18 Best Books About The Mayans: Discover the Ancient Civilization

Are you fascinated by the ancient civilization of the Mayans? Delve into a world filled with mystery, art, and incredible achievements by exploring books about the Mayans.

The Mayans were a complex society that thrived in parts of present-day Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. They left behind a rich cultural legacy that continues to captivate people around the world today.

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Presenting the books about the mayans – to learn their history and origins

Books about the Mayans
The temple of Kukulkan at the center of the Chichen Itza archaeological site in Yucat√°n, Mexico.

In this article, we will take a journey through the history of the Mayans, exploring their achievements in architecture, agriculture, astronomy, and more. We will also discuss the importance of reading books about the Mayans to gain a deeper understanding of their fascinating culture.

Whether you are an avid history buff or simply curious about this ancient civilization, we will provide a curated list of the top 18 books about the Mayans that offer unique insights into their world.

Who Were the Mayans?

The Mayans were an ancient civilization that thrived in Mesoamerica. They are primarily in the regions that are now present-day Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.

They were one of the most advanced and culturally rich civilizations of their time, with a complex society, sophisticated architecture, and a deep understanding of mathematics, astronomy, and writing.

The Mayans are best known for their impressive pyramids, intricate artwork, and intricate calendar system. Here are some key characteristics and achievements of the Mayans:

  • Advanced Civilization: The Mayans developed a highly advanced civilization, with complex social, political, and religious structures.
  • Architecture: They built magnificent pyramids, temples, and palaces that showcased their architectural prowess.
  • Writing System: The Mayans developed a hieroglyphic writing system that allowed them to record their history, literature, and religious beliefs.
  • Astronomy: They had a deep understanding of astronomy and developed a highly accurate calendar system.
  • Mathematics and Numerical Systems: The Mayans had a sophisticated numerical system and made important contributions to mathematics.
  • Art and Pottery: They were skilled artisans and produced intricate artwork, pottery, and sculptures.
  • Agriculture: The Mayans were skilled farmers and developed innovative agricultural techniques, such as terracing and irrigation systems.
  • Trade Networks: They had extensive trade networks and engaged in long-distance trade with neighboring civilizations.
  • Religion and Cosmology: The Mayans had a complex religious system and worshipped a pantheon of deities.
  • Decline: The Mayan civilization experienced a gradual decline, with factors such as environmental changes, political unrest, and warfare contributing to their downfall.

Studying books about the Mayans provides a deeper understanding of their fascinating culture, history, and contributions to civilization. In the next section, we will explore why it is beneficial to read books about the Mayans.

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The History of the Mayan Civilization

The Mayan civilization was one of the most advanced and sophisticated civilizations in the ancient world. It existed for over 3,000 years in Mesoamerica, which encompassed modern-day Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.

The Mayans are best known for their impressive architectural structures, intricate calendar system, and development of a hieroglyphic writing system.

Hieroglyphic Writing System

The history of the Mayan civilization can be divided into three major periods: the Preclassic, Classic, and Postclassic periods.

The Preclassic period, also known as the Formative period, lasted from 2000 BCE to 250 CE. During this time, the Mayans developed their agricultural techniques, built ceremonial centers, and established trade networks.

The Classic period, which spanned from 250 CE to 900 CE, was the height of Mayan civilization. It was marked by the construction of monumental architecture, such as the famous pyramids and temples in cities like Tikal, Palenque, and Chichen Itza. The Mayans also made significant advancements in mathematics, astronomy, and writing during this time.

The Postclassic period, from 900 CE to 1521 CE, was a time of political and social change for the Mayans. Many of the major cities were abandoned, and the Mayan civilization fragmented into separate city-states. It was during this period that Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mesoamerica and eventually led to the downfall of the Mayan civilization.

The Mayans had a complex social and political structure, with a ruling class of kings and nobles who governed the city-states.

They were skilled astronomers and developed a highly accurate calendar system, known as the Long Count calendar, which accurately measured time over thousands of years.

