The Mayans were familiar with tactical warfare throughout their 2,000 year history, though unlike most ancient civilizations, the use of horses and chariots was not a part of Mayan military technique. Most Mayan weapons were items that could be used from a distance, that would allow soldiers to take advantage of the surrounding landscape’s natural forests for concealment.
Weapons used by the Mayans included: the bow and arrow, blowguns, spears, axes, knives with blades of volcanic glass , and spear-throwing slings called ‘atatls’.
Helmets were not common, and most armor was simply tight-woven cotton, with shields made of with animal skin, reed matting, or carved wood.
Barricades and trenches were popular devices in Mayan warfare, and armies had an elaborate signaling system using whistles and drums. Indeed, much of the Mayan system of warfare was based on the element of intimidation and surprise – the war chieftains are known from wall paintings to have dressed in elaborate animal-inspired robes and headdresses; painting one’s body with religious insignia was also common before battle.
Unfortunately for their enemies, the Mayans were keen on taking prisoners… for the express purpose of sacrificing them on a temple altar, in front of the entire tribe. The belief was that by eating the heart of an enemy warrior, you could gain a portion of that warrior’s strength.
Tomorrow: Abortion early in Greek history