The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for a fully developed written language of the pre-colonized Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established circa 2000 BCE, according to the Mesoamerican chronology, many Maya cities reached their highest state of development circa 250 to 1200 CE, and until the arrival of the Europeans.
Discoveries of Maya occupation at Cuello, Belize have been carbon dated to around 2600 BCE. This level of occupation included monumental structures. The Maya calendar, which is based around the so-called Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, begins on a date circa 11 August 3114 BCE.
The Maya civilization extended throughout the present-day southern Mexican states of Chiapas, Tabasco, and the Yucatán Peninsula states of Quintana Roo, Campeche and Yucatán. The Maya area also extended throughout the northern Central American region, including the present-day nations of Guatemala, Belize, northern El Salvador and western Honduras.
The Maya peoples never disappeared, not even with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and the subsequent colonization of the Americas. Today, the Maya and their descendants form sizable populations throughout the Maya area and maintain a distinctive set of traditions and beliefs resulting from the merger of ideas from different cultures. Millions of people still speak Mayan languages today.
European scholars disagree about the boundaries which differentiate the physical and cultural extent of the early Maya and neighboring Preclassic Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Olmec culture of the Tabasco lowlands.