Achievements and architecture of Great Zimbabwe and the Mayanby Rit Nosotro
Compare the achievements of Great Zimbabwe with the Amerindian civilization of the Mayan.
The accomplishments and civilization of the Mayans and the cities of Kilwa and Great Zimbabwe, both early African civilizations, are linked in more ways than the surface might suggest. The architecture of these three peoples is one of their greatest accomplishments. The architecture and religion of these civilizations are all linked together, and in the case of the Mayans, linked to science as well. All three boast amazing structures, yet their normal populace all lived in huts. The accomplishments of the Mayans, Kilwa, and Great Zimbabwe have contrasts as well. Big accomplishments are in different areas, and the Mayans seem more 'advanced' than the others.
Great Zimbabwe was a city built by cattle herders, and cattle seems to have been a staple food of these Africans. Great Zimbabwe traded cattle and also gold to ports such as Kilwa in exchange for cloth and beads and pottery, some of which came from China. In the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, three areas of stone walls were found. These walls are constructed from granite, which was easily accessible from the granite hills all around. Weathered granite chips off in layers several inches thick, perfect for using in walls. In the older walls the rocks are not chipped to a more perfect shape, they are just put together, unlike the newer walls. The walls reach heights of 36 feet and thicknesses of 19.7 feet. The amazing fact is that the people of Great Zimbabwe built these walls completely without mortar. Even without mortar, the Shona descendants were able to make the walls curved. They used the huge boulders and rock outcroppings and integrated them into their walls. The amazing enclosures are thought to be the homes of the main chiefs, but the majority of the people, up to 20,000 at the city's peak, liked in grass huts outside the walls. Great Zimbabwe was far enough south that the Islamic conquests and Crusades didn't affect it. We know they worshipped Mwari as the creator of all life, and their architecture paid tribute to a religious society. It had a complex on a hill that seems to be a place of religion because ceremonial spearheads, monoliths, and soapstone birds have been found in this section of the ruins. Along with that, a perfect 66x66 foot enclosure is full of stone platforms, which seem to indicate a main place of religion. The Conical Tower is a 33 ft. tower inside the 820 ft long Great Enclosure. It appears to have religious significance because it has a large wall in front of it and seems to serve no practical purpose. Also, altars have been uncovered. Besides this, little is known about the religion of Great Zimbabwe because frenzied, uncontrolled archeology ruined many artifacts.
The religion of the Mayans is polytheistic. The main god is Itzama. Itzma and Ixchel, the goddess of the moon, childbirth, medicine, and weaving, are the parents of the bacabs. The bacabs were the gods that hold up the sky and make up the 4 cardinal directions, and divide time into 4-year cycles. (It is interesting to note that the Allah, the god of Islam, is the moon god of Saudi Arabia in about 610 AD.) The Mayans worshiped many other gods such as the Quatzequatel, the god that brought peace. In Teotihuacan there is a pyramid dedicated to him called the Pyramid of the Sun, so he is a son god. The other sun god was named Kinich Ahau. Two other gods are Yumil Kaxob, the maize god and Venus, the planet 'god' of warfare. Maize was the main food staple of the Mayans, so it is easy to see why they would worship a god of corn. Mayans believed that when they died their souls went to an underworld of torture. They also had a goddess of suicide, Ixtab, because they believed that by committing suicide you would go to heaven. It is sad to see that none of these civilizations knew the true god, especially that the Mayans would kill themselves for assurance of life after death. (In Roman Catholicism, suicide is an unpardonable sin.) If only they knew that the true God requires not our death but belief (Acts 2:38) and LIVING for Him!
Mayan gods link to the architecture and science of the Mayans because many of the gods are solar bodies. The Mayans tracked the moon, and Venus, and Mercury, among other planets. They predicted the eclipses and revolutions of Jupiter so accurately that their calculations were only wrong one out day out of 6000 years. The Mayan calendar was two fold. One was made up of 13 months each with 20 days called the Tzolkin. This calendar was based on the cycle of Pleidies. The other with 18 months of 20 days, a calendar of 360 days plus 5 evil days, is based on the rotation of the earth, like our calendar. It was called the Haab. These calendars cycled through together and every 52 years the cycle started over again. The Mayans also developed a moon calendar of 28-day cycles divided into 7-day segments, like the modern week. The astronomy and calendar are not only linked to the religion but also to architecture which pays tribute to the gods and chronicles time, like the pyramid of El Tajin. This famous pyramid has niches in it that represent each day of the 365-day year. Other buildings had holes in them cut so accurately that when Orion could be seen through them, it was a signal that spring was soon. In the Mayan civilization polished limestone was the rock used for construction. There is a limestone shelf in central/northern part of the Yucatan peninsula, again showing the availability of resources and geography caused a specific style of architecture. The style unique to the Mayans is the corbel arch, which is a tiered arch. The peasants lived in huts made of mud or rock covered wooden poles, like the roofs of Kilwa. These huts had hay roofs.
