They had an empire that lasted more than 1,400 years--and then mysteriously disappeared. They developed the concept of zero, had complicated astronomical calendars and advanced architecture, all developed long before Columbus discovered the Americas. The Maya were one of the great civilizations that inhabited Central and South America. They were followed by the Incan and Aztec empires. To learn more about their cultures, use the direct links on The Times Launch Point Web site:
Here are the best sites for getting your schoolwork done or for just having fun.
Springbrook Elementary Museum of Ancient Civilizations in the Americas: Today's flag of Mexico shows an eagle sitting on a cactus and eating a snake--the mythical sign that the Aztecs believed marked the right place for them to live. Read about the ruins, rituals and accomplishments of the Maya, Aztec and Inca civilizations through student reports and pictures.
Maya Adventure: Create your own logbook of adventures as you explore several ancient Mayan sites. Learn how weaving brocade designs was a sacred duty. Visit a "cenote of sacrifice," and see what archeologists found when they explored these natural limestone wells.
The Inca, the Maya and the Aztec: Learn about the religion, culture and architecture of these ancient Mexican and South American civilizations. View maps showing the reach of each of the empires.
The Mayan Astronomy Page: Mayan knowledge of the heavens and the stars still confounds modern scholars. Learn how Mayan astronomers studied "Zenial passages" and what they knew about the solar system. Try some Mayan math problems, and read about their calendar and system for writing.
Aztecs and the Sun Calendar: The Aztec sun calendar is a circular stone with pictures representing how the Aztecs measured days, months and cosmic cycles. Find out how the sun calendar was discovered, what the different symbols mean and how the calendar could be used as a sundial.
NOVA Online--The Lost Empire: The Incas' vast empire was at one time the largest nation on Earth, crisscrossed with 14,000 miles of roads and famous for its life-size statues of gold. Follow in the footsteps of archeologists as they uncover an Incan mummy and discover artifacts.
Pre-Columbian Cultures: Visit the famous ruins of ancient sites where the Mayans and Aztecs performed their ritual sacrifices. Explore Aztec music and poetry, and learn about Quetzalcoatl, the god of intelligence. Discover the unique characteristics of the Mayans' architecture and the beauty of their paintings and sculpture.
Information of the Ancient Maya Civilization: Discover little-known facts about ancient Mayan cuisine, handicrafts, and the cultural legacy they left. Visit major archeological sites, read about recent discoveries, and find out how the modern-day Maya preserve many of the ancestral traditions.
Lords of the Earth--The Maya-Aztec-Inca Center: A collection of archeological and anthropological facts about the three cultures. Find out what different designs mean and the stories behind mythical figures and gods.
Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This week's column was designed by Anita Griswold, Linda Simon, Susan Narens, Stan Woo-Sam, Carla Gilmore and Anna Manring.
The answer to this Internet quiz can be found in the sites at right.
Question: Which calendar is more precise, the Mayans' or our current Gregorian one?
Clue: See Information of the ancient Maya civilization
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