The Mayan Civilization
Flourished from 300 to 900 A.D.
The Mayans were a very sophisticated civilization. They were very skilled in art, architecture, math, astronomy and farming. Their culture was centered in city states, that would often be at war with each-other; they never were a entirely unified people. Around 800 there was a decline for unknown reasons but is speculated to be because of invasion, internal revolt, or reduced crop yields. This decline left cities like Tikal, and Palenque to be abandoned and covered by the jungle.
Where They Lived
The Mayans lived on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, where several ruins still remain, such as the ones shown on the map above.
What They Ate
The mayans used a system of writing based on hieroglyphs or pictures. They would write on bark folded like an accordion, only four of these books survived. Regrettably, the spanish conquerers burned many of their writings, assuming they were evil.
The Mayan Calendar
The Mayan Calendar was the most sophisticated calendar of its time created by observing the patterns of the sun. It used a system which scholars now call a "long count". Contrary to popular belief it did not predict the end of the world in 2012. It was later adopted and slightly modified by the Aztecs and Toltecs.
Temples and Pyramids
In a mayan city there was a central pyramid topped with a shine to the gods. The cities also contained temples, palaces, and a ball court. It's estimated that at their peak 100,00 inhabitants may have populated the urban centers.
Human sacrifices were made on special occasions such as rituals, often using prisoners of war that were of higher position. At Chichén Itzá they would be painted blue and thrown into a well to honor the god Chaak. There is also a depiction of a sacrifice near the sites ball court perhaps showing the loser of the game.