Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

The Maya People

Winik: Human, a person

Despite local differences and more than thirty living languages, the Maya share cultural roots and the common legacy of an accomplished civilization that peaked between 250 – 1200 CE. The term Maaya is a Yucatec Mayan language word that describes the language spoken by indigenous people in the Yucatán Peninsula, México. Western scholars have ascribed this term to all Maya people. Maya culture is characterized by monumental architecture, by iconography and hieroglyphic writing, and by complex mathematical and astronomical systems. Knowledge of observational astronomy and sustainable agriculture still guide the daily activities of rural life in the Maya world. Rituals and ceremonies connected to their land and to their calendar are still practiced today. Maya people are active participants in the social fabric of an international world, and the legacy of their ancestors propels their culture forward.

“I have found that being a Day Keeper and a lawyer have a lot in common, because through both professions I help bring balance to my community.” Ixkik Poz Salanic, K’iche’ Maya, Day Keeper and Lawyer

“The restoration work I do at Uxmal involves ancient construction techniques using local materials such as kan kab’ and stucco. The workers from nearby Maya villages still know how to use these materials as our ancestors did thousands of years before us.” Luis Llovera Ramírez, Yucatec Maya, Architect