The Mayan Empire, which thrived in modern-day Guatemala, was the epitome of power and prosperity during the sixth century A.D. It was one of the most superior societies of Mesoamerica (Mexico and Central America). The Mayans showed excellence in the fields of agriculture, pottery, hieroglyph writing, calendar development, and mathematics.
The earliest Mayan settlements that have been recorded date back to 1800 B.C., which may be referred to as the start of Preclassic Period. What set them apart from the other civilizations was their place of residence. Whereas, a majority of the civilizations before, during, and after Mayan times were often dispersed in several different areas or even cities, the Mayans would remain in one block of an area; this was the geographical block that would cover the Yucatan Peninsula along with Guatemala. This also meant that the Mayans remained secure from any attacks of the other empires and tribes present in the Mesoamerican region.
The Mayans would show great advancement in their agricultural techniques and were able to harvest crops such as corn, beans, squash, and cassava. They were also very apt at building pyramids, constructing cities, and etching stone monuments.
The golden age of the Mayan Empire came during A.D. 250 when the Mayan society inhabited around 40 cities at the time. Each of its cities would hold up to 5,000 or more people, and the entire population of the Mayan empire racked up to 2,000,000 people.
Mayan excavations have helped with the discovery of palaces, temples, plazas, and pyramids being built by the Mayans. The farmers of the Mayan Empire made up the major segment of the population and they would often use advanced irrigation and terracing methods.
The Mayans also proved to be extremely devout and would worship several gods. Their gods had been categorized into different worldly elements such as the God of Sun, God of Moon, God of Rain, and God of Corn. The kings of the empire would come in second in the hierarchy, after the gods. The kings would claim and be considered people related to the gods and acted as the messengers of gods and the people. They would come in power through hereditary succession and also performed religious ceremonies and rituals pertaining to the culture.
Starting from the later eighth century to the end of the ninth century the Mayans had slowly started to abandon their homes in the Mayan cities and dispersed. No one really knows the reason for such a move but some scholars assume that this was possible because of the exhaustion of the natural resources of the cities.
About the Author
Amita Vadlamudi writes extensively on history and ancient cultures. Her resume and her various other works and interests may be found at the following sites.
Amita Vadlamudi served as an IT professional for more than 30 years, undertaking large-scale engineering projects spanning Unix and mainframe systems and performing complex coding assignments. An avid reader of history books, Amita Vadlamudi is particularly interested in ancient cultures.
Beyond the ancient Greeks, Sumerians, and Egyptians, there were a number of early advanced cultures whose accomplishments have largely remained a mystery. These include the Oxus civilization, who lived on the Central Asian plains 4,000 years ago.
Spanning 1,000 square miles in what is now Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan, the civilization was concurrent with the emergence of complex societies along the Yellow, Indus, Nile, and Tigris-Euphrates rivers.
The civilization was named Oxus, after the Amu Dar’ya River, which at the time was known as the Oxus River. Bronze Age sites reveal distinctive art forms and regularly proportioned thick-walled mud brick structures that indicate a level of advancement previously thought to have reached the region 1,000 years later. A major find of the late 20th century that has generated significant interest is a 350-by-600-foot citadel in Gonur that was surrounded by towers and a high wall, and had canals and an irrigation system in place.
Outside of her career as a computer systems engineer, Amita Vadlamudi maintains interests in many subjects, including American history. With the April 2017 confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as the 113th justice of the US Supreme Court, individuals like Amita Vadlamudi may find themselves wondering about the court’s earliest days and its first justices.
On September 24, 1789, five months after taking office as the first president of the United States, George Washington signed the Judiciary Act of 1789, which formally established the US Supreme Court and the rest of the federal judiciary. On the same day, he nominated the court’s first chief justice, John Jay, and five associate justices: John Blair Jr., John Rutledge, William Cushing, James Wilson, and Robert Harrison.
