of water and nutrients. Most of the crops of the Mayans consisted of mainly corn, beans and squash. Aside from their immense belief in using what nature has given them for survival, the Mayans were also a highly religious culture and favored many gods. This included the god of sun, moon, rain, and corn. The people with the most power in their society were the kings. They were called “Kuhul ajaw” which means many lords. They were believed to have a connection to the gods and...