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You have learned in this chapter that nearly every culture holds some materials valuable. These prestige materials often have little practical use but have been ascribed intrinsic value by society. They tend to be of limited supply and often pass through elaborate trade systems. It is important to remember that every culture may hold different materials to be valuable, and items that are worth little to modern or western society may have been quite important in the past.

The dampness of the jungle environment has meant that Maya murals rarely survive. However, at the site of Bonampak in Mexico, rainwater seeped through one temple's plaster roof in such a way that a transparent layer of calcium carbonate formed over the frescos on the inner walls. This natural fluke preserved the paintings in beautiful condition for modern study.

For this activity perform a Google image search for photographs of the Maya murals at Bonampak. Once you have looked over several portions of the murals, answer the following questions about Maya valuables.


Based on what you have seen in the murals, what raw materials do you believe were given prestige value in Maya society?


According to the images you have seen of the Bonampak murals, how did the Maya elite use these materials?


What qualities might have attracted the Maya to these materials?


What materials valuable to our society are missing from the Bonampak murals? Why do you think they are not depicted?

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