The Religion and Military of the Mayan Empire

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In areas of Late Post classic Mesoamerican times, archaeological work makes known that warfare had a major impact throughout Mesoamerica, even on societies not that were at war. An example of this would be in about the ninth century, when the Mayan empire collapsed into a heap of destruction and war, although nothing was as bad as the Yucatan peninsula. What happened there was chaos and changed the Mayan way of life forever. The wars not only affected political boundaries, but also local industry and economical systems which were needed to produce weapons, and also support their local armies.

Religion was a fairly big part of battle too. Even their main god, Sun Jaguar, was the god of war. Jaguars freely roam the jungles of the Yucatan peninsula. The Maya respected the jaguar as a skilled hunter, but also as much more than just an agile feline. The Jaguar God was very important to the Maya religion. It was a symbol of life and death.

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The jaguar was the sun, both as it passed overhead and as it journeyed nightly through the underworld called Xibalb (shee-bal-ba). While the jaguar was in the sky, its name was Kinich Ahau (kee-neech ahau), the daytime sun god. He dwelt in the highest levels of heaven. The sun god was a domineering, “fire-eyed lord” who was appeased by offerings of sacrificial beheadings. You could say the spiritual part of battle was just as important as the material part.

It’s astonishing how there aren’t a lot of friendly executions.

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I ponder sometimes on how you know the other nation from your own when you’re in a blood bath. Even arrows graze the warriors in the frontline. Their wars consist of hundreds or even thousands of fearless natives. The Mayan’s best bet strategic wise would be to use a surprise attack. Before every battle warriors would ask for their god’s help in battle. They would also prepare the ground well, with help from scouting aids.

Arms and armors of this period (1000B.C.) depended on access to trading of raw materials taken from the land. Although the most common weapon was the lance (with a point made of obsidian or flint), the most popular weapons were the spear, the bow and arrow, the atatl, and the slingshot. Other weapons were manacas and tridents. The bow and arrow was introduced to the Mayans from the Aztecs. Manacas are swords with a wooden hilt and a blade made of flint or obsidian.

Moats or walls, which made archeologists, did not defend Mayan cities; think that surprise raids fought most wars. They had very futile armor compared to what we have today. Their shield, pacal, is made of wicker or wood and covered with decorative cloth, leather, or feathers of red, yellow, green, and blue. Their armor was just made of cotton. In the end I think the Mayans had pretty constricted weapons of warfare.


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The Religion and Military of the Mayan Empire. (2023, Apr 06). Retrieved from

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