Museum Collections - Mesoamerica - Maya (Before A.D. 1520)
Early Maya society developed from small farming communities to well-developed city-states linked by roadways to other cities and regions. The Classic Maya (A.D. 250-950) are famous for building impressive monumental architecture, their sophisticated hieroglyphic writing system, their knowledge of astronomy and mathematics, and for craft production including polychrome pottery and intricately woven textiles. Symbolic sculptural records such as Stela H from Copán (left) have provided additional insight into ancient traditions and spirituality.
Near the end of the Classic Period cities had grown in size and power. Royal dynasties and powerful gods coloured Maya politics, economics, and religion. Ritual performances including dance, music, feasting, sacrifice, and sacred bloodletting were all used to uphold traditional beliefs and ancestor worship. Many unknowns regarding the following chapter in Maya history, the Postclassic Period (A.D. 950-1520), remain. During that time, Maya life changed fundamentally and building construction ceased at many lowland centres. The reasons why Maya life changed and how remain heated topics of debate.