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Summer SAVY 2018: Session 6, Day 2 – Archaeology and Ancient Culture (Rising 3rd/4th)

Posted by on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 in Grade 3, Grade 4, SAVY.

Our archaeologists had a very challenging day today! First, we reviewed everything we learned yesterday about the kind of work that archaeologists do and how social systems work. After reviewing the concept of systems and spending a little more time discussing Maya social systems, we moved on to economic systems. Understanding and conceptualizing economic systems is a little more difficult than social systems, but our students did really well! It is really important for archaeologists to understand the economies of past civilizations in order to see the economic relationships between different social groups (including households, cities, and regions). We can also compare the successes and failures of past economic systems to our own to better understand how we might sustain or improve our current systems. To better understand how the Maya economic system worked, we modeled a Mesoamerican marketplace by trading some of the ceramics we made and painted in class yesterday with other “social groups.” Then, each social group added their own hieroglyph (or brand) to the piece of pottery they had. As we move through the week, we will continue to use these pieces to model how crafts move through social, economic, and political systems and how they finally end up in the archaeological record. Next, we learned about the Maya system for writing numbers! We watched a small clip of the PBS Nova video “Cracking the Maya Code” that discussed the importance of understanding Maya writing systems. I have copied the link to the full video below if you would like to watch the entire video with your archaeologist-in-training. Many of the students wanted to watch more! While our system is a base 10 system, the Maya used a vigesimal base 20 system. Students practiced completing simple and complex mathematical equations using the Maya system, and then they had the opportunity to come up with their own equations! Many of them completed several complex Maya equations! Ms. Rachael and I were very impressed!

Here is the link to the video.  Also, here is the image we used for Maya hieroglyphs.

Also, if you want to review some of the concepts we learned today, here are a few discussion questions related to the video. Some of these we discussed today, but some of them are new.

1. Why is it so important for archaeologists to understand the Maya system of writing? Why is it important for modern Maya to understand the writing systems of their ancestors?
2. What information about Maya social, economic, and political systems might be gathered from ancient Maya writings?
3. Why might it be problematic for only archaeologists to understand the “Maya Code?”

Thanks so much!

Phyllis Johnson

Working With Our Mayan Numbers