The Ancient Mayans
"The Maya" in Across the Centuries gives a good overview of the Maya. However, the text
fails to expand and several key issues such as the influence of the Olmecs, social structure, the relevance of sacrifices, Spain's influence on the history of the Maya, and how the Mayan civilization fell. By leaving out the aforementioned issues the Maya are given less recognition than they deserve. By glossing over the
Maya the authors of Across the Centuries essentially teach children that the Maya ar not of crucial importance. Across the Centuries' inadequate "The Maya" not only teaches students to not care about other cultures, it denies them the knowledge of an ancient culture more than worthy of recognition.
"The Maya" begins with a quote from John Lloyd Stephens, one of the first Europeans to
come across the remnants of the Mayan civilization. The chapter then explains where the Maya lived and the conditions of their environment. The agricultural methods are then elaborated on, followed by a section devoted to priests and kings. Finally "the Maya" ends with Mayan achievements. The whole chapter consists of only six pages, a rather small amount of information for a culture of such importance.
According to The Maya "whether or not one thinks of the Olmecs as the "mother culture" of Mesoamerica, the fact is that many other civilizations, including the Maya, were ultimately dependent on the Olmec achievement"(Coe 50). It is believed that the Olmec, a civilization that inhabited the Yucatan Peninsula before the Maya, is responsible for many of the Mayan achievements in mathematics, architecture, and astrology. Unfortunately, Across the Centuries only mentions the Olmecs in "the Maya" when referring to the Mayan location. "Like the Olmec, the Maya settled in a fertile region" (Armento, Nash, Salter and Wixson 404). Across the Centuries"The Olmec" refers to several of the Olmec achievements, but fails to delineate how their achievements are also recognized and may even be the precursor to similar achievements in other early American civilizations, like the Maya. Across the Centuries should make a reference to how it is believed the Olmec influenced several of the Mayan's achievements like the Chinese did to Western Europe to help students understand how cultures are often built on
the knowledge of their predecessors.
Across the Centuries fails to mention the Mayan social structure altogether. The Maya was a "class society with strong political power in the hands of an hereditary elite" (Coe 196). Unlike most stratified societies, the nobles who remained at the top of the social structure were responsible for several duties. The nobles "had private lands and held the more important political offices, as well as filling the roles of high-ranking warriors, wealthy farmers and merchants, and clergy" (Coe196). The commoners were stratified into rich and poor, like today's society classifies the middle class as upper and...