The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-ColumbianAmericas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period (c. 2000 BC to AD 250), according to the Mesoamerican chronology, HP Compaq 360482-001 Battery
many Maya cities reached their highest state of development during the Classic period (c. AD 250 to 900), and continued throughout the Post-Classic period until the arrival of the Spanish.
The Maya civilization shares many features with other Mesoamerican civilizations due to the high degree of interaction andcultural diffusion that characterized the region. HP Compaq 360483-001 Battery
Advances such as writing, epigraphy, and the calendar did not originate with the Maya; however, their civilization fully developed them. Maya influence can be detected from Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and western El Salvador to as far away as central Mexico, more than 1,000 km (620 mi) from the Maya area. HP Compaq 360483-003 Battery
Many outside influences are found in Maya art and architecture, which are thought to result from trade and cultural exchange rather than direct external conquest.
The Maya peoples never disappeared, neither at the time of the Classic period decline nor with the arrival of the Spanishconquistadores and the subsequent Spanish colonization of the Americas. HP Compaq 360483-004 Battery
Today, the Maya and their descendants form sizable populations throughout the Maya area and maintain a distinctive set of traditions and beliefs that are the result of the merger of pre-Columbian and post-Conquest ideas and cultures. Millions of people speak Mayan languages today; the Rabinal Achí, a play written in the Achi language, was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005. HP Compaq 360484-001 Battery
The Maya civilization extended throughout the present-day southern Mexican states of Chiapas, Tabasco, and the Yucatán Peninsula states of Quintana Roo, Campeche and Yucatán. The Maya area also extended throughout the northern Central Americanregion, including the present-day nations of Guatemala, Belize, northern El Salvador and western Honduras. HP Compaq 361909-001 Battery
The Maya area is generally divided into three loosely defined zones: the southern Pacific lowlands, the highlands, and the northern lowlands. The Maya highlands include all of elevated terrain in Guatemala and the Chiapas highlands. The southern lowlands lie just south of the highlands, and incorporate a part of the Mexican state of Chiapas, the south coast of Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador. HP Compaq 361909-002 Battery
The northern lowlands cover all of the Yucatán Peninsula, including the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo, the Petén Department of Guatemala, and all of Belize. Parts of the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas are also included in the northern lowlands. HP Compaq 364602-001 Battery
There is some dispute[who?] about when this era of Maya civilization began. Discoveries of Maya occupation at Cuello, Belize have been carbon dated to around 2600 BC.This level of occupation included monumental structures. The Maya calendar, which is based around the so-called Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, begins on a date equivalent to 11 August 3114 BC. HP Compaq 365750-001 Battery
However the most widely accepted view, as of 2010, is that the first clearly Maya settlements were established around 1800 BC in the Soconusco region of the Pacific Coast. This period, known as the Early Preclassic, was characterized by sedentary communities and the introduction of pottery and firedclay figurines. HP Compaq 365750-003 Battery
Important sites in the southern Maya lowlands include Nakbe, El Mirador, Cival, and San Bartolo. In the Guatemalan Highlands Kaminaljuyu emerged around 800 BC. For many centuries it controlled the jade and obsidian sources for the Petén and Pacific Lowlands. The important early sites of Izapa, Takalik Abaj, and Chocoláat around 600 BC were the main producers of Cacao. HP Compaq 365750-004 Battery
Mid-sized Maya communities also began to develop in the northern Maya lowlands during the Middle and Late Preclassic, though these lacked the size, scale, and influence of the large centers of the southern lowlands. Two important Preclassic northern sites includeKomchen and Dzibilchaltun. The first written inscription in Maya hieroglyphics also dates to this period (c. 250 BC). HP Compaq 367457-001 Battery
Scholars disagree about the boundaries which differentiate the physical and cultural extent of the early Maya and neighboring Preclassic Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Olmec culture of the Tabasco lowlands and the Mixe–Zoque- and Zapotec-speaking peoples of Chiapas and southern Oaxaca, respectively. HP Compaq 372771-001 Battery
Many of the earliest significant inscriptions and buildings appeared in this overlapping zone, and evidence suggests that these cultures and the formative Maya influenced one another. Takalik Abaj, in the Pacific slopes of Guatemala, is the only site where Olmec and then Maya features have been found.