The founding fathers of the United States had empowered the US Congress to create the Supreme Court in the US Constitution, and the US Senate had taken up the Judiciary Act as the first piece of business in the body’s history, passing it on the same day as President Washington’s subsequent signing. Two days later, on September 26, 1789, the Senate confirmed all six of the president’s nominations.
The court first met in February of 1790 and then again in August of the same year. It spent its earliest days determining its responsibilities and organizing the federal court system. The Supreme Court did not rule on its first case until 1792, by which time some of the seats belonged to judges other than those originally nominated by President Washington.
It was not until almost 100 years later that the Supreme Court stabilized its numbers of justices, becoming the nine-member court the country knows today. With his confirmation, Judge Gorsuch joins a judicial body that stands as the ultimate arbiter of disputes related to the Constitution.
With around 35 years of experience as a computer systems engineer, Amita Vadlamudi most recently worked with a major financial services firm. Amita Vadlamudi enjoys reading, especially on the topic of American history.
Benjamin Franklin, one of the writers of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, is known as one of America’s Founding Fathers. In addition to his political career, Franklin was an inventor, printer, and writer. He published the book known as Poor Richard’s Almanack, first under the pseudonym Richard Saunders.
The Almanack contained poetry and weather predictions as well as advice on work and life that turned into common idioms still heard today. Examples of the Almanack’s maxims include “there are no gains without pains” and “he that lives upon hope will die fasting.” While Franklin usually received credit for the aphorisms, he commented that many of them were already popular sayings that he put in print. Franklin continued to publish the Almanack annually for 25 years, and it was one of his most profitable publications.
Amita Vadlamudi is a longtime computer systems engineer in the financial services field. Outside of professional pursuits, Amita Vadlamudi has a strong interest in anthropology and ancient cultures. One culture popularly studied by anthropology buffs is Assyria, a region in the Near East that extended from Mesopotamia through Egypt thousands of years ago.
The Assyrian Empire and its capital of Ashur took their names from the god Ashur, who was reinterpreted as a son of Noah once the Assyrians accepted Christianity. The Assyrians initially spoke Akkadian but, like many nations in the Middle East, moved to Aramaic for its ease of use.
The Assyrian Empire had several advantages over other empires in the region, which ultimately led to greater success. For instance, one of its major emperors, Tukulti-Ninurta I, employed his scribes and scholars to create an efficient bureaucracy and to catalogue existing written works. While the Assyrians crushed revolts with overwhelming force, they also made sure to document the knowledge and cultures of conquered cities and nations, in the interest of expanding the empire’s technological and cultural dominance in the region.
Amita Vadlamudi spent more than 30 years working as a computer systems analyst and engineer. Outside of her work, Amita Vadlamudi enjoys reading and learning about a variety of subjects, including Ancient Greece.
Archimedes of Syracuse, born in 287 BC, is often hailed as one of the most accomplished mathematicians of his time. Like other Greek intellectuals, Archimedes was well-versed in multiple areas of study. He used his knowledge of mathematics, physics, engineering, and astronomy to deduce facts about lever function and hydrostatics. He is credited with creating Archimedes’ screw, a machine made with a screw inside a hollow tube that Archimedes designed for King Hiero. Archimedes’ screw aids irrigation systems in developing countries to this day.
Archimedes is also lauded for his discovery of the fundamental principles of buoyancy. He conducted extensive research into density and volume, which formed the basis for hydrostatic studies. Lastly, Archimedes is known for writing three incredibly-detailed treatises in Greek.
To learn more about Archimedes’ inventions and theories, visit goo.gl/LMYC7v.
A computer systems analyst with over three decades of experience, Amita Vadlamudi has worked in various capacities in the information technology sector. A lifelong learner, Amita Vadlamudi enjoys learning about history and science. In particular, she is interested in ancient American cultures, like the Maya civilization of South America.
The Maya culture was extremely complex and sophisticated. In addition to several noteworthy scientific and astronomical discoveries, Mayans also are responsible for domesticating the cacao bean. The cacao bean was a prized element of the Mayas. Its importance is evidenced by its prolific inclusion in artwork, on vases, and in murals. It had medicinal, sacrificial, ceremonial, and culinary uses and was even used as currency.
