Origins of the Maya

Origins of the Maya




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Origins of the Maya


We know that this first people entered the New World from Asia by way of the Bering Strait. This occurred during the Pleistocene or Ice Age, between 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. Armed with flint-tipped spears, and wearing animal skinned clothing these people slowly spread throughout the hemisphere. Mostly, they lived in caves and under rock outcroppings. These first Americans survived by slaughtering animals that are now extinct. They hunted camels, giant sloths, mastodons, mammoths, and bison. Then, around 8,000 BC over-hunting caused many of these animals to disappear. At this time, stone tools, axes, hammers, and obsidian knives were in use. These first Mayans walked in sandals made of animal skins, and they wore beads and ornaments. Also, they used henequen fiber and cotton to make nets, bags, and fabric.

We actually have no idea who the earliest ancestors of the Maya were or where they came from. Even worse, we know almost nothing about the first human occupants of the Mayan regions. Probably, the best clue comes from an obsidian projectile point found in south-central Guatemala. This point is very similar to projectile points first discovered outside Clovis, New Mexico in 1936. These points date back between ten and twelve thousand years ago.

Scientists, using highly developed techniques that analyze the ages of languages tell us that the first Mayans settled in northwestern Guatemala around 2600 BC. This is not supported by hard core archeological evidence. In fact, hard core evidence that the people were Mayan in origin is not supported until around 1,500 BC. This evidence is only limited to a few sites. However, ceramic pottery dating from 1500 to 900 BC has been excavated from sites near the Pacific Ocean. Then, from around 600 BC excavators have made extensive finds of Mayan Mamon pottery that were distributed over large regions.

Excavations by the University of Pennsylvania tell us that Tikal was not occupied until 600 BC. Kaminaljuyu, whose remains lie under pavement in Guatemala City, underwent an amazing developmental stage between the years of 300 BC and 200 AD. At this time, Kaminaljuyu went from a small village into a city with more than 100 pyramids. Excavations of tombs in Tikal and Kaminaljuyu have unearthed the decayed outlines of once magnificent frescoes. These frescoes depict humans wearing ornate costumes and headdresses. Other tombs have yielded a wealth of information about how the elite lived. The earliest Mayan inscription is found on Stela 29 in Tikal. It bears the date of 292 AD. Surprisingly, by this time the city of Kaminaljuyu had disappeared.