Mayan Civilization Essay Example

  • Category: History, Mesoamerica,
  • Words: 928 Pages: 4
  • Published: 07 September 2021
  • Copied: 199

During the course of world history, the political structures and vibrant cultures of many great civilizations were shaped by religion. In Mesoamerica, religion was rooted in the structure of Mayan civilization, reflected in the period encompassing the seventh and eighth centuries of the Common Era (CE). Mayan religion, which was defined by its set of polytheistic beliefs and worship of various nature gods and goddesses, helped cement the societal and political elements of Mayan civilization in Mesoamerica during the seventh and eighth centuries of the Common Era (CE). By examining the “Mayan Ball Game” vase picture (Source 6.4), the image of “A Maya Ruler Relaxing” (Source 6.5), and a sacred Mayan text known as Popol Vuh, it is practicable to observe how the society and politics of Mayan civilization were influenced by religion.

During the seventh or eighth century of the Common Era (CE) in Mesoamerica, a vase painting of a “Mayan Ball Game” (Source 6.4) was crafted, reflecting the enshrinement of religion in Mayan public entertainment. When examining the image, the source makes clear that in this event, “teams of players, often two on a side, sought to control a rubber ball, using only their thighs, torsos, and upper arms to make it hit a marker or ring” (Source 6.4). The source also makes clear that this vase was made either in the seventh or eighth century of the Common Era (CE). At this point, the Mayan civilization was flourishing in Mesoamerica and these ball games are evidence of the potential happiness that may have ensued since many Mayan citizens were able to witness these games. Although this game might have been seen as mere entertainment for the Mayan populace, the game itself was a resemblance of religious significance in Mayan society. In the excerpt, it is mentioned that the game resembled “the larger mythic context of the ball game was the eternal struggle of life and death, the concern so central to Mayan religious thinking” (Source 6.4). This quote from the source is an example of how Mayan religious (cosmic) beliefs were instilled in sports and other recreational activities. Based on this excerpt, the Mayan rulers wanted the sport to reflect the cycle of life and death. This was intended, perhaps, to convince the Mayan populace that every individual goes through a cosmic cycle of life and death. Therefore, the “Mayan Ball Game” source (Source 6.4) reflects that religion shaped Mayan society as it was embedded in public sports events as a way to diffuse the beliefs of Mayan religion. 

In another primary source from the Mayan civilization in the seventh or eighth century of the Common Era, an image of “A Maya Ruler Relaxing” (Source 6.5) resembles the influence that religion had on rulers in Mayan civilization. This source was also constructed possibly at the height of Mayan prosperity in either the seventh or eighth century of the Common Era (CE) according to the source. The Mayan ruler depicted in the image is shown relaxing on a bed with a mirror being held up. The text from the source states, “Mirrors were often consulted as oracles by Maya rulers” (Source 6.5). In essence, this reveals that mirrors were treated as religious entities in Mayan civilization. These mirrors were essential to the ruling of Mayan society for Mayan rulers such as the one described in the image. This could mean that the Mayan rulers were convinced that the mirrors contained some sort of cosmic knowledge that would guide them in ruling their civilization. Therefore, this source conveys that in the political matters of Mayan civilization, the rulers often sought religious or cosmic guidance through mirrors or other objects to effectively rule their civilization.

The Popol Vuh, an ancient text of the Mayan civilization, was an important religious text that consisted much of the Mayan peoples’ religious beliefs and shaped the fabric of their society. This ancient text was written during the period of unending Mayan prosperity in the seventh or eighth centuries of the Common Era (CE). At the time, the text was believed to be written to describe the beginnings of the Mayan people and civilization by their gods. Indeed, certain passages from this ancient text reveal that “It was merely their spirit essence, their miraculous power, that brought about the conceptions of the mountains and the valleys” (The Creation of Humanity According to the Popul Vuh). It is evident from this quote that the Mayan populace was convinced that their deities were responsible for the creation of all the natural surroundings. In turn, this revelation from the text may have contributed to the extreme worship of deities as they (the deities) were the reason for the creation of everything that encompassed the world. There is a certain passage from the text that hints at why the Mayan populace was extremely devoted to their gods and goddesses. A section of the text proclaims, “People they came to be. They were able to speak and converse. They were able to look and listen.

They were able to walk and hold things with their hands” (The Creation of Humanity According to the Popol Vuh). This particular section could explain why the Mayans were a religious-oriented civilization as they may have felt indebted to their gods and goddesses for creating humanity and providing humans with certain abilities such as speaking, looking, and hearing. With that being said, it appears that the religious-oriented structure of Mayan society was influenced by the Popol Vuh as it provided a foundational basis for the Mayan civilization.

After analyzing these sources, it is evident that religion played a significant role in the formation of societal and political aspects of Mayan civilization during the seventh and eighth centuries of the Common Era (CE). The Mayan civilization was a mere reflection of the religious beliefs and cosmic conceptions that were embedded in its society. In conclusion, the Mayan civilization served an important purpose during much of the seventh and eighth centuries of the Common Era (CE) in Mesoamerica as religion shaped the lives and attitudes of its people.


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