In the early pre-Classic period, Maya society was
composed of family groups that shared the same
language, customs and territory. They
gathered together to cultivate the land, to fish,
hunt and collect food for survival. Later, when
agriculture was more developed, irrigation systems
were built and crops diversified, some of them to
The population grew considerably, great ceremonial
centers were begun, and the ordinary people
settled around them. Different social classes
arose as a result of the division of labor.
Number of cities and ceremonial centers increased
in Classic period. In them lived the ruling class,
devoted to government, priests and specialists in
the arts of magic, warriors and merchants, as well
as architects, who were responsible for planning
temples, places and public buildings, astronomers,
who observed the movement of the heavenly bodies
and tried to discover the harmony of Universe and
recurring cycles of time, and the scribes, whose
job was to record important historical events,
mythical and religious beliefs, the genealogies of
rulers and exploits of warriors in codices, using
complex system of hieroglyphic writing.
At an intermediate level, there were builders,
servants of ruling class, potters and other
craftsmen. Finally, there was the lower class
formed of fishermen, hunters and farmers, who
lived on the outskirts of cities and ceremonial
centers. There were also slaves, called Pentacoob
in Maya, who were generally prisoners of war, the
children of slaves, or orphans.
At the end of Classic period and throughout
Post-Classic, this division into social classes
continued although religious and political powers,
formerly in hands of single person, were divided.
Rulers were headed by "Halach Uinic"
(True Man), and priests by "Ahua Can"
(Lord Serpent), each with defined tasks.
Maya-Toltec or Mexica period saw the arrival of
Nahua speaking groups, bringing Toltec culture
from central Mexico to Yucatan peninsula. They
exerted their influences on both material culture
and customs. Finally, in the period of Mexica
Absorption, wars and uprisings led to the
destruction of social organization and abandoning