Mayan society also had a strong religious belief system, with rituals, sacrifices, and a pantheon of gods and goddesses.

The decline of the Mayan civilization is still a topic of debate among historians and archaeologists. Factors such as environmental degradation, warfare, and the arrival of the Spanish all likely played a role in the eventual downfall of the empire.

Despite their decline, the Mayans left behind a rich cultural legacy that continues to fascinate and intrigue people today.

Why Should You Read Books About the Mayans?

Reading books about the Mayans can provide a wealth of knowledge and insights into this fascinating ancient civilization. Whether you are a history enthusiast, an archaeology buff, or simply curious about different cultures, here are some reasons why you should consider exploring books about the Mayans:

Understanding a Remarkable Civilization
The Mayans were an advanced and sophisticated civilization that flourished in Mesoamerica for over two thousand years. By reading books about the Mayans, you can gain a deeper understanding of their achievements, culture, and way of life.

Exploring Ancient Cities and Architecture
The Mayans left behind impressive architectural wonders, such as majestic pyramids, intricate temples, and sprawling cities like Tikal and Chichen Itza. Books about the Mayans can take you on a virtual journey to these ancient sites, exploring their history and significance.

Learning about Mayan Religion and Beliefs
Mayan religion was a central aspect of their society, with complex rituals, gods, and cosmology. Books about the Mayans can shed light on their spiritual practices and provide insights into their worldview and religious beliefs.

Deciphering Mayan Hieroglyphs
The Mayans developed a sophisticated writing system using hieroglyphs. By delving into books about the Mayans, you can learn more about Mayan hieroglyphic writing and the ongoing efforts to decipher and understand this ancient script.

Exploring Mayan Art and Culture
Mayan art is renowned for its intricate beauty and symbolism. Books about the Mayans can introduce you to their artistic traditions, including pottery, sculpture, textiles, and murals, and help you appreciate the unique aesthetics of Mayan culture.

Understanding Mayan Calendar and Astronomy
The Maya were skilled astronomers and developed a highly accurate calendar system. Books about the Mayans can delve into their astronomical knowledge, including their calendar cycles, celestial observations, and their understanding of time.

Gaining Insights into Mayan Decline
Despite their achievements, the Mayans experienced a decline and eventual collapse of their civilization. Books about the Mayans can explore the various theories and factors that may have contributed to their downfall, providing valuable lessons about societal dynamics and historical patterns.

Reading books about the Mayans can offer a comprehensive and engaging exploration of this ancient civilization, allowing you to immerse yourself in their history, culture, and achievements.

Mayan Carvings on the walls
Some wallart by the Mayans. Mostly depicting about their lives and beliefs.

Top 18 Books About the Mayans

The Maya by Michael D. Coe

The Maya by Michael D. Coe is a comprehensive introduction to the ancient Mayan civilization. It explores their history, culture, art, and architecture, providing a detailed overview of this fascinating civilization.

Breaking the Maya Code by Michael D. Coe

“Breaking the Maya Code” by Michael D. Coe delves into the decipherment of Mayan hieroglyphic writing. This book explores the significant breakthroughs made in understanding the Mayan language and offers insights into their complex writing system.

Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman’s Path by David Freidel, Linda Schele, and Joy Parker

“Maya Cosmos” provides an in-depth exploration of Mayan cosmology, mythology, and spiritual practices. It delves into the role of the shaman and the interconnectedness between the spiritual and natural realms in Mayan culture.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

“1491” challenges traditional views of pre-Columbian America and includes a significant section on the Mayan civilization. It presents new research and insights into the advanced nature of Mayan society before European contact.

The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art by Linda Schele and Mary Ellen Miller

“The Blood of Kings” explores the rich symbolism and meaning behind Mayan art and artifacts. It provides a visual journey through the intricate world of Mayan dynasties, religious rituals, and political power.

