The Advancement of the Mayan Civilization Essay

This essay has a total of 1427 words and 8 pages.

The Advancement of the Mayan Civilization










The highly advanced citizens of the ancient Mayan civilization used hieroglyphics to keep
important historical records, made many advancements in mathematics, and had a highly
accurate astronomy system. Throughout their years of existence, the Mayans proved to be
one of the most advanced civilizations ever recorded. Their hieroglyphic writing skills
have been documented to be some of the most sophisticated in all of ancient America. The
Mayans also had an amazing understanding of mathematics and the workings of the universe.
They have, through these things and more, to be on of the most advanced ancient
civilizations in all of the world.

The Mayan civilization had a rich and interesting history. The history of the Mayans has
been classified into five historical periods. The first is the Formative Period, which
lasted from 1500 BC to approximately 150 AD and saw the rapid development of its early
people and the erection of its first temples. Another important period was the Classic
Period. This period lasted from about 250 to 900 AD and included the rise royal rule,
commerce, urban centers and ceremony. The Postclassic Period occurred from 900 to 1500
AD and whitened the fall of the Mayan civilization


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from its "Golden Age". The Mayan history is a remarkable documentation of a extremely advanced civilization.
The Mayan hieroglyphic system of writing stands as one of the most remarkable displays of
the advancements of a civilization in the history of the Americas due to its complexity
in design and usage. Their system of writing was the only one developed before the
arrival of Columbus and has been noted as the most advanced system developed in all of
ancient America. The Mayan writing was based on independent sections called glyphs,
which many times appear quite flashy and complex to outsiders eyes. Through research by
scholars, about 800 glyphs have been discovered , which exceeds the number of signs
needed for an alphabet (about 30) or a syllabary (about 125) . Their system, on the
other hand, ceased to include enough sign for a logographic script, as in the Chinese.
Therefore, it worked much like other hieroglyphic writing systems of that time. The
overall form and usage of the writing system proved to be an important tool used by the
Mayans.

Their hieroglyphic writing system appears in many different forms. The Mayans have
produced approximately 5,000 hieroglyphic writings in many different forms and on such
things as alters, ornaments, pottery vessels, building walls and inside caves and


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tombs. They have also inscribed on stalae, which are slabs of stone which tell important
historical facts, and in books, called codices. Some of the inscriptions that have been
found have been deciphered to discover that they document the lineage and accomplishments
of the rulers of the great Mayan cities. The three of four remaining books are thought,
by scholars, to deal with the topics of astrology, astronomy and religion. On the other
hand, the codices that have been destroyed probably dealt with many subjects, such as
history, medicine, genealogies, divination and mythology. The forms of the Mayan written
language further instill the advancement of this great civilization.

The form of the glyphs themselves was very complex. Some of the more elaborate ones were
visibly pictures of natural things and yet some were abstract in design. A group of
glyphs were put together in glyph groups. The glyph groups are broken down into the main
sign and affixes, which are broken down again into prefixes, superfixes, subfixes and
postfixes. These are named according to their position in relation to the main sign.
The complexity of the glyphs, therefore, increases the proof of the civilization's
advancement.


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The Mayans have proven their advancement even further through their amazing understanding
of the concept of zero. During the late Preclassic period, the Mayans "invented" the
concept of zero or nothing. This is an amazing task due to the fact that no other
civilization, at that time, had started using this concept. The concept of zero is one
of the two basics that are employed in the Mayan mathematical system. Zero furthermore
increased their understanding of the universe and ,therefore, caused them to become even
more advanced.

The Mayan numerical system is quite amazing, because of its simplicity in design. The
only three notations used in this system are a dot, a horizontal bar and a shell design.
Therefore, to write large numbers the Mayans employ a second key principle to their
system. That is relating the size of the number with its position. Unlike modern day
civilizations, which use this same concept in a horizontal method, the Mayan used it in a
vertical system of notation. The system worked under the principle that every level that
the number moved vertically it would be multiplied by twenty. For example, the base line
would keep its normal value, the second line would be twenty times what was written, the
third line would be 400(20 times 20) times what was written and so on. This means that
their system is a vigesimal one, which means that it is

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