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The Similarities in Cultural Ideals of The Antipodean Civilizations of Egypt and Maya

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The focus of this Internal Assessment was to take information from two sides and find comparisons and contrasts to answer my research question, “To what extent did the antipodean civilizations of Egypt and Maya share cultural ideals?” The top two sources chosen include: Source one- Encyclopedia of Ancient Maya and Source two- Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt.

Although, the origin of source of one is unknown, the value and limitations of the site allows the information to seem unbiased and could possibly can be a bunch of sources together that we wouldn’t know. The purpose was to inform me about the different subareas that existed within the Mayan civilization and culture. This is valuable due to the purpose aligned perfectly with one half of my historical investigation in relation to my RQ. However, this information is limited because it only expounds on the Maya and not how it relates to the Egyptians. The content contained facts, similar to an encyclopedia, about the different subareas that existed within the Mayan civilization and culture in relation to my RQ. This is valuable because, the factual information proposed one half of research required to answer my research question on the antipodean societies. Hence, one major limitation is, that the site only expounds exponentially on one topic and not both halves.

Next, Source two’s origin is also unknown. This is also a similarly major limitation that could possibly be owed to the site being a compilation of many other sources that we will never truly know the answer to. Yet, it allows the information to be a primary source and seem unbiased in certain aspects. The purpose was to provide knowledge in many areas of Ancient Egyptian civilization. However, the sites purpose is limited because it was designed to solely inform about on topic. Allowing, however, this site to be valuable in the sense that it aligned perfectly with the other half of my research. The content of source two contained facts and information on subtopics of the Ancient Egyptian civilization as it relates to my research question. Hence, allowing the content to be valuable as the second half of my research as it relates to my global historical investigation. Yet, this causes it to be limited in the sense of it only expounding on the Egyptians and not how it relates to the Maya. I will be evaluating two antipodean ancient civilizations on a global scale essentially, to find their similarities and difference. This will be through the analyzation of a few things they generally have in-common and showing the similarities and differences between each area.

Firstly, what were the different aspects of religion that benefitted each society or factored into its demise? The Maya and Egyptians had many Gods with different names but with the same soul (meaning). Some of these Gods include Itzamn and Amun-Ra (big cheese), Chac and Tefnut (rain God and Goddess), Ah Mun and Osiris (Gods of agriculture), Ah Puch and Anubis (Gods of Death and Embalming), etc. With these Gods in common, both civilizations believed in human sacrifice occasionally, maybe one not as much the other, to please the Gods. (E.g. Egyptians would sacrifice humans when there was a serious famine, drought, or flood unlike the Maya who religiously sacrificed humans). Also, unlike the Egyptians, the Maya sacrificed animal offerings more than any other civilization during their time. Each society was so religious, to the point where priests had a separate calendar developed just for religious days and events. What technological advances helped each civilization to grow? What construction advances helped each civilization? What advances caused trouble for each civilization? Both Societies based their construction techniques around the basic principles of geometry. The Maya and the Egyptians interpreted the principles of geometry differently. Unlike the Maya, Egyptian pyramids started off as Mastaba’s and evolved over time due to their advancement in pulley systems. Giant blocks of stone get moved across dampened sand making it easier to haul the huge blocks of stone. Science shows that the Egyptians placed the great pyramids so close to the stars that it was off by a tenth of a degree to true north. The Maya excelled in a crucial area that the Egyptians simply could not, the development of rubber (vulcanization–combining rubber with other materials to make it more durable–was discovered by the American (from Connecticut) Charles Goodyear in the 19th century).

The Maya discovered this process accidentally, during a religious ritual in which they combined the rubber tree and the morning-glory plant. Once they realized how strong and versatile this new material was, the Maya began to use it in a variety of ways: to make water-resistant cloth, glue, bindings for books, figurines and the large rubber balls used in the ritual game known as pokatok. Both Civilizations used 2 calendars. These calendars lasted for 360 days a piece, for each civilization one calendar was for everyday life and the other for religious purposes. Egyptians were one of the first true civilizations to adopt a calendar that was solar based. The calendar was 360 days with 12 months and 30 days long but they added an extra 5 days due to it running into an error over time. The solar calendar allowed them to predict the annual flooding which came, typically, right after Sirius reappeared. The solar calendar was so in-tune that it was only off by 12 minutes of one true solar year. Every 4 years, however, the calendar would fall behind the true solar year by 1 day and would take up to 1,460 years for it to agree with the lunisolar calendar. The Sothic Cycle was a huge deal. The Maya developed one of the most accurate calendar systems throughout history. The Maya strongly believed in the influence of the cosmos on daily life.

The first, known as the Calendar Round, was based on two overlapping annual cycles: a 260-day sacred year and a 365-day secular year. For example, they knew how to predict solar eclipses. They also used astrological cycles to aid in planting and harvesting and developed two calendars that are as precise as those we use today. Under this system, each day was assigned four pieces of identifying information: a day number and day name in the sacred calendar and a day number and month name in the secular calendar. Every 52 years counted as a single interval, or Calendar Round. After each interval the calendar would reset itself like a clock. Because the Calendar Round measured time in an endless loop, it was a poor way to fix events in an absolute chronology or in relationship to one another over a long period. The Maya developed a renowned Long Count Calendar. A priest working in about 236 BC devised another system: a calendar that he called the Long Count. The Long Count system identified each day by counting forward from a fixed date in the distant past. (In the early 20th century, scholars found that this “base date” was August 11 or August 13, 3114 BC). It grouped days into sets, or cycles, as follows: baktun (144,000 days), k’atun (7,200 days), tun (360 days), uinal or winal (20 days) and kin (one day).

The Long Count calendar worked the same way that the Calendar Round did–it cycled through one interval after another–but its interval, known as a “Grand Cycle”, was much longer. One Grand Cycle was equal to 13 baktuns, or about 5,139 solar years. Maya and Egypt were about 2000 years apart. Unlike Egypt, Maya sat on the Yucatan Peninsula. The Maya still shared the peninsula with other civilizations and managed to stay independent and unique. Also, the Maya was still equally as isolated as Egypt, if not more. Next, Mayan Astrology didn’t only look at zodiac signs and houses to interpret events. It interprets events in the sky according to what is happening on the planet Earth during the time of the event; in other words it’s looking at the days and years on Earth. Time itself is at the center of Mayan Astrology like it was for Ancient Egypt. The things they focused on include, Day-Signs, The Tracena, and The Lords of the Night, The Year, and The Cycle of Venus. Next, Egyptian pyramids were originally designed as mastabas and eventually turned into 6 layered pyramids. In Egypt, pharaohs started building pyramids as soon as soon as they took the throne. The Maya and Egyptians incorporate the Gods with each pyramid that they built and each had a religious purpose. This is owed to each civilization believing that their kings were Demi-Gods. The Maya built their pyramids to solely worship their Gods and rarely buried their kings in them.

To reflect upon my investigation, about two globally impacting civilizations, I now know that it is extremely difficult to establish “truth” and “proof” in history. This statement is owed to the fact that as events happen, not only historians, people tend to perceive things differently depending on how that event influences anything within their life. This does not take credibility away, nor does it mean that all versions are equally accurate. However, after researching I do know now that it does mean some are more acceptable over others, and that all work will be judged no matter how biased or unbiased it may seem, especially on a global scale. This investigation simply wanted to challenge the idea that two civilizations so far apart globally and chronologically couldn’t be analyzed together, elaborating on their similarities and differences.

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