Around 100 AD, there was widespread decline and abandonment of Maya cities - called the Preclassic Collapse. This marked the end of the Preclassic era. HP Compaq 372772-001 Battery
The Preclassic Period in Maya history stretches from the first Maya settlements until 250 AD. The major cites of this period were Kaminaljuyu and El Mirador. By the end of the Preclassic, the city state of El Mirador had united the southern Maya lowlands. However, from 100 to 300, this empire began to decline, HP Compaq 381373-001 Battery
and the city was eventually abandoned. It is likely, but by no means certain, that the rulers of El Mirador became the Kan dynasty of Calakmul, where they would regrow to become one of the two dominant powers of the Classic Maya period, along with their rival Tikal. HP Compaq 381374-001 Battery
The roots of Maya civilization remain obscure, but archeology, linguistics, and modern science grant us enough tantalizing clues to allow us to loosely sketch out a broad picture. By 2000BC, speakers of the Mayan Languages had already occupied the southern Maya area. HP Compaq 382553-001 Battery
It appears that around this time the Maya people began to transition from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a culture based around agricultural villages. The process appears to have been a gradual one. Analysis of bones from early Maya grave sites indicate that, although maize had already become a major component of the diet (under 30% at Ceullo, Belize) by this time, HP Compaq 383220-001 Battery
fish, meat from game animals, and other hunted or gathered foods still made up a major component of the diet. Along with the gradual development of agriculture, basic forms of pottery began to appear, with simple designs and some slipped vessels. Around this time, the Olmec culture began to emerge in nearby Tabasco, HP Compaq 383510-001 Battery
granting the early Maya an important trading partner and beginning a period of prolonged contact that would have profound effects on Maya society.
By around the year 1000BC, centuries of agricultural village life had begun to form the beginnings of a complex society: Prestige goods such as obsidian mirrorsand jade mosaics began to appear, increasing the demand for more extensive trade. HP Compaq 385843-001 Battery
Canals and irrigation schemes demanding coordinated human effort began to appear with increasing complexity and scale. Gradually, villages began to include central plazas and earthen mounds, occasionally enhanced by masonry. For instance, the site of La Blanca featured a central mound more than seventy-five feet tall and contained a masonry fragment strongly resembling a head in the distinctive Olmec style. HP Compaq 385895-001 Battery
Carved stone stele also began to appear during this period, adorned with portraits of rulers but still devoid of writing. Warfare appears to have intensified during this period, as evidenced by advanced weaponry, rulers beginning to be portrayed as warriors, and the appearance of mass graves and decapitated skeletons. HP Compaq 393549-001 Battery
Beginning around 900BC, the Pacific coastal region fell under the dominance of the La Blanca statelet, which collapsed around 600BC, to be replaced by a polity centered around the El Ujuxte site. Another early statelet was probably based at the site of Chalchuapa, a town with extensive earthen mounds arranged around several plazas. HP Compaq 393652-001 Battery
However, it was likely ruled by the first true Maya city-state, Kaminaljuyu. Lying within modern-day Guatemala City on the shores of Lake Miraflores, Kaminaljuyu developed a powerful government structure that organized massive irrigation campaigns and built numerous intricately carved stone monuments to its rulers. HP Compaq 395790-001 Battery
These monuments clearly depict war captives and often show the rulers holding weapons, indicating the Kaminaljuyu polity engaged in active warfare, dominating the Guatemalan highlands for centuries. Kaminaljuyu's main export was the essential resource obsidian, a beautiful volcanic glass that easily fractured into sharp edges, HP Compaq 395790-003 Battery
providing arrowheads, knives, and other weapons as well as prestige goods like mirrors.
Although it is difficult to firmly identify the ethnicity of a people from meager archeological remains, it appears that during this period the Maya began a systematic northward expansion, occupying the Petén Basin where such cities as El Mirador, HP Compaq 395790-132 Battery
Tikal, Calakmul, and Tayasal would be built. The dominant site of these early colonists was Nakbe in the El Mirador basin, where the first attested Maya ballcourt and sacbeob (stone causeways) were built. The rulers of Nakbe constructed several stone platforms and erected intricately carved stone and stucco monuments. HP Compaq 395790-163 Battery
During this period, the Olmec culture reached its zenith, centered around the capital of La Venta in modern-day Tabasco near the early Maya centers. Speakers of a Mixe–Zoquean language, the Olmec are generally recognized as the first true civilization in the Americas. Their capital city of La Venta contains extensive earthworks and stone monuments, including several of the distinctive Olmec stone heads. HP Compaq 395791-001 Battery
The Olmec share several features with later Maya culture, including extensive jaguar-worship, a diet dominated by maize, and the use of the cacao plant. Several words entered Mayan from a Mixe–Zoquean language, presumably due to Olmec influence. These words include the word ajaw, meaning "lord," and kakaw, which has become the English words "cacao" and "chocolate." HP Compaq 395791-002 Battery
Most of these borrowings relate to prestige concepts and high culture, indicating that the Middle Preclassic Maya were deeply impressed and influenced by their northwestern neighbors.
