The Maya are probably the best-known of the classical civilizations of Mesoamerica. Originating in the Yucatan around 2600 B.C., they
rose to prominence around A.D. 250 in present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, western Honduras, El Salvador, and northern Belize. They may be most renown in doomsday prophecy
discussions for the Mayan calendar, which many believed predicted the end of time in the year 2012.
Building on the inherited inventions and ideas of earlier civilizations such as the Olmec, the Maya developed astronomy, calendar systems and hieroglyphic writing. The Maya were noted as well for elaborate and highly decorated ceremonial architecture, including temple-pyramids, palaces and observatories, all built without metal tools. They were also skilled farmers, clearing large sections of tropical rain forest and, where groundwater was scarce, building sizeable underground reservoirs for the storage of rainwater. The Maya were equally skilled as weavers and potters, and cleared routes through jungles and swamps to foster extensive trade networks with distant peoples. They are regarded as the inventors of many aspects of Meso-American cultures including the first calendar and hieroglyphic writing in the Western hemisphere. Archeologists have not settled the relationship between the Olmecs and the Maya, and it is a mystery whether the Maya were their descendants, trading partners, or had another relationship. It is agreed that the Maya developed a complex calendar and the most elaborate form of hieroglyphics in America, both based on the Olmec's versions.
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