Most famously, the Maya of the southern lowland region reached their peak during the Classic Period of Maya civilization (A.D. 250 to 900), and built the great stone cities and monuments that have fascinated explorers and scholars of the region.
Egypt civilization appears to have begun about 4,000 to 3,500 B.C. in northern Africa, while the Mayan civilization appears to have arisen around 3300 B.C. in the Yucatan peninsula of North America, now modern Guatemala.
Scholars have suggested a number of potential reasons for the downfall of Maya civilization in the southern lowlands, including overpopulation, environmental degradation, warfare, shifting trade routes and extended drought. It’s likely that a complex combination of factors was behind the collapse.
Blood was viewed as a potent source of nourishment for the Maya deities, and the sacrifice of a living creature was a powerful blood offering. By extension, the sacrifice of a human life was the ultimate offering of blood to the gods, and the most important Maya rituals culminated in human sacrifice .
It is during this nine-day period that the Mayans believed they could die by the soul who has returned home. The Maya associated the color red with death and rebirth and often covered graves and skeletal remains with cinnabar. The bodies of the dead were wrapped in cotton mantles before being buried.
The Maya have lived in Central America for many centuries. They are one of the many Precolumbian native peoples of Mesoamerica . In the past and today they occupy Guatemala, adjacent portions of Chiapas and Tabasco, the whole of the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, and the western edges of Honduras and Salvador.
The designation Maya comes from the ancient Yucatan city of Mayapan, the last capital of a Mayan Kingdom in the Post-Classic Period. The Maya people refer to themselves by ethnicity and language bonds such as Quiche in the south or Yucatec in the north (though there are many others).
Families lived in great cities like Yax Mutal and Palenque, and also in surrounding farmland. Adults worked as farmers, warriors, hunters, builders, teachers and many other things. Children from noble families could learn maths, science, writing and astronomy, but poorer children were only taught their parents’ jobs.
The Aztecs were conquered by Spain in 1521 after a long siege of the capital, Tenochtitlan, where much of the population died from hunger and smallpox. Cortés, with 508 Spaniards, did not fight alone but with as many as 150,000 or 200,000 allies from Tlaxcala, and eventually other Aztec tributary states.
Although the Mayan people never entirely disappeared— their descendants still live across Central America—dozens of core urban areas in the lowlands of the Yucatan peninsula, such as Tikal, went from bustling cities to abandoned ruins over the course of roughly a hundred years.