The Mayan civilization of ancient Mesoamerica is shrouded in mystery. The Maya developed their unique culture in one of the most inhospitable places on earth. The lowlands of northern Guatemala, western Honduras, Belize, and the Yucatan peninsula, are hot and humid, teeming with jungles boasting an annual average rainfall of 120 inches. And yet, these stalwart peoples toughed it out and forged a civilization that stands, to this day, as a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of ancient man.
Where did the Maya originate? The earliest archeological evidence was discovered in and around Belize, and dates as far back as 1200 BC. Primitive tools and pottery, small religious figurines of animals and humans became abundant, and by 900 BC, small villages of one-room dwellings made of poles lashed together with henequen rope, began to appear everywhere. By 600 BC, the Maya were the dominant people in the region. Between 300 BC and 150 BC, Mayan villages grew into larger and more populous cities, ruled by powerful kings and noble families. It was during this so-called Pre-Classic period that Maya society defined its cultural identity.
It was also during this time that the Maya began to worship a pantheon of gods, from the creator of the universe, Huabku, to Itzamna (creator of man); from Ix Chel (goddess of childbirth), to Chac (the rainmaker – an all-important god to the peasant class); from Yam Kax (the young corn god), to Ah Much (the lord of death). As more and more gods were added to the pantheon, the rituals needed to glorify them became quite elaborate, and thus it was necessary to create a priest sect to maintain the ceremonies.
One of the most important cultural traits developed during the Pre-Classic period was the act of human sacrifice. Though the Maya never practiced it as prominently as the Aztecs, various acts of blood letting became commonplace and (ultimately) essential to the Mayan way-of-life. Mayan kings ruled through semi-divine right, and they believed that their connection to the gods could only be maintained through ritual sacrifice.
Thus, temples (in the stair-step design) were constructed with sacrificial altars. On these altars were laid human offerings. Stone knives were produced and the bodies cut to let the blood flow. Then, with speed and determination, the chests were cut open and hearts ripped out. It was these ritual offerings that allowed Mayan kings and priests to hold absolute control over their subjects.
By 300 AD, the Mayan Classic period was in full bloom. This was the age of kings. Great rulers such as Smoke-Jaguar (or Smoke-Imix), Pacal, Eighteen Rabbits, and Blue-Quetzal Macaw, rose to prominence and ruled brilliantly over their lands. Mayan society was divided into city-states, each with its own king and cultural center. During the Classic period, the political influence of various cities rose and fell: Chichen Itza, Palenque, Copan, and Tikal, to name a few. It was also during the Classic period that the Mayan military grew in organization and in strength. The Mayan soldier carried knives and spears, clubs, bows and arrows, javelins, and even perfected the art of throwing hornets nests (called hornet bombs) into enemy troops to create confusion and panic. For defense, they used small shields made of jaguar skins. And Mayan generals called upon their priests to divine the gods and determine the best place and time to attack the enemy. It was through warfare that the Mayans collected slaves to sacrifice to their gods.Thus, temples (in the stair-step design) were constructed with sacrificial altars. On these altars were laid human offerings. Stone knives were produced and the bodies cut to let the blood flow. Then, with speed and determination, the chests were cut open and hearts ripped out. It was these ritual offerings that allowed Mayan kings and priests to hold absolute control over their subjects.
By 850-900 AD, Mayan culture began a decline that saw its ultimate dissolution. One city after another began to fade away into the jungle in this Post-Classic period, as the populations vanished. Where did the Maya go? There is no consensus on this matter, but there are many theories. Environmental evidence suggests that a massive drought (hastened by volcanic activity), lasting for decades, hit the Yucatan Peninsula around this time. Another theory suggests that the peasantry, dissatisfied with their rulers, revolted. Another suggests disease savaged the populations and destabilized the local economies. Whatever the reason, by 1100 AD, the last of the great Mayan cities were swallowed by the jungle, and there they lay fallow for centuries until wealth-seeking Conquistadors and archeologists unearthed their wondrous remains and reintroduced the Mayan culture to the world.
In Civilization III: Conquests, the Mayans are considered agricultural and industrious. They start the game with Masonry and Pottery and build the Javelin Thrower instead of the Archer.
Unique Unit: Javelin Thrower
The Mayan army was comprised of warriors armed with a variety of weapons: lances, clubs, daggers, and even tridents. When the Aztecs introduced them to the atl-atl (a tool used to extend the throwing range and penetration strength of a javelin) in the 9th century, the javelin thrower became a staple in the Mayan warrior class. Capable of launching spears in rapid succession, the javelin thrower is a powerful force on the battlefield. The primary purpose of war for the Mayans was not to kill the enemy, but to enslave him. In particular, the capture of the enemy’s leader. He and his direct subordinates were carried triumphantly to the captors’ city, where they were summarily sacrificed to the gods. The rest of the vanquished army was enslaved. Therefore, the Javelin Thrower has the ability to "enslave".
The Mayan Javelin Thrower hurls javelins in rapid succession, using the atl-atl. He is strong on both the attack and on the defense. The Javelin Thrower also possesses the ability to "enslave". When the javelin thrower wins a battle, there is a 1/3 chance that the defeated unit will be “enslaved” and immediately turned into a Worker, which is then the property of the Maya.