Lesson 16 of The Mystery of History, Volume II, is all about "The Maya." I was excited about this lesson because the Maya have always fascinated me. For such an advanced early civilization, their abrupt end is so mysterious. They were one of the first peoples to develop the concept of zero and they were masters at astronomy. They accurately determined the number of days in a year and had a written language of hieroglyphics. (It's because of this language and their extensive records that have helped us to know about them.) They also came up with my personal favorite, CHOCOLATE! I was eager to teach Maggie this lesson.
After reading the lesson from the text, we read more about the Maya in The Usborne Encyclopedia of History (pages 180-181 and 280-281).
The following four pictures are from that book.
The Maya dressed lavishly. This is an image of a Mayan warrior in jaguar skin and the feathers of a quetzal (they lived in the deepest parts of the Central American rainforest).
The quetzal's feathers were prized. They were a high trade in the marketplace. Also traded were pottery, tools made from obsidian (Maggie loved this fact since we just finished learning about extrusive igneous rocks in her Geology co-op), seashells, and incense.
This image shows part of a Mayan calendar. I was surprised at how well Mags was paying attention to this lesson when she pointed to the number that is second to right above the image of the warrior and said, "I think that's the number 13." I don't ever remembering have that kind of attention span in history. I just love homeschooling!
From there, we dug into this National Geographic Wonders of the Ancient World publication, reading about the Maya on pages 68-71 and 100-101.
This image from that book shows the Maya temple at Tikal. It was also the tomb of one of their rulers, Ah Cacao. (I wonder if this name comes from the cacao tree where chocolate comes from?) In his tomb, they found some of those jaguar skins aforementioned, among other things considered precious.
After our reading, we found this cute little video about the accomplished Maya at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3odJDGKPPTU (below).
We then watched another great video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og0cY1gGWG4 (below).
It was time for a couple of projects! For the first project, at the suggestion of the text, we made a necklace of beads and shells, like the Maya would have worn. (Their necklaces also bore the wings of insects, but we opted to omit that part!) I found beads in our stash that looked the most like the hieroglyphics the Maya used, along with cowrie shells and little star beads since they were such great astronomers.
Mags and I thought these were perfect!
She loved this activity!
All done and it looks great!
From there, we used this Hands-on Heritage: Mexico Activity Book to find a few more things to add to this study.
First, we colored (in bright colors like the Maya liked) this image of Quetzalcoatl (pages 18-19). (Note the word "quetzal" in this name.) According to Mayan legend, the god Quetzalcoatl once lived among the people. They gave him credit for teaching them religion, art, culture, and agriculture. He preferred gifts of butterflies. Though he was loved, the legend says that he was driven out of Mexico by a rival god but promised to return. He is represented as a feathered serpent and was considered the god of wisdom and knowledge. Remember ... this was before the New World had been discovered so these people did not yet have the opportunity to hear the Gospel.
After Quetzalcoatl was filed away, we got to work on the Mayan calendar craft out of the book (pages 12-13).
This is so neat. The toothpicks were added to move the second dial so the two circles could meet like gears. Even though the Mayan calendar contained an accurate 365 days, instead of 12 months, it had 18 months with 20 days in each. Five days remained at the end of the year. (The Maya thought these five days were extremely unlucky.) When the wheels turn, each day fits into a number. If you begin on 1 Rabbit, the next day would be 2 Water, and so on. When you get back to the first image again, you start a new cycle. This is how the Maya kept track of time.
We saved one of the best parts of this lesson for last, snacking on a chocolate bar in honor of the Maya, who gave us chocolate! Thank you, Maya!
This was a great lesson! Hope you can use an idea or two in your own study of the Maya!