This essay sample essay on Mayans And Egyptian offers an extensive list of facts and arguments related to it. The essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion are provided below.
To the eyes of a 21st century westerner, the developments of the ancient Egyptians seem manifestly more impressive that those of the Mayans over two thousand years later. Yet it is important to note the fact that there is no real benefit in dating the achievements of these peoples, as there is no reason that they should have developed earlier or later than one another, the date is relative to the region and environment in which the culture develops.
In fact whilst Mayan agriculture is considered, compared with that of the Egyptians, relatively primitive; the fact that they managed to farm at all under those conditions is testament to a highly developed society. In fact, it has recently come to the fore that Mayan agriculture may have been more highly developed than archaeologists had expected, for example the argument put forward by Moreley in 1946 that agriculture in Maya cultures was a simple process of slash and burn has now been almost entirely rejected.
It would seem that certain differences between cultures could be accounted for by faults in the archaeological process. The idea that Mayan agriculture was of a simple slash and burn nature is indeed a direct fault of archaeologist’s reluctance to let go of certain theses and theories.
This idea of the primitive nature of Mayan agriculture is part of the Swidden theory; something which many who studied in the field clung to despite overwhelming evidence to suggest that Mayan agriculture was far more developed than the theory allowed for.
In fact a study of the Mayan lowlands shows use of raised fields or bajos, whose use in other developed parts of Mesoamerica has been widely emphasised, whereas their existence in the Maya territories has been ignored. There is also evidence for the use of terraced farming in the region, and also complex irrigation networks, which was almost certainly omitted from archaeological reports, as they did not fit in with the widely accepted Swidden theory.
It would seem that the conservative nature of a few archaeological studies is accountable for many of the differences that we see between the great ancient civilisations. It is however, necessary that the study of archaeology should be carried out in this particularly conservative fashion, for if we were to accept all theories as possibly correct then it would be almost impossible to carry out historical analysis of archaeological theses. It is for this reason that some of the apparent differences between Mayan and Egyptian cultures appear, the advancement of agriculture is just one of those domains.
Yet this is not entirely surprising considering the conditions in which studies must be carried out, for the rainforests of Guatemala are considerably harder to study than the land of the Nile Valley. This causes more gaps to appear in the history and culture of the Maya, parts of Mayan life that are difficult to understand due to the tendency of the rainforest to ‘swallow up’ what is left there. Therefore, studies on Egyptian agriculture could be carried out in the 1800’s from the ground, and also from the study of papyrus texts preserved by the dry climate.
Whereas the bajos and terracing of the Maya are unperceivable until one looks at an overview from the air. As these means were inaccessible to archaeologists in the late 1800’s, certain incorrect views and theories were formed, and adopted as almost sacrosanct until recent studies proved them to be wrong. So it would seem that the nature and location of the site has a direct impact upon what we know and understand about ancient cultures. As a consequence of this, a comparative study of the two cultures involved only hopes to compare the different ideas of what these cultures may have been like.
This is especially true of the Mayans, whose treasures are far more closely hidden and less accessible than those of the ancient Egyptians. These anomalies aside however, there are undoubtedly a remarkable amount of similarities between these two cultures which cannot be ignored. The first similarity I would like to talk about is that which immediately springs to mind, architecture. The question of the similarities of the architecture, and also the purpose for which they built in this fashion, is of great interest to archaeologists.
The most notable examples of architectural similarities is in the early step pyramids of Egypt and the later Mayan temples. This is displayed when looking at the structure and purpose of the Temple of Inscriptions at Palenque, and the step pyramid at Saqqara. Although built around 3,400 years apart, the buildings are outwardly similar in appearance and indeed both served as burial chambers for the Great Kings of their time. Although the discovery of the burial chamber inside the Temple of inscriptions was, in fact, hidden for quite some time after the temple was discovered.
The temple was believed at first to be for the purpose of presenting propaganda to the nearby population. This was an important part of Mayan politics, where inscriptions on public buildings were often the only media for proving the King’s lineage to the ancient Olmec civilisation. Once the burial chamber was found, opinions changed over the similarities between the Mayas and the Egyptians as pyramids emerged from both cultures as a means of protecting the dead kings. Once again there is great controversy over the apparently bizarre coincidence of these two cultures developing such similar traits in environments.
