Maya history is a bit hazy in many aspects, but that is because it begins over 4,500 years ago.
The Olmec had an existing civilization that appears to have become the foundation for the Mayan culture in many areas including astronomy and writing.
The first period is called the Pre-Classic period.
During this time the Mayas were establishing their territories, settling farms, and eventually beginning the massive construction of the amazing buildings that still stand today.
But it's in 300 AD to 900 AD, the Classic Period, that Mayans reached their zenith in the sciences, architecture, astrology, writing, and calendaring.
The Mayans were a hierarchal society that lived in an area now called Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, San Salvador and Honduras.
The Mayas apparently first settled in the north of Yucatan as far back as 2,600 BC so by the time 300 AD arrived the Mayan civilization was flourishing.
Having settled first as nomadic hunters and then farmers, the classic period was one rich with new inventions, scientific documentation, and a hierarchal society that was ruled by kings.
The Mayans were not quite as bloodthirsty as the Aztecs, but they did use blood sacrifices to keep their gods happy.
Many of the buildings and structures that stand to this day were built to honor the gods.
The Mayan pyramids had temples for spiritual ceremonies, and observatories.
During this period of Mayan history, the Mayans documented their lives, beliefs, and astrological findings on paper made from fig bark called "Codices" and used jaguar skin book covers.
They carved Mayan glyphs into stone also.
Also amazing is the fact the Mayans created the Mayan calendar that began in 3,114 BC and ran into the future while making accurate astronomical calculations.
Even after the Classic period the rich culture continued to flourish in the form of Mayan murals, elaborate tombs for kings, palatial structures, and Mayan sculptures.
Around 900 AD the Post-Classic period began. During the period stretching to the 16th century, the Mayans became more warlike as invading cultures started to conquer and dominate.
The Toltec influence reached into the Yucatan, and the Toltec eventually became the Chichen Itza rulers.
The Aztecs became more powerful, but it was the arrival of the Spaniards that changed the course of history.
In 1519, Hernan Cortez began a Spanish expedition that marked the beginning of the Conquest of Mexico.
The invading Spaniards defeated the Aztecs and began to rebuild the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan to their liking.
The Spaniards then colonized Yucatan and overpowered the Mayan residents.
In 1546 the Mayans rebelled and regained control of the Yucatan Peninsula for a period of time, but were eventually defeated again by the Spaniards.
One of the saddest events in Maya history occurred when Spanish Inquisitor, Friar Diego de Landa decided to destroy many of the Mayan artifacts.
In 1562, he destroyed over 5000 Mayan figures carved in stone and made of clay and burned most of the written manuscripts. It was an attempt to force Mayans to abandon "pagan practices".
In the following 150 years, the Spaniards ruled, and then in 1810 the Mexican War of Independence began.
For a while there was an uneasy co-existence of monarchy and republic, but eventually the republic took permanent shape.
By 1847 the Mayans attempted to regain control of half of Yucatan out of desperation to end tirany, poverty and hunger.
The Mexican National Army defeated the Mayans, but not easily, with the War of the Castes lasting until 1866 through ongoing battles in various remote areas.
During the next years, the republic solidified until the Mexican Revolution in 1911.
The revolution was prompted by an economy that had created a class structure of very rich and very poor.
After the reconstruction, the country entered a period of stability. Cancun officially opened to tourism in 1974 and has become one of the most interesting and beautiful vacation spots in the world.
So where are the Mayans today?
There are between 6 and 7 million Mayans living in Mexico and Central America right now.
In other words, Maya history is still being written.
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