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Archaeology: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
When Did People Begin Using and Controlling Fire?
The discovery of fire was one of the earliest discoveries of humans. Fire's purposes are multiple, some of which are to add light and heat, to cook plants and animals, to clear forests for planting, to heat-treat stone for making stone tools, to burn clay for ceramic objects.
The New Seven Wonders of the World
A quick photo tour of the new seven wonders of the world--plus some extras that readers say should be in there, too.
What Does A.D. Mean, Anyway?
The initials A.D. (used with or without periods) is an abbreviation for the Latin
What Can Archaeology Tell Us About Who Aryans...
The Aryan Invasion Myth was developed in the late 19th century to explain the blossoming of the Indus River Civilization; but it stems from a flawed argument and old fashioned racist supremacism.
The 10 Most Important Aztec Gods and Goddesses
Learn more about the most important Aztec gods and and the religion of the Aztec people
Where Was the Ancient City of Babylon?
The archaeological site of Babylon was the capital of a small city state of Mesopotamia, named Babylonia, located in what is now Iraq, near the modern town of Hilla.
What Is History, Anyway? A Handful of...
This collection of quotes from historians--some professional, some decidedly not--trying their hand at defining the dark art of history.
Why Don't Archaeologists Use the Term...
Cro-Magnons are what scholars now call Anatomically Modern Humans or Early Modern Humans, mostly because Cro-Magnon refers to to a specific archaeological site which isn't really typical of the rest
Interested in a Career in Archaeology? Read...
Have you always dreamed of being an archaeologist, but don't know how to become one? To become an archaeologist takes education, reading, training, and persistence. Here's how you can get started exploring that dream job
Here's How Cattle Came to Be Domesticated
Although evidence for hunting wild forms of cattle exists at archaeological sites dated to our earliest days on the planet, herding cattle was first accomplished in Western Asia by about 6000 BC, and in perhaps the eastern Sahara desert about 1000 years earlier.
How the Dog Came to Be Domesticated
When and where the partnership of dog and humans first occurred is currently under considerable debate.
What Does the Abbreviation 'BP' Stand for in...
Archaeologists use the term 'BP' to mean 'years before humans began to screw up the atmosphere by testing nuclear devices'.
Is Your Cat Truly Domesticated? According to...
The modern day cat was permanently domesticated about 4000 years ago, in Egypt; but archaeologists say it may have been closer to 10,000 years ago.
A Beginner's Guide to the Stone Age
A definition and chronology of the Stone Age (more commonly known to scholars as the Paleolithic era), which in human prehistory is the name given to the period between about 2.5 million and 20,000 years ago.
Bitumen
Bitumen is a naturally-occurring organic byproduct of decomposed organic materials used by humans for many very useful things for the past 40,000 years.
What Kind of Career Can I Have in Archaeology?
What kind of real-life career choices do I have with a degree in archaeology?
Considering a Career in Archaeology? Read These...
What kind of job can I get in archaeology? Does it pay well? Do you have to work when it's hot? These are the questions that everyone who is thinking about being an archaeologist wants to know.
Harappa (Pakistan)
Harappa is a large city of the Indus Civilization, and one of the best known sites in Pakistan, located on the bank of the Ravi River in Punjab Province.
Animal Domestication: When and Where It First...
Domestication is the process of genetically adapting an animal or plant to better suit the needs of human beings; this page includes a definition of domestication and a table of domestication dates for animals in the world.
What Is a Hominin and How Is It Different from...
Learn more about the Homininae subfamily, including Hominini (humans and their ancestors), Panini (chimps), and Gorillini (gorillas).
What You've Always Wanted to Know about Otzi...
The Iceman is the name of a 5,300-year-old human body discovered high in the Swiss/Italian Alps in 1991.
Myth-busting about arrowheads
Arrowheads are among the most easily recognized artifact in the world. These little tools are often the subject of a number of myths, legends and misconceptions; here is a description of the five top myths and the five top unknown facts about this ubiquitous stone tool.
Archaeology and the Fate of Amelia Earhart
The TIGHAR project searching for traces of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan was begun in the 1980s, and the earliest archaeological investigations were focused on Nikumaroro island. Page 2.
Here's How Chickens Became Domesticated
The history of chickens and when they were domesticated is something of a puzzle, but most likely it was about 8,000 years ago in Thailand.
If you could be a Viking, would you be a...
Viking society is traditionally described as highly stratified, with three classes as written into mythology, slaves (thrall), farmers (karl), and aristocracy (jarl or earl)V
Clovis May Not Have Been First in the Americas,...
Clovis refers to mobile big game hunters who roamed the Americas hunting elephants and bison for a very brief time 12,000 years ago.
