Mayan culture emerged in the Proto Classic era, a direct result of the diversification of Mesoamerican culture, which was
originally uniform throughout the Formative era, a period lasting about one and a half millennium.
In the meridional area, stelae and altars were being sculpted and hieroglyphic
writing had begun. The calendar was known and
we can assume there was a commensurate understanding of mathematics and astronomy.
The Classic Period, (beginning around AD 300) marks the climax of Mayan
cultural differentiation. A variety of factors in the
Mayan regions as well as in the rest of Mesoamerica culminated in a veritable cultural explosion.
Economic development could be explained by demographic growth and a
greater concentration of the population as time
passed, phenomenon occurring throughout the Preclassic period. New cultivating techniques in marsh areas and lakes possibly
contributed to the agricultural explosion in other regions such as the high jungle.
The Classic period in the northern area ended when the northern Yucatan
Peninsula fell to the domination of invaders, carriers
of the TOLTECA culture. A hybrid culture, Maya-Tolteca, emerged, clearly differentiated from the Classic Mayan, though still
similar in many ways.