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Mayas, Middle American Indian confederation of Central America, covering the Yucatán peninsula, East Chiapas state in modern Mexico, most of Guatemala, and the western parts of El Salvador and Honduras. Its civilization was at its height A.D. 300–900. A farming people of the rain forests, the Mayas grew corn, cassava, cotton, beans, and sweet potatoes and kept bees for wax and honey. They had a hierarchy of priest-nobles under a hereditary chief. The Mayans developed an involved hieroglyphic form of writing, still undeciphered, and a knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, and chronology superior to that in contemporaneous Europe. The priests devised 2 calendars: a 365-day civil year and a sacred year of 260 days. Mayan art comprises fine sculpture, both in the round and in relief; painted frescoes and manuscripts; ceramics, and magnificent architecture, including the lofty stone pyramid topped by a temple. By 900 their main centers, such as Palenque, Peidras, and Copán, had been abandoned to the jungle for reasons unknown. A “postclassical” tradition, under Toltec influence, sprang up in new centers, notably Chichén Itzá, but in the early 1500s the entire region came under Spanish rule.

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21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Manuelito to Medical Association, American