History of the Maya
Mayan Ruins and Archaeological Sites
The Maya civilization spanned more than 2500 years in the region of southern Mesoamerica which incorporates the present-day nations of Guatemala and Belize, much of Honduras and El Salvador and the south eastern states of Mexico including the entire Yucatán Peninsula.
Throughout this region, many hundreds of Maya sites have been documented in at least some form or another. While the numbers of smaller sites are so numerous (one study has documented over 4,400 Maya sites) that no complete archaeological list has yet been made.
For almost a millennium, the ancient ruins of great architecture lay buried beneath the jungle vegetation on the Yucatan Peninsula. Abandoned by their creators these ancient Mayan ruins are a stunning reminder of a powerful civilization that once ruled the people of Central America.
The Maya civilization was never unified however but instead consisted of a network of city-states dominated by sacred Lords, who were linked by complex ties of kinship, ritual, trade and military alliances. Some of these cities would grow into ‘superpowers’, with huge temples and pyramids.
Although the accomplishments of the ancient Mayans are astonishing, no city would escape the inevitable collapse. One by one they were swallowed by the rainforest leaving the amazing Mayan ruins hidden, waiting to be discovered.
Centuries later the Mayan ruins were rediscovered by early explorers and archaeologists who found them hidden away in the jungles of southern Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize. Although badly eroded, the ruined cities, some with great stone pyramids towering over the dense jungle canopy, were still magnificent and beautiful. From the inscriptions on the eroded monuments and exquisitely carved stones, the image of a complex civilization emerged waiting to be discovered.
Maya sites which are known to have been among the largest and most influential and/or which have left the most impressive archaeological remains include Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Mayapan in Yucatán and Coba and Tulum in Quintana Roo.