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Maya civilization

The Maya civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization developed by the Maya peoples, and noted for its hieroglyphic script—the only known fully developed writing system of the pre-Columbian Americas—as well as for its art, architecture, mathematics, calendar, and astronomical system. The Maya civilization developed in an area that encompasses southeastern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador. This region consists of the northern lowlands encompassing the Yucatán Peninsula, and the highlands of the Sierra Madre, running from the Mexican state of Chiapas, across southern Guatemala and onwards into El Salvador, and the southern lowlands of the Pacific littoral plain.

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The Mayans were one of the three largest civilizations to exist in pre-Columbus Latin America, the other two being the Aztecs and the Incas. It is held that it was a Neo-lithic civilization, centuries behind the technological developments that were already taking place in Europe. However, this did not mean that the Mayans did not have feats of there own to show. The Mayans, like other large and prosperous Latin American civilizations, had developed sophisticated ways of cultivation, social hierarchies, architecture, a law structure of sorts, and a network of trading markets. For example, crops and precious stones were at the top of the trading market. Cities within the Mayan Empire would trade slabs of Jade and Turquoise stone for religious purposes. The location of the Mayans civilization began from the Yucatan (south-eastern most part of Mexico) and covered the majority of Central America.

Contributed by Walter Cortez Jr.

"East of the major Chichén Itzá ruins is a dark underground world the Mayans called Cenoté. They are deep water filled sinkholes formed by water percolating through the soft limestone above. Since the porous soil held little water, these underground bodies were extremely important to the city. A visit to one is a spine chilling experience. Entry is through a vertical hole with narrow stair steps carved by the Mayan's themselves. The air is thick and musty. One misstep on the slimy ledges threatens to send you falling over 20 feet. Once your eyes get used to the light level a bizarre world takes shape. Stalagtites of blood red limestone seem to ooze from the dripping walls. Ahead is a strange green pool of glowing water. As you approach the pool you notice roots of trees hanging before you. In their search for water they've penetrated the ceiling, dropping 50 feet to the pool below. It's like an eerie underground forest. beam of light in caveAfter you've crawled under some especially low hanging stalactites you're greeted by an incredible scene. A beautiful blue green pool of unknown depth stretches out before you. A massive stalagtite hangs down, just inches from touching the surface, and above a piercing beam of light streams in from the ceiling, illuminating the pool and the entire chamber. By pure luck I was at the Cenoté for a rare event. Once a year, in April, the beam of light touches the tip of the stalagtite. There are many instances of ancient peoples building monuments to take advantage of events like these but this is something that is totally natural and unplanned. There is a darker side to this and other Cenoté , however. In the wells around Chichén Itzá have been found scores of skeletons. Mayan carvings depict human sacrifices at these sites. "

Contributed by Gwen McKee

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