Among the most important natural resources of the Maya people we encounter construction materials including limestone, obsidian, flint, chert, jade, and volcanic rocks brought from the highlands. Other resources such as salt played an important dietary supplement to the Maya diet. Each of these materials was utilized in the making of the architectural monuments, farm working tools, ornamental artifacts, and in the creation of useful tools to carve the limestone such as in the production of “manos” and “metates” for grinding maize. Other resources such as the tail feathers of the quetzal were of great importance in costume creation for the Maya rulers.
One of the primary and most important samples of Classic Maya pictorial representations is in the form of polychrome ceramics. The ceramic vessels have survived the passing of time due to the use of low fired ceramic techniques and the refuge that the contents received in ceremonial burying grounds where they were found. The paintings in polychrome ceramics give us an incomplete but important view of the artistic traditions, Maya social divisions, and the historical and mythological events that made them possible.
The Maya shared similar traits with other Mesoamerican cultures of the time, which were rare or absent elsewhere in the New World. Among these traits we have the use of hieroglyphic writing, books made from deer skin or tree bark, a permutation calendar, understanding of astronomical events, the ball game, human sacrifices, and a pantheistic religion that included divine deities as well as deities of royal descent (Coe, 1993)
The dependency of native Mesoamerican cultures on maize, beans, chili peppers, and squash, to this day, make up their diet. As we will see, this diet played an important role in where and how theses cultures came about.
Because of the deficiency of essential amino acids and niacin in maize, the discovery of the process of its enhancement through the use of mixing it with lime to produce nixtamal would prove to be invaluable since this technique allowed the release of niacin and enhanced the amino acids present in it. This technique made it possible for the Mesoamerica cultures to rise.
The study of the Mesoamerica cultures is divided into periods based on the apex of Maya culture, this being the Classic period (AD 250- AD 900). Consequently, the Preclassic period (2,000 BC - AD 250), otherwise termed Formative period, and Postclassic period (AD 900 - AD 1530), serve as chronological markers of the events that took place. In creating a timeline with the children labels will be used to place the objects of study in the context of their lives. As part of this timeline we will include the birth of Christ, the founding of the city of New Haven, the year the students were born, and the year that the children entered the grade level in which this unit is being implemented.