The Late Preclassic saw the rise of two powerful states that rival later Classic Maya city-states for scale and monumental architecture, Kaminaljuyu in the highlands and El Mirador in the lowlands. HP Compaq 395791-003 Battery
The late or terminal Preclassic murals found in San Bartolo provide important information regarding mythology and royal inauguration ritual around 100 BC.
The story of the mysterious lost civilization that suddenly collapsed for an unknown reason has captured the popular imagination for well over a century. HP Compaq 395791-132 Battery
What is not as widely known is that there were actually two "collapses," one at the end of the Preclassic and a more famous one at the end of the Classic. ThePreclassic "collapse" refers to the systematic decline and abandoning of the major Preclassic cities such as Kaminaljuyu and El Mirador in around 100 AD. HP Compaq 395791-142 Battery
A number of theories have been proposed to explain this "collapse", but there is as little consensus here as there is for the causes of the more famous "collapse" between the Classic and Postclassic periods.
There are actually more than thirty different Maya languages spoken today, but we now know that the Maya elite of the Classic and Postclassic periods wrote (and presumably spoke as well) HP Compaq 395791-251 Battery
in a lingua franca known as Ch'olan. This written language closely matches a linguistic reconstruction of a region in the Maya lowlands loosely matching the Classic Maya heartlands, so it is possible that there were some cities where this was not merely an elite language. However, written Ch'olan changed very little over the centuries, far less than the spoken vernacular must have changed, HP Compaq 395791-261 Battery
so it is likely that this was a separate elite language. Furthermore, we do know that Ch'olan was used for writing in the Classic cities of the Yucatán, where the common people almost certainly spoke an early form of Yucatec. Interestingly, recent work by Frederico Fahsen suggests that Ch'olan was the language used for writing at Kaminaljuyu, HP Compaq 395791-661 Battery
indicating that this lingua franca is a legacy of the Middle Preclassic dominance of this first of Maya states, where Maya writing may well have originated. This lingua franca undoubtedly contributed to the relatively strong cultural cohesion of the Maya throughout the ages and assisted in communication between the different city states, dramatically affecting the culture of the Maya for centuries. HP Compaq 395791-741 Battery
The Classic period (c. AD 250–900) witnessed the peak of large-scale construction and urbanism, the recording of monumental inscriptions, and a period of significant intellectual and artistic development, particularly in the southern lowland regions.  They developed an agriculturally intensive, city-centered civilization consisting of numerous independent city-states - some subservient to others. HP Compaq 395794-001 Battery
This includes the well-known cities of Caracol, Tikal, Palenque, Copán, Xunantunichand Calakmul, but also the lesser known Lamanai, Dos Pilas, Cahal Pech, Uaxactun, Altun Ha, and Bonampak, among others. The Early Classic settlement distribution in the northern Maya lowlands is not as clearly known as the southern zone, HP Compaq 395794-002 Battery
but does include a number of population centers, such as Oxkintok, Chunchucmil, and the early occupation of Uxmal.During this period the Mayas numbered in the millions, they created a multitude of kingdoms and small empires, built monumental palaces and temples, engaged in grandiose ceremonies, and developed an elaborate hieroglyphic writing system. HP Compaq 395794-261 Battery
The social basis of this exuberant civilization was a large political and economic intersocietal network (world system) extending throughout the Maya region and beyond to the wider Mesoamerican world. The political, economic, and culturally dominant ‘core’ Maya units of the Classic Maya world system were located in the central lowlands, HP Compaq 396751-001 Battery
while its corresponding dependent or ‘peripheral’ Maya units were found along the margins of the southern highland and northern lowland areas. But as in all world systems, the Maya core centers shifted through time, starting out during Preclassic times in the southern highlands, moving to the central lowlands during the Classic period, HP Compaq 397809-001 Battery
and finally shifting to the northern peninsula during the Postclassic period. In this Maya world system the semi-peripheral (mediational) units generally took the form of trade and commercial centers. 
The most notable monuments are the stepped pyramids they built in their religious centers and the accompanying palaces of their rulers. HP Compaq 397809-003 Battery
The palace at Cancuén is the largest in the Maya area, though the site, interestingly, lacks pyramids. Other important archaeological remains include the carved stone slabs usually called stelae (the Maya called them tetun, or "tree-stones"), which depict rulers along with hieroglyphic texts describing their genealogy, military victories, and other accomplishments. HP Compaq 397809-242 Battery
The Maya civilization participated in long distance trade with many of the other Mesoamerican cultures, including Teotihuacan, the Zapotec, and other groups in central and gulf-coast Mexico, as well as with more distant, non-Mesoamerican groups, for example the Taínos in the Caribbean. Archeologists have also found gold from Panama in the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza. HP Compaq 398650-001 Battery
Important trade goods included cacao, salt, seashells, jade, and obsidian.
