Alternatively Maya and Mayans.
Ancient civilization of American Indians from Mesoamerica, mainly the Yucatαn peninsula, Guatemala and adjacent areas. They exhibited a cultural continuity spanning more than 2,000 years (1000 BC AD 1542), and many aspects of their culture continue to the present.
The Mayan civilization in all stages formative, flourishing, declining, and continuing has been based on agriculture. Indian corn, or maize, was domesticated from a wild grass in central Mexico about 7,000 years ago and sustained most sedentary Indian civilizations from that time. Cities that flourished in the classic period in lowland Guatemala are exemplified by Tikal, which has pyramid-temples more than 200 feet (60 meters) high and numerous carved stelae as time markers and reign recorders.
Then the Old Empire collapsed. The stable city-states, comparable to ancient Greece in cultural accomplishment and administrative acumen, faded from memory. No one knows why the culture declined and the cities were covered by encroaching forest until rediscovery in the 19th century. Possible causes include exhaustion of the cornfields by overpopulation, climatic changes, hurricanes, pestilences of epidemic proportions, wars, and insurrection.
Many archaeologists think that the Maya were some of the most violent people that ever lived. They practiced human sacrifice to please the gods and even their games were brutal (sometimes prisoners were tied up and used as balls in game playing). Some experts speculate that their entire civilization may have been destroyed by uninterrupted warfare among their kingdoms.
Today more than 2 million Mayan Indians live in northern Yucatan and highland Guatemala in a style similar to that of the common people among their ancestors.
Excavations at Dzibilchaltun near Merida revealed house sites from 1000 BC that resemble today's huts in rural regions. The same style of construction wattle-and-daub walls in an oval shape with a thatched roof of palmetto fronds and little furniture serves the native Maya, who continue to resist racial mixing and the dilution of their culture.
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Sources: Article is scheduled to be reviewed.
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