The Mayans are one of the world’s oldest known civilizations. By 300 BC, (which coincides with the Late Pre-Classic Period) most of their intellectual achievements were realized, including the adoption of a hierarchical society. This event is listed on the Bible Timeline during that period.
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300 BC marks the expansion of the Mayan territories. However, unlike other civilizations, they were not confined to a collaborated single empire. Instead, city-states were built, which scholars thought to have consisted of small family units. These small settlements of people were ruled by a royal household reigned by a king, also called K’uhul Ajaw (roughly translated as “divine Lord”), and his high court.
Due to the surge in population, the Mayan civilization began to evolve into a more complex society. They had to create social mechanisms that could enable them to coordinate, organize, and feed the growing number of their people.
It is at this period that the deepening of social stratification was more evident than ever. People were ranked according to their economic, political, and religious status. Their system of political organizations was divided as follows, King (also known as “ahau), nobles, priests, merchants, artisans, peasants, and slaves.
The royal family had the highest regard in the Mayan community for they were believed to be the intermediaries between the gods and the people and the rest of the “real worlds.” They were also the interpreters of time and celestial events. They dictated all functions of their kingdoms.
Meanwhile, the nobility class consisted of the local magistrates, executives, town counselors, and deputies or assistants to the local kings in running various government affairs, and policemen.
Third in the Mayan bureaucracy, it was the priest’s role that had shaped some of the major and highly-intelligent achievements of the Mayan era. They performed different activities, such as rituals, sacrifices, divination, astronomical observation, and hieroglyphic writings. Additionally, they had a say with regards to politics.
Merchants and artisans, though found almost at the bottom of the hierarchy, played a great role in molding the Mayan art and trade. The artisans were the forefronts of different monumental public works, including ball courts, pyramids, and roads. Mayan art flourished as well because of the artisans who were responsible for stone carvings, painted murals, fine ceramics, and jewelry, among others.
The merchants, on the other hand, enriched a certain kingdom through trade. They were travelers who would go from one city-state to another to negotiate and trade.
At the bottom of the social hierarchy were the peasants, farmers, and slaves. In this class, men were farmers and women had their own household duties. The nobles would decide who among the peasants must become slaves to the royal family.
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