FINAL DRAFT - History 284 (A. Bix) What happens when...

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History 284 (A. Bix) What happens when Civilizations go on Vacation? Take Home Exam 2
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Koushik Chandra 11/14/2007
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If a resident of ancient Egypt were magically transported to the world of the Mayan Empire at the peak of its civilization, there would be a few familiarities, but mainly some drastic differences. One of the main differences that one would observe is the diversity in cultures that surround the Mayan tribe on the Yucatan peninsula. In ancient Egypt, there was only one culture that had been unified under one emperor. With the Mayans, many other tribes co-existed with them and pushed them to compete, whereas with the Egyptians there was not really a threat of war other than the distant countries surrounding them! When the Mayan civilization constructed pyramids, they were in a rounded, stepped up architecture; whereas in Ancient Egypt they were constructed as straight slopes with square, equilateral edges. The most intriguing thing for the Egyptians would be the curious construction of temples atop these pyramids, and the lack of burial chambers within the pyramid walls as well. In the Mayan civilization, in fact the entire Mesoamerican civilization, the pyramids were built as a place of sacrifice and ways of communicating with the various Gods so they would remain in good standing. The Mayans did not believe in the preservation of their rulers’ bodies in the afterlife so the soul could rest in peace, and that was the main difference between the construction of pyramids that the Egyptians would notice. Another main difference when observing the construction of these peculiar pyramids is the fact that the Mayans used hand cut limestone blocks, much different from the Egyptians who used massive granite blocks. When inspecting the Mayan Pyramids the Egyptians would probably notice the steep slopes of the sides of the pyramid, the steep
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outer stairs that were carved into the sides of the pyramid leading to the altar on top, and wonder what practicality a temple had on top of a pyramid. The main reason for the construction in this fashion was that the pyramids were meant to communicate with the heavens and the Gods, and when there was a sacrifice made at the top of the pyramid’s temple the God could take it up to heaven right away instead of waiting for it. “Chichen Itza is the most impressive and intact ruins of Mayan civilization that the modern world has.”(www.world-mysteries.com) Mayan ruins such as these of the Chichen Itza are remnants of cities that were abandoned long before Columbus reached the area; yet this culture has influenced many areas of architecture, art, and astronomy, that live on even in our modern world. From this description, it can arguably be said that the Egyptians would come to consider the Chichen Itza or the “City of Pyramids”, as a true wonder. “The famous temple city known as Chichén Itzá was once the center of political and economic life for the people of the Mayan civilization. Its name derived from a Mayan phrase meaning
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FINAL DRAFT - History 284 (A. Bix) What happens when...

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