Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Mayas and Mayan Learning

Mayan Learning
The ancient Mayas studied many different subjects, including mathematics and astronomy. They made use of mathematics both to record trade and to keep track of days. The Mayan number system was different from those of other ancient cultures in one important way. It had a symbol that stood for zero. It also used just three symbols to make all the numbers. Shells stood for zeros, dots for ones, and bars for fives. Combinations of these three symbols allowed the Mayas to make all the other numbers. For example, a 6 was made by placing a dot over a bar. The Mayas showed numbers higher than 19 by using position much as we use position to show numbers higher than 9.

The ancient Mayas were fascinated not only by mathematics but also by astronomy. They watched the night sky closely, following the movements of the planets. One planet they carefully tracked was Venus, which they could see both in the morning and at night.

From their study of the skies, the Mayas developed two very accurate calendars.
One had a 365-day year, just like our modern calendar. They used this one to keep track of planting, harvesting, and seasonal flooding. The Mayas' other calendar had 260 days and was used to keep track of religious events.

The Mayas also created an advanced system of writing. Mayan writing consisted of a type of hieroglyphics called glyphs (GLIFS). Glyphs were picture-symbols that represented objects, ideas, and sounds.

Only recently have archaeologists begun to be able to read the Mayan language.
For writing material, the Mayas made paper from the bark of wild fig trees.
Using this paper, they created codices (KOH*duh«seez) books containing Mayan glyphs. Only four codices of Mayan writing have survived. They tell about such subjects as Mayan religion and astronomy.

The Mayas also carved their glyphs on stone monuments, murals, pottery, and wooden beams. Most of these glyphs are records of dates and events in Mayan history. They provide archaeologists with their main source of information on the ancient Mayas.

What were some of the achievements of the ancient Mayas?

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