What Were The Mayan Ceremonial Centers?

The Mayan ceremonial centers were places with temples in which the Mayan gods were worshiped, through ceremonies and rituals. In the Mayan religion, human sacrifice was common, with blood being considered food for the deities. Among the deities, Itzamna -the creator god-, the four Pawatun, the Bacab, the four Chaac, Kukulcan or Quetzalcóatl stand out. Some of the main Mayan religious centers are Cival, Río Azul, Coba, Caracol, El Pilar and Motul de San José, among others.

The Mayan civilization was a culture that flourished in the Mesoamerican region with about 8 million inhabitants. Their settlements were characterized by great pyramids and platforms made of earth and stone.

The temple of Coba is one of the main Mayan ceremonial centers.

The ceremonial centers were built and maintained by populations of farmers. These cities were capable of building temples for public ceremonies which in turn attracted more inhabitants.

The most important Mayan centers

1- Cival

Cival is a Mayan center located in the modern department of Petén in Guatemala. The site flourished from the 6th to the 1st century BC, during the Pre-Classic period.

At the time it came to house up to 10,000 people. The center has stepped pyramids and squares arranged to visualize astronomical phenomena.

2- Ceibal

El Ceibal is a Mayan center located in the modern department of Petén in Guatemala. This was occupied in the pre-classic period until the Terminal Classic period, between 400 BC and 600 AD

Its estimated population was around 8,000 to 10,000 inhabitants. The priest-kings and the nobility inhabited the main ceremonial center and the common people occupied the spaces on the periphery of it.

3- Blue River

Río Azul is a Mayan center located in the modern department of Petén in Guatemala. This center flourished during the late pre-classic period between 350 BC and 250 AD.

Its population is estimated at 3,500 inhabitants. This city was later dominated by Tikal and Teotihuacán as a trade route to the Caribbean Sea.

4- Snail

Caracol is a Mayan center located in the modern Cayo District of Belize. This center flourished in 636 AD where massive construction of buildings is dated.

Caracol is home to 53 grated stone monuments and more than 250 tombs and 200 catacombs. By the early classical period, this was part of an extensive network of trade routes. The central square has temples on all 3 sides.

5- Coba

Coba is a Mayan center located in the modern State of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

This center comprises one of the most complex road networks in the Mayan world. In its stepped temples, there are stelae that document the ceremonial life and the most important events of its flowering in the late classical period.

6- Copan

Copán is a Mayan center located in the modern department of Copán in Honduras. This was considered the capital city of one of the kingdoms of the classical period between the 5th and 9th centuries BC. The complex has stepped pyramids that are juxtaposed around a central plaza.

7- Calakmuk

Calakmuk is a Mayan center located in the state of Campeche in Mexico. This complex was considered one of the most powerful cities that existed in the Mayan world during the classical period.

Its population is estimated to have reached about 50,000 people. At present, about 6,750 structures have been identified, among which the great pyramid stands out. It rises over 45 meters, making it one of the tallest Mayan pyramids.

8- The Pillar

El Pilar is a Mayan center located on a portion of the border between Belize and Guatemala, 12 kilometers from San Ignacio.

This place is particularly known for the amount of water tributaries that surround the center, which is not common among settlements of its kind. It has about 25 squares and hundreds of other buildings.

9- Motul de San José

The Motul de San José is a Mayan center located in the modern department of Petén in Guatemala. This was a medium-sized ceremonial center that flourished during the late classical period, between 650 and 950 BC.

Currently, about 230 structures have been counted in an estimated area of ​​4.18 square kilometers. The ceremonial center of the city covers an area in which 6 stelae, 33 squares and several temples and areas of the nobility are identified.

10- Quiriguá

Quiriguá is a Mayan center located in the department of Izabal in Guatemala. It is a medium-sized place that flourished in the classical period between 200 to 900 BC.

It is located at the junction of several of the most important trade routes in the region. The ceremonial center is distributed around three squares. The Great Plaza reaches 325 meters long, the largest in the entire Mayan region.

11- Tikal

Tikal is a Mayan center located in the modern department of Petén in Guatemala. The place is originally believed to be called Yax Mutal and was the capital of one of the most powerful Mayan kingdoms.

Tikal reached its peak during the classical period between 200 to 900 BC There is evidence that Tikal came to conquer Teotihuacán in the 4th century BC

Many of the elements that survive today comprise a 70-meter-high tower, grand royal palaces, and a number of pyramids, palaces, residences, administrative buildings, platforms, and stelae. In total there are around 3,000 structures in an area of ​​16 square kilometers.

12- Sayil

Sayil is a Mayan center located in the modern state of Yucatán in Mexico. This city flourished in a short moment of the Terminal Classic period.

This was a city ruled by a local dynasty with noble lineages. Its population is believed to be 10,000 people in the city and 5,000 to 7,000 in its periphery.

13- Old Mixco

Mixco Viejo is a Mayan center located in the modern department of Chimaltenango in Guatemala. Today the archaeological center comprises 120 structures, including temples and palaces.

14- Q’umarkaj

Q’uumarkaj or Utatlán is a Mayan center located in the modern department of El Quiché in Guatemala. This center is known for being one of the Mayan capitals of the postclassic period.

The largest structures were located around a plaza. These include the Temple of Tohil, the Temple of Jakawitz, and the Temple of Q’uq’umatz.

15- Santa Rita

Santa Rita is a Mayan center located in Corozal, Belize. It is believed that it was originally known as Chetumal. For the postclassic period, the city reached its highest number of inhabitants with 6,900 people.


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