Mayas, the race of Indians inhabiting Yucatan and some adjoining districts. By some ethnologists they are regarded as a distinct race, though the precise period of their arrival on the peninsula is unknown; by others as descended from the Toltecs, according to which theory the first immigration must have taken place between 1052 and 1200; and others still imagine them to be the resultant of two races, one from the islands of Ilayti, Cuba, etc, and the other from the west (Toltecs?), under the guidance of Zamna, a priest, who named the different parts of the coast and the interior, and was the first to train the people in the arts of civilization. The last theory appears the most plausible, inasmuch as nearly .all writers agree in crediting the Toltecs with the introduction of civilization into the peninsula. As to their rulers, Landa is of opinion that three brothers came from the west to Chichen Itza and ruled there; that after the death or departure of one, the two others became tyrannical and were slain; and that Cuculan (the Mexican Quetzalcoatl) reestablished order, founded Mayapan (a name afterward extended to the whole peninsula), and left the lordship to the house of the Cocomes, about the 10th century.
From the south (Chiapas) came large tribes, the Tutuxiu (also Toltecs), who aided the natives to overthrow the Cocom dynasty and massacre the monarch of Mayapan, probably in the first half of the 15th century. The kingdom was then divided into upward of 40 petty seigniories, all tributary and submissive to the Lata be or cacique of Mani. Large numbers migrated to the adjoining district of Peten, where they are known under the name of Itzaes. Landa, and since him Stephens, Squier, and many others, rank the Mayas among the most civilized of American nations, with an alphabet and a literature, cultivating the soil, manufacturing, having sailing vessels, carrying on trade, using a medium of exchange, and erecting temples and other edifices of stone, which, from their size and profuse ornamentation in carved and colored figures and hassi rilievi, are, even in their ruined state (at Pa-lenque, Uxmal, Chichen Itza, &c), the most remarkable architectural relics in the western hemisphere. Orozco y Berra, Morelet, and other travellers and archaeologists, contend that the Toltecs alone could have been the builders of these edifices and cities; and Morelet strongly maintains this theory, which he bases upon the "indisputable analogy existing between "these ruins and the ancient monuments of Tula and Mitla, and the geographical position of the former, which spread over the line of Toltec emigration." Be this as it may, it is certain that the Maya language bears no relation to the Toltec, but is the principal branch of the Huaxteco-Maya-Quiche family.
Possibly the language of the immigrants from the West Indies prevailed to the exclusion of the Toltec, as the Maya has successfully resisted the influence of the Spanish tongue since the conquest, The Mava writing was of two kinds, one representing the letters of the alphabet, which lacks the Spanish d, f, g, q, r, and r, the other ex pressing syllables by characters. Landa gives the first alphabet, some samples of the second, and the signs of the months, with their system of numerals, with the help of which scholars have been enabled to decipher some of the ancient Maya manuscripts still preserved in Europe, as the Troano, Dresden manuscript, etc. They are written on long strips of prepared inner bark, folded in book form, the lines reading from right to left or from bottom to top. The Maya abounds in monosyllables, elisions, and syncopes; different meanings arc given to the same word by tones. The plural is generally formed by adding oh, comparison by il. The first grammars were drawn up by Villalpando and Landa; an Arte del idioma Maya, by Gabriel de San Buenaventura, was printed at Mexico in 1560, and others followed. That of Pedro Beltran de Santa Rosa Maria (Mexico, 1746) contained the first dictionary.
In recent times many works upon the Maya have been issued by the abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg, including Gramatica de la lengua Quiche, drawn chiefly from the Tesoro de las lenguas Quiche, Cakchi-quel y Tzutuhil of Francisco Ximenez (Paris, 1862), and Dictionnaire, grammaire et chres-tomathie de la langue Maya, precedes d'vne etude sur le systeme graphique des indigenes du Yucutan (Mexique) (Paris, 1872). His theories are not as readily accepted as the historical material he presents. A Maya dictionary by Dr. Behrend is now in press (1875). - The Mayas flattened the head of their infants, painted the face and body, and tattooed their persons; the women filed their teeth, and wore pieces of amber in the cartilage of the nose; both sexes wore ear rings. They bathed frequently for religious purposes, and always washed their hands and mouth after eating; but they used a drink like mead, rendered intoxicating by the infusion of a root, and both sexes drank to excess. They had drums and wind instruments, and though some of their dances were obscene, the women were chaste and modest. As money they used shells, pieces of copper, or cacao beans.
Their religion, as administered by the cheles or priests, was a terrible system, the victims being slain with arrows, or cut open and flayed after the heart was extracted. Others were thrown down the sacred pit of Chichen Itza. In war they used arrows tipped with obsidian or teeth of fish, flint-headed spears, and copper hatchets. They had bucklers and defensive armor made of quilted cotton with salt inside. Their year was of 18 months, each with 20 days, and 5 days 6 hours over. They had a bissextile year.