7000 B.C.E - 2000 B.C.E.
The ancestors of the Maya were Asian people that migrated to Central America via Siberia to Alaska across the Bering land bridge. The area ranging from Mexico to Costa Rica is called the Yucatan Peninsula and became the area where the Maya lived. Most of the people lived as hunter gatherers. By around 2000 B.C.E. they learned to plant crops such as maize, beans and squash. The people lived in caves, rock shelters and open camps. They began to live in village-like settings by the end of this period.
|Pre Classic Period
2000 B.C.E - 250 B.C.E.
Many of the Mayan people established villages in coastal areas of southern Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. It is believed that the Mayans wore animal skin clothing. During this period of time we don't know who the Kings were, but we do know that the Mayans built buildings and monuments. The Mayan cities became very populated. The cities contained temples that were terraced and there were carved representations of venus and the sun.
250 C.E - 900 C.E.
During this period the Mayan civilization was at its greatest. Many city-states were built such as Tikal and Calakmul in the central area, Palenque in the west and Copan in the southeast. The Mayan population is estimated to have been more that two million people. During this period the Mayans developed good farming methods and trade was expanded between the cities. The Mayans built many temples and pyramids and were innovative in astronomy, writing and math.
Each of the city-states was ruled by a King. There was a class system where some people were poor and some were rich and there were farmers, political leaders, religious leaders and crafts people. As the populations grew, wars would break out between many of the city-states. The Kings would compete to be the supreme ruler of different areas in the city-states.
|Post Classic Period
900 C.E - 1500 C.E.
This period marks the "collapse" of the Mayans. Many of the cities in the south were abandoned. The Mayans moved up to northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula and settled the great city of Uxmal. In about 1000 C.E. Uxmal was abandoned just as the older cities were many years earlier. A group of Mexican Mayans who were more warlike settled Chichen Itza in the north. Instead of a King ,the city of Chichen Itza was ruled by three or four brothers who shared power in a supreme council. In about the thirteenth century another city called Mayapan which is west of Chichen Itza was settled. The ruler of Mayapan ultimately conquered Chichen Itza and they became the most powerful Mayans in the Yucatan Peninsula.
In the 1500's the Spaniards discovered the Mayan civilization. Both Christopher Columbus and Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba were leading Spanish expeditions to look for gold. The Spanish began to take over the land from the Mayans. There was a war between the Mayans and the Spaniards but the Mayans did not have guns or good weapons and the Spanish won. The Spanish forced the Mayans to become Christians and many of them became slaves. The Mayan civilization as we know it was then destroyed. This is very similar to how the colonists took over the land from the Native Americans in our country.