Timeline of the Maya
The Maya civilisation was a complex and advanced Mesoamerican civilisation that flourished in the Maya lowlands of present-day Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.
The Maya civilisation is known for its remarkable achievements in architecture, art, writing, mathematics, astronomy, and agriculture. The Maya city-states were highly organized and developed, with monumental architecture, elaborate religious rituals, and a sophisticated social hierarchy. The Maya also developed a complex writing system, known as hieroglyphics, and a sophisticated calendar system, including the famous Long Count calendar. However, the Maya civilisation also experienced periods of decline and collapse, attributed to factors such as warfare, environmental challenges, overpopulation, and foreign influences.
Preclassic Period (2000 BC – 250 AD):
- 2000 BC: Early Maya settlements emerge in the Maya lowlands, with the development of agriculture techniques and the cultivation of crops such as maize, beans, and squash.
- 1000-400 BC: The Maya civilisation begins to take shape with the rise of early Maya city-states, characterized by the construction of ceremonial centers, the emergence of a social hierarchy, and the development of early Maya writing and calendar systems.
- 300 BC – 250 AD: Maya city-states such as Kaminaljuyu and El Mirador flourish, with monumental architecture, advanced agricultural practices, and the emergence of a trade network spanning Mesoamerica.
Classic Period (250-900 AD):
- 250-600 AD: The Maya civilisation reaches its height during the Classic Period, with the rise of powerful city-states such as Tikal, Palenque, Calakmul, and Copan. These city-states engage in trade, warfare, and elaborate religious and artistic activities.
- 300-600 AD: The Maya develop the Long Count calendar, a complex system of measuring time, which becomes a significant part of their culture and religion.
- 600-900 AD: The Classic Period sees the construction of iconic Maya sites such as Caracol, Yaxchilan, and Quirigua, with monumental architecture, intricate carvings, and advancements in agriculture, writing, and astronomy.
Terminal Classic Period (900-1200 AD):
- 900-1200 AD: Many Maya city-states experience a decline or collapse during the Terminal Classic Period, marked by the abandonment of ceremonial centres, the decline of monumental architecture, and a shift in political power. Factors such as warfare, environmental degradation, overpopulation, social unrest, and economic challenges are thought to have contributed to the decline of many Maya city-states.
Postclassic Period (1200-1697 AD):
- 1200-1450 AD: The Postclassic Period sees the rise of new Maya city-states, such as Mayapan and Tulum, and the expansion of Maya trade networks to include Central Mexico and the Caribbean. The period also witnesses the arrival of foreign influences, such as Toltec and Mexican cultures, which impact Maya civilisation, leading to changes in political, religious, and artistic practices.
- 1441 AD: The K’iche’ Maya under the leadership of K’iq’ab’ defeat the Quiché capital of Zaculeu.
- 1502 – 1521 AD: The Maya civilisation faces increasing pressure from Spanish conquistadors who arrive in the Americas, after their first encounter in 1502. This leads to the colonization and forced conversion of many Maya communities to Christianity. The Spanish also exploit Maya resources, including forced labour and land seizures.
- 1521-1697 AD: Maya city-states continue to struggle against Spanish colonization, with the resistance movements such as the Caste War of Yucatan in the 19th century. However, by the late 17th century, most Maya city-states have fallen under Spanish control.
- 1697 AD: The last independent Maya city-state, Nojpeten (also known as Tayasal), falls to Spanish conquistadors led by Martín de Ursúa, marking the end of the last Maya resistance against Spanish colonization.