[[Image:Maya map.jpg|thumb|right|400px|Mayan Cities]]
The '''Maya''' (MAH-yuh or MEYE-uh) are a people in Southern [[Mexico]] and northern [[Central America]]. They number about 9 million people, consisting of about 30 different groups. The Maya formed one of the great [[
Mesoamerica]] n civilizations, the apogee of their civilization was from A.D. 300 to 900.
The Maya have been called the "[[Greek]]s of the New World" by many historians. The Maya had some knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, ritual [[ball]] games for entertainment, and the use of their complex written language. The Maya may have been the first civilization that used the concept of zero, the oldest Mayan inscriptions using a zero glyph date from the first century before Christ, but it is likely that the Mayas copied it from an earlier civilization, most likely Olmecs or Zapotecs.
The reasons for the decline of the Mayan civilization are not completely understood, but seem to be related to the destruction of the natural environment. The Maya needed trees to make stucco to cover their pyramids, which lead to erosion, which led to insufficient crops, which led the Maya to build more temples, which continued the cycle. Mayan cities were abruptly abandoned in the 800s. After this point, the Maya civilization became small villages.
[[File:Uxmal Mexico Maya.jpg|thumb|left|300px|Uxmal.]]
The Maya were politically formed similarly to the [[Greek]] city-states. Each city was politically independent and ruled by a king who had multiple wives. Each king had a ceremonial center containing temple pyramids, ball courts and stelae, which are tall stone statues containing a portrait on one side and glyphs on the other. Some cities politically controlled other sites, as Copan controlled Quirigua until a revolt in which the people of Quirigua beheaded the ruler of Copan, Waxaklahun Ub'a K'awiil, or 18 Rabbit. The four major sites are [[Palenque]], [[Tikal]], [[Calakmul]] and [[Copan]]. Later, [[Chichen Itza]] was built, but this site was built after the collapse of many others. For food, the Maya grew maize (corn), squash and beans. Like other American Indians the Maya had no coins or paper money, but sometimes traded in cacao (chocolate) beans, shells or other goods. The Maya were probably the only Mesoamerican civilization with a fully functional writing system, based on the use of hieroglyphs, although other people like the Mixtecs and the Aztecs had a comic book like writing system, that was not as fully developed as the Mayan one, and there also exist (as of yet undeciphered) Epi-Olmec and Olmec hieroglyphs.
Contrary to early beliefs, the Mayans were involved in warfare, perhaps rarely, though research indicates that, "It may well be that vengeful dynastic vendettas, total destruction of cities and the enslavement of whole populations occurred throughout Maya history."<ref>Simon Martin, ''Under a Deadly Star – Warfare Among the Classic Maya.'' In Nikolai Grube, ed. ''Maya: Divine Kings of the Rain Forest'' (Konneman, Cologne), p. 176.</ref>
== See also ==