Mayan Indians live in Southeast Mexico and Central America. The term Maya refers to the Ancient Mesoamerican civilization. This civilization carries the honor of being the pioneer of the earliest known fully developed orthographic language in the pre-Columbian Americas. Their distinct art, architecture and mathematics have been highly acclaimed by most scholars as the most progressive of the time. It was established around 2000 BC (Pre-Classic period) as detailed by the Mesoamerican chronology. Nonetheless, it was not until around 900 AD (Classic period) that most Maya cities attained their greatest developments. Today, the Maya civilization is reputed to have been the single most densely populated, technologically progressive and culturally dynamic societies of the world during its peak (Culbert 18-71).
The civilization of the Maya shared numerous features with many other civilizations of the Mesoamerican mainly because of high levels of cultural diffusion and interaction at that time (Culbert 18-71). The Maya civilization had great impacts in architecture, art, mathematics (such as the concept of zero), literature and agriculture (they pioneered the planting of corn wheat and many other cereals). Nonetheless, the Maya are most reputed for their contributions in initiating the modern day calendar and literature. Most scholars concur that although the Maya are credited as the pioneers of most well developed calendar and writing art, these concepts had originate from earlier civilizations and the Maya only developed them fully.
Maya’s contribution to literature accrued from the conception of the first most developed writing system (hieroglyphs), which has a distant resemblance to Ancient Egypt writings. The writing system combined logograms and phonetic symbols and thus the popular name of the system, logographic or logosyllabic. This writing system represented the Maya spoken languages completely and that’s why its script has over a thousand distinct glyphs. Communicative writing was forever changed and literature given a medium that would later shape up what we now call literature (Coe 134-136).
Secondly, the Maya calendar combined a complex system of both almanacs and calendars. The system was essentially based on a common day counting system used since the 6th Century BC. However, according to Coe, the civilization of the Maya subsequently extended and refined that calendar system to the single most sophisticated system recorded in the history of mankind (134-136). Yet despite the sophistication, the system remains the easiest to understand calendar in historical records as compared to calendars of the period such as that of the Aztecs. More importantly, the Maya calendar introduced the idea of cyclical years, first with a 260 days’ calendar (typical of Mesoamerican societies).
The calendar was revised to a new Maya version called Tzolkin, which introduced the 365-days year cycle with days broken down into 52 Haabs (Calendar Round – more or less months) 13 days (trecena) and 20 days (veintena) groups. The concept of the modern calendar thus emerged, long before scientists discovered that a single year is constituted of 365 ¼ days based on the sun’s rotations.