Around 1500 B.C.E., the Maya established settlements in today’s Belize. In fact, the center of all Maya civilization was in Belize and is now a treasure trove of ancient Mayan temples, towns, and cities – all built without metal tools! The Maya were extremely innovative in their work, possessing sophisticated knowledge and creating vibrant commercial centers, monumental religious temples, and exquisite art works. Ahead of their time, the Maya also developed astronomy, calendric systems and hieroglyphic writings and were very skilled farmers, weavers and potters.
Xunantunich, Belize is a Maya archaelogical site in western Belize.
The Maya developed a hierarchical system of government and were organized into highly-structured kingdoms: at the top were the king/high lord and his royal family, then an elite stratum of priests, warriors, and scribes, next were the artisans and traders, and lastly the farmers and servant workers were at the bottom. Like any Mesoamerican culture, the Maya believed the high lord had an influence with the powerful and dark gods of the underworld; the dark gods could take the form of a jaguar when intervening in human affairs. But the Maya were not all work and no play. Evidence of their physical activity still remains today. Ball courts have been found near their pyramid temples and palaces. When they weren’t building impeccable structures, they played a ball game where two opposing teams tried to hit the heavy, rubber ball through high hoops attached the walls. The Maya also danced, spent time with their families and enjoyed art.