1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Maya Lowlands

The Northern Maya Lowlands Region of the Maya Civilization

By

Great Plaza at Tikal, Peten, Guatemala

Great Plaza at Tikal, Peten, Guatemala

Takeshi Inomata (c) 2006

The Maya lowlands are where the Classic Maya civilization arose. An extensive area including almost some 250,000 square kilometers, the Maya lowlands are located in the northern part of Central America, in the Yucatan peninsula, Guatemala and Belize below approximately 800 meters above sea level. There is little exposed surface water: what there is can be found in lakes in the Peten, swamps and cenotes, natural sinkholes created by the Chicxulub crater impact. But the area receives tropical rainfall in its rainy season (May—January), from 20 inches a year in the southern part to a whopping 147 inches in the northern Yucatan.

The area is characterized by shallow or waterlogged soils, and was once covered in dense tropical forests. The forests harbored a range of animals, including two kinds of deer, peccary, tapir, jaguar, and several species of monkeys.

The lowland Maya grew avocado, beans, chili peppers, squash, cacao and maize, and raised turkeys.

Sites in the Maya Lowlands

Sources

This glossary entry is part of the Guide to the Maya Civilization and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

See the Maya Civilization bibliography

Ball, Joseph W. 2001. The Maya Lowlands North. pp. 433-441 in Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America, edited by Susan Toby Evans and David L. Webster. Garland, New York City.

Houston, Stephen D. 2001. The Maya Lowlands South. pp. 441-447 in Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America, edited by Susan Toby Evans and David L. Webster. Garland, New York City.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.