What Is the Ancient Mayan Civilization?

The ancient Mayan civilization is one of the most fascinating and mysterious civilizations in world history. The Mayans lived in parts of present-day Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras from about 2000 BC until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century AD. They were known for their impressive architectural achievements, complex writing system, advanced mathematical and astronomical knowledge, and unique culture.


The Mayan civilization was divided into several periods: the Preclassic period (2000 BC to 250 AD), the Classic period (250 to 900 AD), and the Postclassic period (900 to 1521 AD). During the Preclassic period, the Mayans developed their agricultural practices and built their first ceremonial centers.

In the Classic period, they expanded their cities and built impressive pyramids, palaces, and ball courts. In the Postclassic period, they faced political instability and external threats from neighboring civilizations.


Mayan architecture is characterized by its impressive pyramids, temples, and palaces. The most famous example is Chichen Itza’s El Castillo pyramid.

This pyramid stands at over 98 feet tall with a temple at its peak. Another notable example is Tikal’s Temple I which stands at over 150 feet tall. These structures were built with precise measurements that allowed them to align with celestial events like solstices.

Writing System

The Mayan writing system was made up of hieroglyphs that could represent ideas or sounds. Unlike some other ancient writing systems that used papyrus or clay tablets as a medium for writing on; Mayans used bark paper or deer skin as a medium for writing on. Their codices have given us valuable insight into their culture but only four have survived to this day.

Mathematics & Astronomy

Mayans developed advanced mathematical concepts such as the concept of zero. They used their knowledge of astronomy to develop a calendar system that was incredibly accurate.

The Mayan calendar consisted of 18 months, each with 20 days, plus a five-day period at the end of the year. This made up a total of 365 days in a year which is only off by a few minutes.


The Mayan culture was complex and varied, with different regions having their own unique traditions and customs. Mayans were skilled artisans and created intricate pottery, textiles, and jewelry. Their religious beliefs revolved around polytheism and ancestor worship.


The ancient Mayan civilization was a remarkable civilization that made significant contributions to mathematics, astronomy, art, and architecture. Despite their mysterious disappearance centuries ago, the legacy of the Mayans continues to fascinate people today.