7 Facts That Reveal the Wonder of the Ancient Maya

  • Maya Archeological site
Maya Archeological site
PHAS/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images

For thousands of years — beginning around 1800 BCE — the Maya flourished throughout Mexico and Central America, primarily calling modern-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and parts of Honduras and El Salvador home. One of the great civilizations of ancient Mesoamerica (along with the Olmecs and Aztecs), the Maya created a sophisticated society with advanced mathematics, architecture, and writing. Today, the Maya peoples make up one of the largest Indigenous populations in the Americas.  Here are seven facts that explore the complexity and wonder of this ancient culture.

Photo credit: PeterHermesFurian/https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/maya-numerals-black-and-white-numeral-system-of-maya-civilization-gm1358106234-431831323?phrase=maya+math iStock

The Maya Were Skilled Mathematicians 

The numerical system used by the Maya, as well as many other Mesoamerican cultures, was a vigesimal (or “base 20”) system. While our modern “base 10” system uses 1, 10, 100, 1,000, and so on, the Maya used 1, 20, 400, 8,000, etc. The Maya system was much more effective for counting than the confusing system of numerals used in the Roman Empire, and the Maya also devised the concept of zero (perhaps around the year 36 BCE), a major mathematical accomplishment. The Maya leveraged their mathematical skills to build impressive cities, chart astronomical movement (using little more than geometry and some sticks), and develop their famous calendar. Speaking of which…

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