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Mayan Ritual Sacrifices

Updated on August 12, 2012

Mayan Rituals and Sacrifices


The Mayan Civilization is a culture that has a lot of history behind it. In this text, I will make a thorough elaboration about how the Mayan culture was developed and how the Mayan culture, and religion impacted the lives of the Mayans.

Located in the jungle of El Peten, Guatemala, the ancient Maya site of San Bartolo features amazing two-millennia-year-old pyramid temples, writings, and murals (Ferguson). This region has many hills, ridges, and mountains, which makes it easy for there to be a lot of separations between them. The region divides naturally into three general sections, which makes the Mayan culture slightly different in different parts of the region. In the southern section of the Mayan region, there is a high plateau with mountain ranges of volcanic origin separating the upland valleys (Stanford University Press 4). Because of the volcanic origin, the Mayans have to live their lifestyle accordingly.

Although the Mayans were scattered in many different countries, I’ll just talk about the Mayans in Guatemala. The different tribe of the Maya- speaking Indians scattered over the greater part of Guatemala, about 1,400,000 in round numbers, being found in Guatemala (Stanford University Press 15). This means that the current culture of the people of Guatemala has some if not most origins from the Mayans. Maya used in a Chontal manuscript of the early seventeenth century is so different from the immediately contiguous and contemporaneous Yucatec Maya to the northeast that it is evident that a Chontal Indian of this period talking with a contemporary Yucatec Maya would have had difficulty in making himself understood, and vice versa (Stanford University Press 17). This type of problematic language barrier between the Mayans makes it even harder for them to exchange their culture and traditions with each other.

Maya civilization was based primarily upon agriculture, chiefly as applied to the cultivation was based primarily upon agriculture, chiefly as applied to the cultivation of Indian corn, or maize (Stanford University Press 38). The reason is because the Mayans brought their agricultural skills with them from India to grow maize; the other reason for their agricultural dependency is because of their forested region with constant rainfall. All other Maya-speaking groups except the Huasteca are contiguous one to another—only the Huasteca lies off by itself, separated from the other linguistically related groups by Totonac- and Nahuatl-speaking peoples in central and southern Veracruz (Stanford University Press 39). The separation between the Huasteca and the rest of the Mayas is devastating because they will not have as strong of bondage as they would if they had neighboring cultural society similar to theirs.

Situated in western Honduras, Copan is an important Maya center over one thousand kilometers from Teotihuacan (Ferguson). For the Mayas, this is important to keep the bond amongst the majority of their different tribes. Maya culture in all its essential elements is known to have been continuous, the governmental and social organization of both Old and New Empire will be treated together, though most of the material should be remembered, has been drawn from New Empire sources and primarily concerns the New Empire (Stanford University Press 159). The main reason for this is because the Old Empire’s history is very vague, meaning there is not a reliable evidence of their way of life.

From the cradle to the grave, the life of the common people was dominated by their religious beliefs as interpreted by the priesthood (Stanford University Press 181). The religious connection between each other makes it possible for a well-disciplined relationship between the Mayas. As a tradition, like the Chinese foot binding, the Mayas put boards on the back and the front of a four or five days old baby to flattening his/her head as a sign of beauty (Stanford University Press 181-182). I believe this to be a fascinating event that makes me respect the culture for its creativity. The ancient Mayas had three and sometimes four different names: his given name, equivalent to our John, or Mary; his father’s family name, equivalent to our Smith or Jones; his father’s and mother’s family names combined, equivalent to our Smith-Williams; and his nickname, like our “Shorty” or “Fatty” (Stanford University Press 183).”Since the Mayas each have three to four names, it is much easier to tell the family and skills of the Mayas.

During the three, four, or perhaps even five thousand years since the Maya exchanged their nomadic life for a sedentary one based upon agriculture as applied to the cultivation of Indian corn, their religion had undergone corresponding changes (Stanford University Press 208). These changes makes are usual when there is an intervention by any means of another culture. The Maya religion was probably simple nature worship, personification of the natural forces which influenced and in large measure shaped their lives: the sun, the moon, the rain, the lightning, winds, mountains, plains, forests, rivers, and rapids (Stanford University Press 208). When money and luxury is not the main priority in life, it makes people pay more attention their environment and life a lot more.

Kaminaljuyu is located southeast of Teotihuacan in the highlands of southern Guatemala (Ferguson). The material evidence at Kaminaljuyu suggests that its Maya inhabitants developed a cultural relationship with the inhabitants of central Mexico (Ferguson). Because of this, I believe the Mayas lived a healthy life of diversity and unity. Some scholars have argued that the pyramid temples at Kaminaljuyu were built by militaristic Teotihuacanos; however, the central Mexican architecture at Kaminaljuyu does not completely conform to the principles used in Teotihuacan (Ferguson). This makes sense since people build things differently and if it is away from the original, then usually it is a different group of people.

In the Well of Sacrifice at Chichen Itza, there are dark forbidden waters a veritable treasure of sacrificial offerings, such as gold and copper repoussee plates, masks, cups, saucers, bells, pendants, bracelets, earrings, finger-rings, and buttons of gold (Stanford University Press 240). These objects are significant to history and to the people who found them. There are many interesting ways of carrying out there ceremonies. Offerings and human sacrifices were made to bring rain, there was also present a prognosticative element in these ceremonies at the Well of Sacrifice (Stanford University Press 240). I have noticed this tradition in other places where the Mayas seem to have no influence.

In making an appraisal of the Maya civilization it cannot be overemphasize that everything the ancient Maya accomplished was due primarily to Indian corn, for almost every thought they had can be traced back in one way or another to maize (Stanford University Press 441). The Mayas culture has a lot of history behind it and I believe the culture is respected by many people, interested in history.

The ancient Maya were primarily farmers and dependent upon agriculture for their living (Stanford University Press 442). This is what makes them who they are. Their culture is also notified by their rituals and sacrifices, most notably the game similar to basketball. The sport is where; the Mayas made a goal and tried to through the ball through the circle, and the team that loses are doomed to be used as human sacrifices. “In appraising the civilization of any people, the true measure of what they did is not the sum total of their achievements compared with the achievement of other peoples but rather their entire accomplishment counted from their own cultural scratch (Stanford University Press 447).”

Works Cited

Ferguson, Keith. The Relationship of the Maya and Teotihuacan: A Mesoamerican Mystery.Inquiry Journal. 14 Apr. 2008. Web. 1 Nov. 2011.

Stanford University Press. The Ancient Maya. California, 1946. Print

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