This week Year 5 were lucky enough to have a visit from an archaeologist, Dr Diane Davies, who specialises in the Ancient Maya. Dr Diane is the only archaeologist in the whole of the UK who studies Ancient Maya so we took the chance to find out as much as we possibly could by asking her the 179 questions that we had written!
During our lesson last week, we saw some videos of Dr Diane when she was living in Guatemala in the rainforest and working on excavations of the Maya sites there. We found out that the Maya were excellent builders, artists, mathematicians, writers, astronomers, ballplayers and chocolate makers. We even had the chance to try out Mayan maths for ourselves and found out that Dr Diane’s favourite fact about the Maya was they invented a zero so they could count and calculate with very large numbers.
She told us about her favourite find which was actually the first object that she ever excavated, the pieces of a red-painted pottery bowl that was 2200 years old.
We found out that for a long time the Maya used a barter system to exchange goods but in the late 1300’s began to use cacao beans as a currency. We also discovered that the Maya had a rich oral tradition of storytelling and there is evidence of one of their creation myths and stories of the Hero Twins who had many adventures and can be seen painted in murals.
We heard that the Maya Kings were given the name of an animal such as a jaguar but the ordinary people were named after the calendar days. Some of Dr Diane’s friends in the rainforest are still named after the calendar days today!
Our most surprising discovery was the fact that the Maya did not really carry out human sacrifices despite many of us believing that that was true.
We thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the Maya and Dr Diane’s exciting (and sometimes dangerous) time spent in the rainforest.