The development of an extensive commercial network between neighboring Mayan city-states has recently has been accepted as a prime mechanism for economic growth in the ancient civilization. In the Maya highlands, irrigation canals and terraces were constructed to adapt the local environment to agriculture; in the the lowlands, the people grew crops on raised platforms called chinampas.
Ancient Mayan Economic Network
During the Preclassic the first truly state in MesoamÚrica, The Mirador Basin, was linked by huge causeways that allowed the exchange of goods between bajos around 800 BC, thus giving them the strength to build the largest structures known in the Americas, including the largest Pyramid in the world, La Danta.
The development of extensive trade networks during the Classic, Terminal Classic, and parts of the Post Classic, allowed many Maya communities to acquire materials, which were not readily available. Not only did these relationships produce an exchange of ideas, but also they created a politically and economically sound infrastructure upon which the communities could prosper.
Ancient Mayan Trading
In ancient mayan system, Cacao beans, copper bells, marine shells, jade beads were used as exchange media, although calling them "currency" is a bit strong, since the production of any of them wasn't controlled by a specific government.
The Yucatan coast is abundant in salinas, or coastal salt flats. The dry season (January to May) allows for inland saline-filled swamps to recede, leaving residual salt-encrusted mud. It is estimated that 20,000 metric tons could be yielded annually. The central area, particularly the Peten region, contained little to no salt sources. The need for salt and the abundance of the resource in the Yucatan prompted rigorous trade.
Mayan Economy Facts
Chocolate was made from roasted cocoa beans, water and a little spice: and it was the most important use of cocoa beans, although they were also valued as a currency. An early explorer visiting Guatemala found that: A large tomato was worth one bean, a turkey egg was 3 beans, 4 cocoa beans could buy a pumpkin, 100 could buy a rabbit or a good turkey hen, and 1000 a slave.
Cacao beans were worth transporting for long distances because they were luxury items.The merchants, or Pochtecas, of Teotihucan, obtained access to obsidian sources in the Guatemalan highlands, as well as major economic centers, such as Tikal and Kaminaljuy˙.
The raw material demand for Teotihuacan was extremely high with its estimated 45,000 population during the Early Classic Period. The hallmark tripod pottery design of Teotihuacan, found primarily in Kaminaljuy˙, suggests the heavy influence of entrepreneurial traders.