The Mayas were Amerindians from Central America who produced one of the finest civilizations in the western world. They were far more advanced than the relatively primitive island Amerindian culture. (Tainos ans Kallinagos). The Mayan civilization lasted from about 300 AD to 100 AD.

Political Organization
The Maya developed city states. This was a small unit ruled by a priest king oR Halach Uinic. Each village was controlled by batabobs or chiefs who answered to the Halach Uinic. The population was divided as follows:

Priests or Noblemen
Merchants and Diplomats
Craftsmen and Farmers

The Maya were polytheistic (worshipped many gods). They had 166 gods. Among them were Chac - the rain god and Yum Kaax the corn god. Ah Kin or priests were very important in Mayan society. They set and organized festivals, made sacrifices and decided dates for planting and harvesting. They practiced human sacrifice. Even their sacred ball game called pok-a-tok had ritual significance and the losers would be sacrificed.

The Mayas were more advanced than other Amerindians because they practiced writing, mathematics and they had a calender.

The Mayans began writing in about 300 AD, using a script with an 'alphabet' of about 850 characters. Mayan hieroglyphics were used to tell stories passed down through generations.

They could add, subtract, multiply and divide in columns from top to bottom. Their symbols were a dot for 1, a bar for 5 and a shell for 0.

The famous Mayan calender was very accurate and demonstrated a well developed knowledge of astronomy. This calender is said to predict the end of this civilization in 2012 and has been the topic of much controversy and movies such as the movie '2012'.

They built complicated pyramids, temples and ball courts with manual labour and little else. They left enduring features of their architectural prowess at various sites in areas such as Chichen Itza.



Mayas - They practiced surplus farming, which meant that they planted more than they needed and saved the rest. They did so so that large number of people could be fed while crops that were left over could be traded or paid as taxes.

Island Amerindians - They practiced subsistence farming which meant that they grew just enough crops to fill their immediate needs. They grew enough only to meet their needs from season to season and when supplies ran out they would turn to fishing, hunting and gathering.


Mayas - They lived in fixed fortified cities. Maya lands were divided between many independent city states all built of stone, the nobles and priests resided there. Peasants such as the farmers and craftsmen lived in small villages with houses made of mud and wood.

Island Amerindians - These people were more or less nomadic which meant that they moved around and settled in different places. Therefore, they did not build permanent structures.They moved to fresh gardening plots every few years. There was also the movement caused by Kallinagos chasing Tainos up the islands as well as the Tainos moving frequently in search of trade. For this reason, the Tainos had settlements on almost every Caribbean island at one point. Both the Tainos and Kallinagos made their houses out of thatch because of the availability of this material.


Mayas - They never tried to establish one central empire but rather many independent city states with each one having a priest king or Halach Uinic. Taxes were paid to these leaders in the form of crops.

Island Amerindians - These tribes had rulers who ruled over their entire communities. The Kallinagos had the Ouboutu or warrior chief and the Tainos has their Cacique. No taxes were paid to them, but they received the best crops and food when they were brought in by hunters, fishermen and farmers.


Mayas - They were found in Central America. In Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras

Island Amerindians - They moved from South America ( Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana) up the chain of islands. Tainos settled mostly in the Greater Antilles while the Kallinagos were settled in the Lesser Antilles up to 1492.


Mayas - They were very technologically advanced for their time. They had a script or form of writing in 300AD which had an alphabet of sorts which was made up of hieroglyphics. They did mathematics and had a counting device and they had a calender.

Island Amerindians - They were not at all technologically advanced as compared to the Mayas who were advanced in the 300AD. In 1492 AD, they had no writing, mathematics nor calender. They passed on their history orally through tales told by the elders in the tribes.


The various Mayan city states traded extensively with one another. Trading voyages extended as far north as upper Mexico and as far south as Panama. The city states also waged continuous warfare among themselves in order to get slaves for sacrifices to the gods. In the 11th Century the Mexican Toltecs invaded and conquered the Yucatan Maya and established the Toltec town of Chichen Itza. They introduced new dimensions to Mayan architecture and warfare.

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1. Name 1 territory where the Maya lived in 1492.

2. Give 2 reasons why the Maya located most of their towns and villages inland.

3. State 2 reasons differences between Mayan settlements and Taino settlements.

4. State 2 reasons why Mayan civilization was considered more developed than Taino and Kallinago settlements.

5. State 2 similarities between the Mayans and the Island Amerinidians.

6. Explain why the Mayan civilization might be considered advanced.

7. In what ways was the political organisation of either the Tainos OR the Kallinagos different from that of the Maya?