Nobody knows where they came from, but
about 2,400 years ago, a new tribe appeared in Central America. They
settled in the rainforests of the Yucatan Peninsula. They were very
clever people. They set about making cities in the rainforest, many
beautiful cities. They did not use metal tools. They built huge cities
using stone tools and wood tools, and tools made from shells. Before
very long, the Maya had built hundreds of cities. The cities were
connected with well built roads that ran through the rainforests and
jungles on the Yucatan Peninsula.
For about 1,300 years, the Maya made
their home in Central America. Every city had a ball court, temples, and
a central plaza. Each city was a center of learning and religion. Each
city had its own ruling family. Like the ancient Greek city-states, the
Maya cities often went to war with each other. Some historians believe
they were almost always at war with someone.
But by around 900 CE, the Maya cities were
mostly deserted. Some people remained, and their descendants still live in
Central America today. But without enough people to take care of them, the great Maya cities fell
into ruin. That's why the Maya are called "the mysterious
Maya" - nobody knows where they came from, and nobody knows why
they left. It is a history mystery.
Just as the fall of Rome did not mean the
end of Romans, there are many descendants of the ancient Maya living in
Central America today. About 40% of Guatemala's modern population, along
with hundreds of thousands of people outside Guatemala, trace their
ancestry back to the ancient Maya.
Archaeologists are very curious about
these ancient people. Although they know there are ruins of many Maya
cities hidden in the jungle, and suspect there may be more cities yet to be
discovered, it's difficult (and dangerous) to look for them. But that
has not stopped archaeologists from trying.
In the cities discovered, many thousands
of hieroglyphics have been found. But not all of the around 800 different symbols that make up the Maya glyph system are
understood today. As archaeologists and other scientists continue to decipher
this ancient language, we hope to learn more
about these fascinating people.
of the Maya Empire
of the Maya Empire
Life in the Maya Empire
in the Maya Empire
did the Maya disappear?
can we find descendants
of the ancient Maya people today?