A people who occupied a nearly continuous territory in southern Mexico, Guatemala, and northern Belize.
The rise of the Maya began about 250 AD and at its height the Maya civilization consisted of more than 40 cities, each with 5,000 to 50,000 citizens, with a total population of 2 million. This lasted until approx. 900 AD, after which the classical Maya civilization began to decline, leaving their cities and ceremonial centres vacant and overgrown with jungle vegetation. Reasons for this are yet unclear; some say this is due to armed conflicts, others because the agricultural lands were exhausted. In the period 900 - 1519, the Maya continued to florish in the YucatÃín peninsula while the lowland cities became depopulated.
Before the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Central America, the Maya possessed one of the greatest civilizations of the Western Hemisphere.