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Latin America Team Dispatch


When and Where the Maya Thrived

Palenque
Caption
In today's update, Jamila and Klaus are sharing their exploration into the Yucatán state of Mexico after a visit to the Maya ruins at Palenque. The Yucatán state is the northernmost area that the Maya controlled as an empire - what is called the Classic Maya region. There are three main areas in this region: Central, Southern, and this one, the North. (Check out the Odyssey Maps to see where these were!)

The central area is the Guatemalan state of El Petén where Monica and Abeja crossed into Guatemala on a river boat! If you haven't already read the lastest update, check out Monica and Abeja's articles, Wondrous Tikal from Sunrise to Sunset and Lost in the Lost World, written from the Tikal ruins in the El Petén region. Also considered part of the central area are the neighboring lowlands of Mexico (including Palenque) and Belize, where Jamila and Klaus will travel next. For most of our time in Guatemala, we will explore the southern area that is located in the highlands of Guatemala and Honduras and the Pacific coast of Guatemala. And right now Jamila and Klaus are in the northern area of the Classic Maya region.

Tikal
Caption
We've learned that the different regions flourished at different periods of time. In what is referred to as the "Classic" period (approximately between 250 and 900 AD), Tikal reigned as the grandest Mayan city. This city had the tallest pyramids of that time, permitting incredible views of the surrounding jungle, and the civilization was the most advanced. While the cities of Uxmal, Chichén Itzá and Copán were alive and well, they could not compare to the thriving kingdom of Tikal, the first Mayan capital. By the middle of the sixth century, Tikal boasted a powerful military and its population had grown to about 100,000 people! Around 900 AD, Tikal suffered the same mysterious downfall that caused the collapse of the entire lowland Mayan civilization. As we travel through these ruins at Palenque, Chichén Itzá and Tikal, we keep asking each other how these magnificent cities and temples could have suddenly been abandoned. Do you have any ideas?

El Castillo
Caption
But the end of the Classic period was the not the end of greatness of the Maya, or of Chichén Itzá. During the 10th century, the city of Chichén Itzá was resettled and then invaded by Toltecs, a group of people who moved down from the central highlands of Mexico. Today at Chichén Itzá, we can see the combination of both the Mayan and Toltec cultures. The Toltec dominated at this time and brought their own architectural ideas to places like Chichén Itzá that had previously been solely influenced by the Maya. The impressive "El Castillo" (The Castle) was built during the height of the Toltec civilization at Chichén Itzá. Read Jamila's dispatch from Chichén Itzá for more information on this fusion of styles. So, while the Mayan mysteriously disappeared from greatness and most of the Classic Mayan cities were abandoned, Chichén Itzá continued to grow in style and influence because of the Toltecs. This is what makes Chichén Itzá unique among all of the ruins that we will visit as we trek through Latin America. The collapse of the great Mayan civilization continues to baffle everyone. We can only guess what might have caused the people of this most vibrant culture to abandon their homes and leave them to be uncovered as ruins for us to visit hundreds of years later.

Stay tuned for more info on what might have happened to cause the decline of the great Maya empire, and to learn about the Maya today!

 

Jamila - On Top of the World in Palenque
Klaus - Dealing in Facts
Jamila - Can I Stay for Carnival?
Jamila - Chichén Itzá: The Jewel of the Yucatán
Two Vegetarians in a Meat Market
Monica - Posing and Shopping in Guatemala
 
 
 
 
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