Mayan Setting

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This section describes the geographical and environmental setting of the Maya area, and will outline the developmental stages (chronological framework) of ancient Maya Civilization.  It notes that the Maya area is actually a sub-region of greater Mesoamerica and that the Maya people shared many traditions with the varied cultures of that region.

The Maya area is located within the southeastern corner of a larger region known as Mesoamerica. Long before the coming of the Spanish, from 600 B.C. to A.D. 1000, many cultures settled, rose to prominence and collapsed within this diverse land. In the gulf coast of Mexico, the Olmec people were one of the first to develop a complex civilization. They were followed by other cultural groups such as the Zapotecs and Mixtecas in Oaxaca, the Teotihuacanos, Toltecs and Aztecs in the Valley of Mexico and the Tlaxcalans and Uaxteca of the east coast. The Maya people, who were contemporaries of all these great nations, settled and developed in the southeast, in an area that includes the modern countries of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, western Honduras, and the Mexican states of Tabasco, Chiapas, Yucatan, and Campeche.

The Maya area (Figure 1)is generally divided into three sub-regions:


 

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