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Mayamy-uhThe ancient Maya were a group of American Indian peoples who lived in southern Mexico particularly thepresent-day states of Chiapas Tabasco Campeche Yucatan and Quintana Roo and in Belize Guatemalaand adjacent Honduras Their descendants the modern Maya live in the same regions today in bothhighlands and lowlands from cool highland plains ringed by volcanos to deep tropical rain forests Through the region runs a single major river system the Apasion-Usumacinta and its many tributaries andonly a handful of lesser rivers the Motagua Hondo and Belize among them The ancestors of the Mayalike those of other New World peoples crossed the BERING LAND BRIDGE from Asia more than 20000 yearsago during the last ice age The Maya were the first people of the New World to keep historical records their written history beginsin 50 BC when they began to inscribe texts on pots jades bones stone monuments and palace walls Maya records trace the history of the great kings and queens who ruled from 50 BC until the Spanishconquest in the 16th century All Maya long count calendar inscriptions fall between AD 292 and AD909 roughly defining the period called Classic Earlier Maya culture is called Formative or Preclassic2000 BC-AD 300 and subsequent civilization is known as Postclassic AD 900-conquest Protected by difficult terrain and heavy vegetation the ruins of few ancient Maya cities were knownbefore the 19th century when explorers and archaeologists began to rediscover them The age andproliferation of Maya writings have been recognized since about 1900 when the calendrical content ofMaya hieroglyphic inscriptions was deciphered and the dates correlated with the Christian calendar Formost of the 20th century only the extensive calendrical data of Maya inscriptions could be read and asa result Maya scholars hypothesized that the inscriptions were pure calendrical records Because littleevidence of warfare had been recognized archaeologically the Classic Maya were thought of as peacefultimekeepers and skywatchers Their cities it was thought were ceremonial centers for ascetic priestsand their artwork
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