The Maya centers of the southern lowlands went into decline during the 8th and 9th centuries and were abandoned shortly thereafter. This decline was coupled with a cessation of monumental inscriptions and large-scale architectural construction. No universally accepted theory explains this collapse. HP Compaq 398680-001 Battery
Non-ecological theories of Maya decline are divided into several subcategories, such as overpopulation, foreign invasion, peasant revolt, and the collapse of key trade routes. Ecological hypotheses include environmental disaster, epidemic disease, and climate change. There is evidence that the Maya population exceeded the carrying capacity of the environment including exhaustion of agricultural potential and overhunting of megafauna. HP Compaq 398854-001 Battery
Some scholars have recently theorized that an intense 200-year drought led to the collapse of Maya civilization. The drought theory originated from research performed by physical scientists studying lake beds, ancient pollen, and other data, not from the archaeological community. Newer research from 2011, HP Compaq 398874-001 Battery
with use of high-resolution climate models and new reconstructions of past landscapes, suggests that converting much of their forest land into cropland may have led to reduced evapotranspiration and thus rainfall, magnifying natural drought. A study published in Science in 2012 found that modest rainfall reductions, amounting to only 25 to 40% in annual rainfall, HP Compaq 398875-001 Battery
may have been the tipping point to the Maya collapse. Based on samples of lake and cave sediments in the areas surrounding major Maya cities, the researchers were able to determine the amount of annual rainfall in the region. The mild droughts that took place between AD 800 and 950 were enough to rapidly reduce open water availability. HP Compaq 398876-001 Battery
A further paper in the same journal supports and extends this conclusion based on isotope analysis of minerals in a stalagmite. It argues that high rainfall between 440 and 660 CE allowed the Maya to flourish in the first instance, and that while mild droughts in the following years led to extensive warfare and the decline of Mayan civilisation, it was a prolonged period of drought between 1020 and 1100 CE that was ultimately fatal. HP Compaq 408545-001 Battery
The Classic Maya Collapse refers to the decline of the Mayan Classic Period and abandonment of the Classic Period Maya citiesof the southern Maya lowlands of Mesoamerica between the 8th and 9th centuries. This should not be confused with the collapse of the Preclassic Maya in the 2nd century AD. HP Compaq 408545-141 Battery
The Classic Period of Mesoamerican chronology is generally defined as the period from AD 300 to 900, the last 100 years of which, from AD 800 to 900, are frequently referred to as the Terminal Classic. The Classic Maya Collapse is one of the biggest mysteries in archaeology. What makes this development so intriguing is the combination of the cultural sophistication attained by the Maya before the collapse and the relative suddenness of the collapse itself. HP Compaq 408545-142 Battery
The highly advanced Maya centers of the southern lowlands went into decline during the 8th and 9th centuries and were abandoned shortly thereafter. Archaeologically, this decline is indicated by the cessation of monumental inscriptions and the reduction of large-scale architectural construction. HP Compaq 408545-241 Battery
A number of Maya cities, however, did not collapse, and Maya civilization continued until 1697 when the Spanish conquered Tayasal, the last independent city-state. In fact, after the "collapse," the Maya of the northern Yucatán prospered, and the Chichen Itza state built an empire that briefly united much of the Maya region. Because parts of Maya civilization unambiguously continued, a number of scholars strongly dislike the term "collapse." HP Compaq 408545-261 Battery
Regarding the proposed collapse, E. W. Andrews IV went as far as to say, "in my belief no such thing happened."The Maya often recorded dates on monuments they built. Few dated monuments were being built around 500 AD - around 10 per year in 514 AD, for example. A steady increase made this number 20 by 672 AD and 40 by around 750 AD. HP Compaq 408545-262 Battery
After this, the number of dated monuments begins to falter relatively quickly, collapsing to 10 by 800 AD and to 0 by 900 AD. Likewise, recorded lists of kings complement this analysis. Altar Q shows a reign of kings from 426 AD to 763. One last king not recorded on Altar Q was Ukit Took, "Patron of Flint", who was likely a usurper. HP Compaq 408545-621 Battery
The dynasty likely collapsed entirely shortly thereafter. In Quirigua, twenty miles north of Copán, the last king Jade Sky began his rule between 895 and 900, and throughout the Maya area all kingdoms similarly fell around that time. 
A third piece of evidence of the progression of Maya decline gathered by Ann Corinne Freter, HP Compaq 408545-721 Battery