The Mysterious Mayas for Kids
Skilled Builders: Nobody knows where they came from, but about 2,400 years ago, a new tribe of people appeared in Central America. They settled in the rainforests of the Yucatan Peninsula. They were called the Maya Indians. They were very clever people. They built cities deep in the rainforest. They did not use metal tools. They used stone tools, wood tools, and tools made from shells. They were skilled builders. They built palaces, temples, pyramids, walls, homes. They built hundreds of beautiful cities.
Maya City-States: The cities were connected with well built roads that ran through the rainforests and jungles on the Yucatan Peninsula. Every city had a ball court, at last one temple and usually more than one, homes, buildings, a palace, and a central plaza. Each city was a center of learning and religion. Each city had its own ruling family. The Maya city-states never unified. Similar to the ancient Greek city-states, the Maya city-states often went to war with each other. Some historians believe they were almost always at war with someone.
A History Mystery: By 900 CE, the Maya cities were mostly deserted. Some people did remain behind, but without enough people to take care of them, the great Maya cities fell into ruin. That's why the Maya are called "the mysterious Maya" - nobody knows where they came from, and nobody knows where they went, leaving their cities nearly deserted. Why did they leave? Where did they go? Historians make guesses, but it remains a history mystery.
Descendants: Just as the fall of Rome did not mean the end of Romans, there are many descendants of the ancient Maya living in Central America today. About 40% of Guatemala's modern population, along with hundreds of thousands of people outside Guatemala, trace their ancestry back to the ancient Maya. These descendants would love to know more about their ancient ancestors, but it's difficult.
A Fascinating People: Since they built their cities deep in the jungle, it's hard to find the ruins of these cities. Some citieis have been found. Archaeologists believe there are many more cities to be discovered. Thousands of hieroglyphics have been found. Not of the around 800 different symbols found so far are understood today. What are these symbols telling us? As archaeologists and other scientists continue to decipher this ancient language and discover the ruins of other ancient Maya cities, we hope to learn more about these fascinating, clever people.
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