Research: Maya Civilization and early Societies Essay

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Words: 1285
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Deep Patel


Research Paper

Both the Americas and Oceania developed under distinctive political, social and cultural traditions between 3500-500 B.C.E. Both indigenous and external cultivation brought increasing populations, specialized labor, leading political authorities, strong hierarchies and long distance trade. As a result of agriculture, there was the blossoming of elaborate cultural traditions that reshaped the people’s views. Between 3500-500 B.C.E., the cultural traditions of the Americas and Oceania both involved art, but the focus on the human body accompanied by the interest in cosmological events by the early Mesoamericans made the respective traditions develop on different scales. The establishment of human communities in each of these regions encouraged the formation of well-defined social organizations that strongly influenced cultural traditions.

One significant similarity is that both of these traditions revolved around art. In almost any society, whether it was the early Harappans or the early Bantu’s, had constructed some form of art. The ancient Maya had developed a sophisticated artistic tradition, producing sculpted stone; painted ceramics, clay figurines, and screen fold bark books of drawings and hieroglyphic writing. (The Ancient Maya.1) The early societies of Oceania had developed many rock and cave paintings as well as pottery. Both of these regions had the means to develop art because of their agricultural potential. The surplus amount of resources attracted many of their neighbors. For example, Olmec influence extended to much of the central and southern regions of modern Mexico and beyond that to modern Guatemala and El Salvador. Trade became a prominent link between the Olmec heartland and the other regions of Mesoamerica. (Bailey, 110) Trade lead to the importation of jade, ceramics and obsidian, resources used to build stone heads and axe heads that would later be included in the pantheon of art. The early trading opportunities of ancient Oceania allowed societies to flourish develop their own forms of political organization. The Lapita people, who were the earliest Austronesian migrants to sail out into the Pacific Ocean and establish settlements in the Pacific Islands, placed high value on some other valuable objects from distant lands. The Lapita people had imported shell jewelry and stone tolls that enabled them to develop their own distinctive art.

Both the Olmec’s, Mayans and Lapitas had used art in a way that represented their animistic gods. Though the art was often used for aesthetic purposes, many illustrations of these environmental deities and spirits were carved into the ceremonial heads and pots and axes as a way to appease. For example, the Mayans Temple of the Warriors had many serpent head columns that represented snake spirits. (The Ancient Maya, 1) However, one fundamental difference with the early Mayans and Lapitas was that mural and paintings by the Mayans also represented war and sacrificial victims, something the Lapitas had never been accustomed to. Because the early societies of Oceania depended on a migratory and austere lifestyle, there was no need for sacrifice, war, and barbarism that the Mayans had displayed.

Though art influenced both of these regions, Mesoamerica was especially concerned with the human body and all the intricacies contained within it. Perhaps the most obvious example of this was the practice of bloodletting rituals. Many inscriptions and other writings shed significant light on many of the Mayans cultural traditions. The shedding of pure human blood mesmerized many Mayans, who believed would be enough to send agricultural products like maize, that was seen as vital to the region. Though bloodletting rituals may relate to religious traditions, the approach on how o deal with goals distinguished the early Mesoamericans and thus represented a distinctive culture they possessed. Also, temples and funerary