The Mayas used the cacao bean to produce a frothy, sugarless chocolate drink made from crushed cacao beans, chili peppers, and water. The chocolate drink was a luxury item and was often offered to royals and newly married couples. It was known as the “food of the gods.”
Christopher Columbus was the first European exposed to the cacao bean during his fourth and last voyage to the Americas, when the treasured beans were offered to him as a trade item. Later, in 1528, Hernan Cortes brought chocolate to the Spanish court. With the addition of sugar, chocolate became very popular and spread throughout Europe as a luxury item.
Amita Vadlamudi, who served most recently as a computer systems engineer, is a history enthusiast. Fascinated especially by ancient cultures, Amita Vadlamudi specifically enjoys reading about Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Babylonian, Mayan, Incan, and Aztec civilizations.
Many items and practices we take for granted today were invented during ancient times. A few examples:
1. The nail, a common hardware item, was originally invented and used in ancient Rome, replacing difficult building practices in which wood structures had to be interlocked in a complicated process.
2. Written language had at least five distinct, separate beginnings. Ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Chinese, and Mayan cultures, and people residing in the Indus Valley all came up with their own ways of communicating and sharing information. Many of these spread to other regions and were the basis for written languages, like Latin.
3. Paper and block printing originated in ancient Chinese culture. Through this invention, it became possible to create and distribute texts that otherwise would have been handwritten.
4. The door lock, or at least its predecessor, was invented in ancient Egypt. The first door locks were pin and tumbler locks that required a key to turn and withdraw the bolt.
A computer science graduate of St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, Amita Vadlamudi has led a successful career in the information technology industry. Among Amita Vadlamudi’s many interests outside of computer science is American history.
One significant undertaking in American history that led to the mass settlement of the western United States was the discovery and use of the 2,000-mile Oregon Trial. This stretched from Missouri to Oregon. In 1800, what was known as Oregon Country still belonged to the British Empire. In 1803, the U.S. government secretly funded the Lewis & Clark expedition with a plan for the eventual settlement of Oregon Country, but the route that Lewis & Clark made was too hazardous for travel by wagon.
Fur trader Robert Steward took an opposite approach starting from Fort Astoria in western Oregon to Missouri. What became known as the Oregon trail covered 2,000 miles from Fort Astoria to St. Louis. This was undertaken by Steward in 1810 and took 10 months to accomplish. The bigger accomplishment was that the route allowed for possible family travel by wagon.
In 1843, close to 1,000 people formed a wagon train beginning in Missouri and were able to successfully reach Oregon Country using the South Pass, a 12-mile-wide valley that allowed crossing through the harsh Rocky Mountains. With thousands of people settling in Oregon Country, England ceded it to the U.S. government in 1846. Thousands of people used the trail in search of cheap farmland or for gold mining in California.
With a background in IT spanning three decades, Amita Vadlamudi served as a computer systems analyst and provided support for a diversity of mainframe and Unix systems. Amita Vadlamudi has a longstanding interest in ancient cultures as well as more recent American history.
One of the most dynamic public figures of the early 20th century was Amelia Earhart, who started flying as a hobby in 1921. Progressing quickly, she broke the women’s altitude record the following year, exceeding 14,000 feet. In 1928, she became ingrained in the American consciousness as the first woman to fly transatlantic, though she did so as a passenger.
Earhart continued to open doors in aviation for women in the 1930s and set increasingly ambitious goals. In 1932, she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic solo, and in 1935, she was the first person to pilot a plane from Hawaii to the continental United States. Two years later, she embarked on what turned out to be her final adventure: a 22,000-mile flight that would span the globe at the equator. Unfortunately, two-thirds of the way through her journey, Amelia Earhart and her navigator disappeared in the Pacific Ocean, en route from New Guinea to tiny Howland Island.