Glossary of terms of the ancient Mayan civilization


  • Ahau is the chief king or ruler of a Mayan city-state.
  • Bata is a lesser lord who usually rules over a small town.
  • Cenote – A funnel or pit filled with water, cenotes were sources of water for the Maya, and were also used as places of sacrifice.
  • Chak-Mul is a type of statue of a man in a reclining position, usually holding a tray over his stomach.
  • Chichen Itza is the most powerful city-state in the early Postclassic period, and Chichen Itza is today a very popular tourist attraction.
  • The Codex is a hieroglyphic manuscript of the Mayan civilization, which is a strip of paper made from ficus bark and folded like an accordion.
  • A glyph is a symbol used in writing.
  • Haab is the Mayan solar calendar, which was used to measure time and had 365 days.
  • Itzamna is the chief god of the Maya, Itzamna was the god of fire who created the earth.
  • The lintel is an architectural element often found above doorways in Maya architecture.
  • Nakom is a high-ranking military commander of the Mayan army.
  • Obsidian is a hard stone that was used to make sharp edges and tools.
  • The Popol Vuh is a book or codex describing the religion and mythology of the Maya.
  • The quetzal is a type of jungle bird whose feathers were used by the Maya in their clothing and headdresses.
  • The Tzolkin is a Mayan religious calendar used to keep track of religious days and ceremonies. There were 260 such days in total.


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