2000s BC to 1697
Latin AmericaThe Maya civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization developed by the Maya peoples, and noted for its logosyllabic script—the most sophisticated and highly developed writing system in pre-Columbian Americas—as well as for its art, architecture, mathematics, calendar, and astronomical system. “Maya" is a modern term used to refer collectively to the various peoples that inhabited this area. They did not call themselves “Maya,” and did not have a sense of common identity or political unity. Today, their descendants, known collectively as the Maya, a number well over 6 million individuals, speak more than twenty-eight surviving Mayan languages and reside in nearly the same area as their ancestors.
Evidence in the form of stone blade points recovered from Aguateca indicates that darts and spears were the primary weapons of the Classic Maya warrior. The atlatl (spear-thrower) was introduced to the Maya region by Teotihuacan in the Early Classic.
Settlements were established around 1800 BC in the Soconusco region of the Pacific coast, and the Maya were already cultivating the staple crops of maize, beans, squash, and chili pepper. This period was characterized by sedentary communities and the introduction of pottery and fired clay figurines.
During the Middle Preclassic Period, small villages began to grow to form cities. Nakbe in the Petén department of Guatemala is the earliest well-documented city in the Maya lowlands, here large structures have been dated to around 750 BC.
Tikal played a crucial role in obsidian procurement, production, and distribution during the Classic. Tikal dominated the Great Western Trade Route that transported the widely used El Chayal obsidian during the Early Classic (250-550 AD).
Classic Era Maya urban design could easily be described as the division of space by great monuments and causeways. In this case, the open public plazas were the gathering places for the people and the focus of the urban design, while interior space was entirely secondary.
Early Postclassic from AD 950 to 1200. Analysis of bones from early Maya grave sites indicates that, although maize had already become a major component of the diet (under 30% at Ceullo, Belize) by this time, fish, meat from game animals, and other hunted or gathered foods still made up a major component of the diet.
All Mesoamerican cultures used Stone Age technology; after c. 1000 AD copper, silver, and gold were worked. Mesoamerica lacked draft animals, did not use the wheel, and possessed few domesticated animals; the principal means of transport was on foot or by canoe.
The Maya occupied a territory that is now incorporated into the modern countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador; the conquest began in the early 16th century and is generally considered to have ended in 1697.