The ancient Maya built their civilization using ideas they learned from the Olmec, an earlier tribe. The Olmec society was built on agriculture. They established farming villages. They were the first people to built roads through the jungle, roads which were used by them as trade routes. These trade routes stretched for hundreds of miles.
By 1400 BCE, the Olmec had a capital city with palaces and temples. They were the first people in the Americas to build huge religious centers in their towns and cities.
As the Maya slowly took over the region from the Olmec, the Maya built on the many clever ideas of these earlier people. For example, the Olmec created a solar calendar. The Maya, using their knowledge of astronomy, and building on the Olmec solar calendar, created the most accurate calendar in the ancient world. The Maya also created inventions of their own, inventions like the vast underground reservoirs that held fresh water safely in times of drought.
Both the Olmec and the Maya invented many things, but they never discovered the wheel, and they never made metal weapons or tools.
Here are just a few of the many inventions and achievements of the Maya people: