The Maya are an ancient civilization dating back to around 2000 BCE. This civilization lived in southern México, Guatemala, and Belize.
Most Mayan cities reached their peak between 250 CE and 900 CE. During this time, the Maya interacted with the surrounding civilizations through trade and cultural exchange. They had no central government, but many smaller governments resulted in successful societies.
The Maya were very inventive. They had the only fully-developed writing system in MesoAmerica. They had many skilled artists, architects, mathematicians, and astronomers. Their calendar was very accurate and their pyramids were expertly constructed. They even discovered how to successfully cultivate the lands to grow food.
The Maya believed in many gods. They participated in rituals and ceremonies involving human sacrifice.
The Mayan civilization never disappeared, even when the Spanish arrived. However, they left their larger cities to build smaller settlements. Today, there are many Maya descendants living in México. They still practice similar farming methods and speak the Maya languages.
Text by Maisie Bornstein & Lindsay Clark.
Image of the Mayan archaeological site of Palenque taken by Peter Andersen.