If we look at it in the most logical sense it would seem that the two cultures had the same environmental problems to overcome, therefore both cultures were forced to understand their surroundings extremely well. In turn this caused them to look further away from what they could actually physically come into contact with, and look to factors which could affect their fortunes. This led eventually to the study of the stars and of the movement of the sun and moon, the Egyptians looked more towards the sun and their god Ri?.
In fact it is accepted that these two aspects of life were of supreme importance to the ancient Egyptians, as outlined by Rosaline David: “The relation of the Egyptian to his god and to the whol cosmic order was the corner stone of society. ” The way in which the pyramids of Egypt are aligned is for the purpose of sending the king on his journey around the world and underworld, this would follow the same course as the sun and as such exist on an East-West axis. The height and structure of the pyramids was such that the buildings would be symmetrical along their axes and also be clearly visible from their surroundings.
It is also suggested that the Mayan pyramids are in celestial alignment, in accordance with the map of the sky at a certain point in the year. This theory is a little more tenuous, yet is attractive to those who wish to present a relation between the two cultures. We also see great similarities in the way in which the cultures used art, both in their glyphs and in their artwork. Both Egyptian and Mayan art is centred on anthropomorphisms, possibly testament to the fact that both had strong links to the land.
Study of these drawings shows particular emphasis on the deadly animals which existed in their areas, serpents and large cats being strongly associated with anthropomorphic gods. To explain these similarities it is perhaps the task of not only archaeologists, but also zoologists, botanists and geologists. And it was a combination of these groups who unwillingly composed perhaps the most controversial of all the theories presented for the explanation of similarities between the two cultures. That is that there was once contact between the ancient Egyptian and early Mesoamerican civilisations.
The theory stems from the presence of both nicotine and cocaine in the body of Henut Taui, and other mummified remains of Egyptian royalty. These drugs are only available from the lands of South and central America, and it has been suggested that there was some form of trades link between the two countries. This theory has been mostly rejected on the grounds that it implies a sort of cultural arrogance. Yet archaeology attempt to explain both the similarities and differences between the two civilisations.
Where we see great diversity between the Egyptians and the Mayans however, is in the organisation of the societies. For example, in Mayan civilisation there was no room for social movement; whereas it was reasonably common for men of lowly birth to rise in the Egyptian social structure. Although it is also true that the Egyptians differed greatly from the Mayans in their organisation, having made almost a modern capital from Memphis, in which a bureaucracy operated outside of the Pharaoh’s appointment. The Mayans used a much more traditional system of feudalism that operated on a less bureaucratic level.
Archaeologists have tried to account for this development in Egyptian culture by the claim that they were visited by what were known as ‘newcomers’ around 3,400 B. C who brought new enlightened ideas which were incorporated into Egyptian thinking. This arrival is depicted on the ivory sword handle of Gebel el-Arak, which shows the arrival of a race similar to the Mesopotamians. It is inevitable that between to cultures in such differing parts of the world, there will exist certain differences and similarities.
To look at the two cultures, it would appear that the Egyptians, by western standards were further developed than the Mayans who still practised sacrifices and blood letting even at the end of their period. Yet archaeologists have little difficulty in explaining the reasons for these differences, as there is no reason why the two cultures should emerge in a way that resembles the other. I believe that what causes the most controversy and the most interesting argument is the existence of deep similarities between these ancient and extinct peoples.
It is more the archaeologists task to present an account for these similarities than it is to ponder on the differences.
Bibliography Rise and Fall of Maya Civilisation J. Eric. S. Thompson University of Oklahoma press The Blood of Kings L. Schele M. E. Miller Thames and Hudson Printed in Great Britain The Ancient Egyptians Religious beliefs and practices A. R. David RKP Editor: John K. Hinnells Printed in Great Britain The Splendour that was Egypt M. A. Murray Sidgewick and Jackson Limited Printed in Great Britain Equinox-Chanel 4- 8 September 1996 The Mystery of the Cocaine Mummies A TF1 (France) and Channel 4 production.