In Kilwa, instead of granite or limestone, the main construction material was coral rock. Houses were mostly single storied but some were up to 3 stories tall. This architecture used mortar, unlike Great Zimbabwe. For the roofs of the houses, mangrove poles supported rock slabs. The mangrove and coral rock are obtained by the situation of Kilwa, an island off the coast of Tanzania; Kilwa is an Islamic city. In the 9th century the island was sold to Ali bin Al -Hasan who was an Islamic trader. Since Islam is a religion as well as a political culture, Islam affected Kilwa in many ways. The architecture in Kilwa resembled Islamic architecture in Europe. There were mosques and domed roofs. When a Moroccan man visited the city he noticed the extravagance of the city but noted that only the nobility had these things, the poor lived in straw huts like those of Great Zimbabwe. Kilwa was so well known because of its trade on the Indian Ocean and with southern parts of Africa, such as Great Zimbabwe with it's gold. (The gold may not have come directly from Great Zimbabwe, but the people of the city may have gotten it through trade from surrounding regions.)
Aside from these comparable accomplishments, the Mayans, and people of Kilwa and Great Zimbabwe have several unique characteristics. Great Zimbabwe, for example, is the largest structure south of the Sahara. Kilwa was the first medieval city to have it's own mint. The Mayan civilization was the most densely populated region of the tropics and had a written language of hieroglyphics, the first in the Western Hemisphere. In contrast, Great Zimbabwe left behind no record of a written language, and Kilwa leaves no legacy of outstanding scientific discovery like that of the Mayans.
The accomplishments of Great Zimbabwe, Kilwa, and the Mayans are all non-European which make them interesting to study. The studies have shown the great architecture of all three peoples, which is linked to their religion, the amazing scientific/astronomical study of the Mayans, and the wealthy power and trade of Great Zimbabwe and Kilwa.
Which of these cities and peoples built using stone without mortar?
a) Great Zimbabwe
b) The Mayans
c) city of Kilwa
d) both a and c
e) all of the above
Where and among which people would you find a mosque?
a) the Mayans
b) Great Zimbabwe
c) both a and b
e) none of the above
How accurate were the Mayan predictions of the revolutions of Jupiter?
a) Off one day out of every year
c) Off one hour every 600 years
d) Off one day every 6,000 years
e) The Mayans didn't study astronomy
Where did the peasant class live in huts?
a) Great Zimbabwe
c) the Mayans
d) none of these
e) a, b and c
1 Kristian A. Werling (editor), Chad E. Anderson (researcher), Brankica Radonjic (writer). "Africa South of the Sahara Chronology". North Park University. 21 November 2003 <http://campus.northpark.edu/history/WedChron/GreatZimbabwe.html> (November 21, 2003)
3George P. Landow. "Great Zimbabwe". Brown University. 21 November 2003 <http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/landow/post/zimbabwe/art/gratzim/gz1.html> (November 21, 2003) note: I used this site and the links to Architecture/"Indigenous Architecture in Zimbabwe" and "Great Zimbabwe: The Hill Complex" all by the same author.
4Author Unknown. "Kilwa Historical Site". Utalii Travel and Safari. 21 November 2003 <http://www.utalii.com/Off_the_normal_path/kilwa.htm> (November 21, 2003)
5Author Unknown. "Great Zimbabwe" in "The Story of Africa" BBC. 21 November 2003 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/storyofafrica/10chapter1.shtml> (November 21, 2003)
7Applied Research Group. "Kilwa". University of Calgary. 21 November 2003 <http://www.ucalgary.ca/applied_history/tutor/oldwrld/merchants/kilwa.html> (November 21, 2003)
8Ing. Monico Breseno. "Mayans" from "Precolumbian Culture". University of Guadalajara. 21 November 2003 <http://mexico.udg.mx/historia/precolombinas/ingles/maya/> ( November 21, 2003) note: used the links to " Mayan Architecture" and "Mayan Social"
9Ellie Crystal. "Mayan Indians" Crystalinks. 21 November 2003 <http://www.cyrstalinks.com/mayan.html> ( November 21, 2003) note: Used the links to Art and Architecture, Astronomy, Calendars and Prophecies, Geography, Gods and Goddesses, Social, History
10Dr. David R. Reagan. "The Truth About Islam".
Lamb and Lion Ministries. 21 November 2003 <http://www.lamblion.com/New08.php>
( November 21, 2003)
Additional information about <http://hyperhistory.net/apwh/essays/comp/cw13zimbabwemaya33130519.htm>
The above essay was donated to hyperhistory.net.
of inaccuracies or plagiarism.
Post a link to this essay,
a great essay
on your blog or website :
|Comparative Essays||Biographies||Doc. Based Questions||Change Over Time|