Answers to Maya: The Blood of Kings Video Viewing Guide

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Grade VIII – World History & Cultures

Ms. Sweeney

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Answers to Maya: The Blood of Kings Video Viewing Guide

1. At the beginning of the documentary is a depiction of the important Maya city of Tikal, which had a population of 40,000. It reached its peak in 750 A.D. and was abandoned within a century thereafter. What message do these Maya ruins reveal?

The fragility of civilization – how far civilization can develop and achieve and how dramatically it can disintegrate. We all exist in civilizations, and we feel the fragility of civilization when you see the Maya ruins.
2. What question about the ancient Maya has haunted archaeologists?
Why did they desert all that they created? Why did the ancients leave their magnificent cities?
3. Where are the Maya originally believed to have come from?
They were Asiatic people who walked across the Bering Sea from Siberia during the last Ice Age and settled in the Americas more than 15,000 years ago. Thousands of years would pass before the Maya established themselves in the jungles of Central America.
4. What time frame is considered to be their "classical period?" How many centuries did they thrive?
The classic Maya flourished between 250 and 900 A.D. – more than 6 centuries.
5. In which present day countries did the empire of the Maya exist?
Their civilization existed in today’s Southern Mexico, Belize Guatemala, and Honduras.
6. Before they were identified as a unique Maya civilization, from where did explorers of the region believe the Maya originated?
It was originally believed that the Maya were descendants of the Greeks or a lost tribe of Egypt or fugitives from the mythic city of Atlantis.
7. The Maya had an "independently invented" writing system. What do you think is meant by an "independently invented" writing? How many independent writing systems does the documentary say the world has produced?
The term means it is a unique and totally original written language. It is the first written language in the New World. It’s one of five in the history of the world!
8. Why did the world of the classic Maya become a mystery despite the fact that they had a sophisticated writing system?
In 1562 a devout Catholic priest was determined to rout out any remnants of the Maya religion, as he wanted the Maya to devote themselves to Christianity. In a single night, he burned hundreds of books. During the Spanish conquests, 1000s more texts were burned. Only 4 books escaped destruction to reach the present.

9. To what subject was the Maya mathematical system directly tied or linked? By what amount of time is the Maya calculation off from the modern day calculation of the moon's cycles?

It was linked to astronomy – their observations of the night sky. They recorded celestial events 1/2 billion years in the past. Observatories were built devoted to tracking the stars. At least 1,500 years after they were made, the Maya’s calculations are off by only 33 seconds
10. What is the exact date that the Maya predicted the world (really the end of their present calendar) would end?
The end of this world—the end of the cycle of creation – is predicted to occur (according to the documentary) on Sunday, December 23, 2012! Other sources say it’s two days earlier…. 
11. Why were women and children subjected to physical deformity? What types of manipulation were mentioned in the documentary?
They were subjected to adulteration for purposes of beautification. Children’s skulls were deliberately deformed to create a brow line that the Maya found pleasing. Women’s teeth were drilled out and embedded with decorative stones.

12. What did the Maya believe about the blood of kings? Why was bloodletting practiced by Maya kings and queens?

It was the duty of king and queen to reenact the mythical moment of Maya creation. In myth it was the blood of god that gave life to man. This was believed by the Maya to be the original act of sacrifice. On earth, the Maya king is as a god and blood must be shed to preserve his people. In return for the sacrifice of royal blood, the Maya believe that the gods will cause the sun to rise, the rains to fall, and the corn to grow. It protects his people.
13. Let’s take it a step further: what kinds of sacrifices are made in our modern-day society?
We have economic sacrifice (tithing, charitable donation); Sacrifice of time (working for a charity, doing fund raising for a nonprofit organization); public service (military service, civil service); and physical sacrifice (donating blood, platelets, bone marrow, organs for transplant, and life in service to our country).
14. What does the documentary speculate may have caused the downfall of Maya civilization and the abandonment of their cities – what caused the Maya to lose faith in their king’s blood power?
The overpopulation of cities, failure in crops, and losses in war made people believe that the king’s blood had failed them. When crops failed and enemies prevailed, the people lost faith in their kings, and the kings lost power. Failure was not acceptable. As their authority eroded, the solution of Maya kings was more bloodletting. That did not work. So the Maya abandoned their great cities.

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