The Ancient Maya by Robert J. Sharer and Loa P. Traxler

“The Ancient Maya” is a comprehensive textbook that covers the entire span of Mayan civilization, from its origins to its decline. It offers a detailed examination of Mayan history, society, religion, and culture.

The Maya Civilization: A Captivating Guide to Maya History and Mystery by Captivating History

“The Maya Civilization” offers a captivating overview of Mayan history, from their origins to their collapse. It delves into their achievements in architecture, mathematics, astronomy, and the mysteries that still surround this ancient civilization.

The Maya: Ancient Peoples & Places by Charlotte A. Joyce

“The Maya: Ancient Peoples & Places” provides an accessible introduction to Mayan civilization. It covers their history, society, art, and architecture, making it an excellent starting point for those new to the subject.

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston

“The Lost City of the Monkey God” tells the true story of an expedition to uncover a lost Mayan city in the Honduran jungle. It combines archaeology, adventure, and history to offer a thrilling account of the search for a long-lost civilization.

The Maya: Palaces and Pyramids of the Rainforest by Nigel Davies

“The Maya: Palaces and Pyramids of the Rainforest” takes readers on a visual journey through the magnificent ruins of Mayan cities. It explores the architecture, urban planning, and artistic achievements of the Mayan civilization.

Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of The Mayan Book of The Dawn of Life and The Glories of Gods and Kings by Dennis Tedlock

“Popol Vuh” is a translation of the famous Mayan creation myth and epic. This edition by Dennis Tedlock provides a definitive and accessible version of this significant Mayan text, offering insights into their religious beliefs and worldview.

The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives edited by Heather McKillop

“The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives” is a collection of essays by various experts in the field of Mayan studies. It presents new research and perspectives on topics such as agriculture, trade, political organization, and social life in the ancient Mayan world.

Daily Life in Maya Civilization by Robert J. Sharer and Loa P. Traxler

“Daily Life in Maya Civilization” provides a glimpse into the everyday lives of the Mayans. It explores their homes, food, clothing, social organization, and religious practices, offering a comprehensive understanding of their day-to-day existence.

The Code of Kings: The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs by Linda Schele and Peter Mathews

“The Code of Kings” focuses on the symbolism and inscriptions found in seven Mayan temples and tombs. It decodes the intricate language of Mayan hieroglyphs and provides insights into the religious and political significance of these sacred sites.

The Ancient Mayas: Adventures in the Jungles of Yucatan by Serge de Laugier de Beaurecueil

“The Ancient Mayas” combines archaeological discoveries with adventure narratives to provide an engaging exploration of Mayan history and culture. It takes readers on a journey through the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula, uncovering the mysteries of the Mayan civilization.

Maya Art and Architecture by Mary Ellen Miller

“Maya Art and Architecture” offers a comprehensive study of Mayan artistic traditions and architectural achievements. It explores the symbolism, aesthetics, and cultural context of Mayan art, providing a deeper understanding of their visual expressions.

The Splendor of Guatemala by Alain Sicard and Aurora Caceres de Galindo

“The Splendor of Guatemala” showcases the vibrant cultural heritage of the Mayans in present-day Guatemala. It features stunning photographs of archaeological sites, traditional clothing, crafts, and modern-day traditions, capturing the essence of Mayan culture.

The Maya: Voices in Stone by Alejandro Quintana

“The Maya: Voices in Stone” explores the magnificent Mayan ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula through beautiful photographs and informative text. It highlights the architectural marvels, intricate carvings, and historical significance of these ancient sites.


Exploring the world of the Mayans is a fascinating journey that can provide valuable insights into an ancient civilization. By reading books about the Mayans, you can gain a deeper understanding of their history, culture, and contributions to society.

Whether you are interested in learning about their complex calendar system, their remarkable achievements in architecture, or their mysterious disappearance, there is a wealth of knowledge waiting to be discovered. So pick up a book about the Mayans and embark on an adventure that will transport you back in time.

Happy reading, and enjoy your exploration of the Mayan civilization!