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The earliest Maya settlements date to around 1800 B.C. They had settled in villages and were agricultural, growing crops such as corn (maize), beans, squash and cassava (manioc). By 200 CE they had developed into cities containing temples, pyramids, palaces. During the Middle Preclassic Period, Maya farmers began to expand their presence both in the highland and lowland regions and derived a number of religious and cultural traits.
The Classic Period that began about 250 CE and lasted until about 900 CE, was the golden age of the Maya Empire, when civilization grew to some 40 cities, each with a population between 5,000 and 50,000. At the top of Maya society were the kings, or “kuhul ajaw” (holy lords). The Maya worshiped various gods related to nature.
The Classic Maya built many of their temples and palaces in a stepped pyramid shape, overlain with limestone blocks and richly ornamented with narrative, ceremonial, and astronomical reliefs and inscriptions. The Maya made significant advances in mathematics and astronomy, also made paper from tree bark and rubber.
The Maya civilization was one of the most dominant Indigenous societies of Mesoamerica. From the late 8th through the end of the 9th century, something unknown happened and by A.D. 900, Maya civilization in the southern lowlands had collapsed.