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4.11: Early and Middle Pre-Classic Mayan (2000 BCE – 400 BCE)

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    The Early/Middle Pre-Classic Mayan civilization (2000-1000 BCE) remains somewhat of a mystery, although we do know they were agriculturalists in the lowlands of western Mesoamerica on the Pacific Ocean. During the Middle Pre-Classic, the Mayan started expanding northward to accommodate the population growth, becoming traders, engineers, and builders of towering temples. They had a many god society ruled by chiefs who maintained authority with rituals and feasts. Fishing and maize agriculture provided the necessary substance to sustain a sizeable flourishing number of people. The location, near the equator, was covered with tropical rainforests and rivers the Mayan harnessed with canals and irrigation.

    They erected large temples and central plazas in their city centers using tools made of stone, wood, and the abundant materials from the jungles. The Middle Pre-Classic Mayan (1000 – 400 BCE) became an important trading partner with the Olmec as the Mayans began to expand northward based on their ability to cultivate food, supply water, have an organized government, and provide housing for thousands of people. They made clay pottery with simple designs, carved rocks with portraits of their rulers any carved stone stele, yet still lacked any formal writing.

    A close up of a rock
    4.37 Potbelly statue

    An important Mayan site was La Blanca, the trading and cultural center to the Mayan people. La Blanca was the most critical site of the Middle pre-classic Mayan and constructed on the Rio Naranjo, where it emptied into the Pacific Ocean in today’s Guatemala. The site was 100 acres with 40 houses and four extra-large mounds of earth covering the ruins of temples and city dwellings. One of the temples was almost 18,580.6 sq. Meters and over 25.9 Meters high, making it one of the higher structures in Mesoamerica.

    • Large mounds cover the site today, and excavations have found several artifacts. There are residential areas, burial areas, and canals for water movement, weapons, garbage pits, and human remains. La Blanca was the largest salt producer in the Mesoamerican peninsula, and they used platforms to dry the salt. There are also salt cooking vessels made of clay. Potbelly sculptures of human figures (4.37) whose hands hold their oversized stomachs and the roundheads have closed puffy eyes carved from basalt rock. The figures were large and small, and the use or meaning of the statues is still unknown.


    This page titled 4.11: Early and Middle Pre-Classic Mayan (2000 BCE – 400 BCE) is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Deborah Gustlin & Zoe Gustlin (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .

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