How the Kingdom of Aksum Flourished in Ethiopia
The Kingdom of Aksum (first through sixth centuries AD) was one of the most powerful kingdoms in sub-Saharan Africa, connecting the Roman empire and the rest of the world in the region of the Red Sea.
The Top Ten
Short list of the main facts and aspects of Aztec culture
What Society Cultivated Wheat First?
Wheat was one of the very first crops domesticated by our ancestors, some 10,000 years ago in southeastern Turkey.
What was Life in Europe Like Before Farming?
The Mesolithic period in European history includes the history of the complex hunter-gatherers who developed the technology to cultivate crops.
Indus Civilization Timeline and Description
The Indus is one of the oldest societies we know of, including over 2600 known archaeological sites located along the Indus and Sarasvati rivers.
Did Clovis Hunting Technology Originate in the...
El Fin del Mundo is an important Clovis site in the Sonora desert, both for its early date and for its associated kill site of two gomphotheres.
Is the history of the Inca written in knotted...
The quipu (also spelled khipu or quipo) is the only known precolumbian information system in South America.
How Hunter-Gatherers Lived Off the Land
Hunter gatherers is the name anthropologists have given to people who rely on a combined living of hunting game and gathering root vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Hunting and gathering was the lifestyle of all human beings until the invention of agriculture about 8000 years ago; and, to state it simply, hunter-gatherers hunt game and collect plant foods.
Ochre
The natural yellow-red-brown pigment known as ochre was humankind's first paint pot, used by our hominid ancestors nearly 300,000 years ago.
Top 10 Ancient American Civilizations
The continents of North and South America were 'discovered' by the European civilizations in the late 15th century AD, but their civilizations were vast and complex long before the first European landed. The following are a taste of the complexity of the civilizations of ancient America.
Plant Domestication
A collection of plant histories, when and where humans domesticated them, with a table of dates and places and links to the stories themselves.
What Alchemy Did it Take to Make Medieval...
Damascus steel, the legendary steel blade scimitar of the Islamic side in the Crusades, was a formidable piece of weaponry for the middle ages. Modern science has given us new insights into how this iron metal was forged, and why this useful technology became lost.
Cotton (Gossypium)
Refer to this page to learn more about the origin of cotton domestication and cultivation
Learn All About the Ancient Mesopotamian City...
The Mesopotamian city of Ur, known as Tell al-Muqayyar, was an important Sumerian city state between about 2025-1738 BC.
The Origins of Agriculture Around the World
The history of farming begins some 12,000 years ago, in the hilly flanks of the Zagros Mountains of southwest Asia
The Secret Innovations and Inventions of...
Ancient farming methods used by farmers throughout the world varied quite a bit. Farmers developed many ways to maintain soils, ward off frost and freeze cycles and protect their crops from animals. On this page you'll find core concept definitions, articles on examples of archaeological research into ancient farming, detailed examination of some special farming techniques and bibliographies of related topics.
The Fate of Amelia Earhart
Ric Gillespie's TIGHAR crew spent some time talking to the Nicumaroro island colonists, none of whom live there today, having only lived on the island from 1941 to 1963. Page 3.
Great Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe)
Great Zimbabwe is an important African Iron Age site, one of hundreds of such sites in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa dated between the 10th and 15th centuries AD.
When was the Common Bean Domesticated? And Who...
The common bean comes in a multitude of colors shapes and sizes, and as you've no doubt been told, they're really good for you. They are an American domesticate, and their domestication history is an interesting one...
The Amazing History of American Corn
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Learn All About the Dating Techniques Used to...
A short course on the various dating methods used in archaeological science over the centuries. Part 1: Relative Dating
Aztec Origins
This page describes the mythical and archaeological origins of the Aztec people, and the founding of their capital city of Tenochtitlán
Important Facts You Should Know About...
A few important facts about Neandertals, part of an intensive study guide about these human ancestors. Page 2.
What genius culture first thought of fermenting...
Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from grapes; and depending on your definition of
Ancient Art Scuplture on a Very Grand Scale
Megalithic structures are immense collections of stone, earth and wood, some of which were built during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods of Europe.
Ancient Elephant Gomphotheres: Dinner for...
Gomphotheres were ancient elephants, who lived in the Americas but were dying off by the time that the first humans arrived there, some 20,000 years ago.
Defining Archaeology
What is Archaeology? The study of archaeology has been defined in a number of silly and serious ways. Here's a collection of pithy quotes from archaeologists and non-archaeologists.
Colonization of the America Continents
When, how and from whence came the original inhabitants of both South and North America has been a hot topic of debate among scholars for over 200 years. DNA, linguistics, oral history and archaeology combined together are finally coming up with answers.
Who were the human species known as the...
The Denisovans are a recently discovered human species, who lived (at least) in what is today Siberia and colonized the southeast Asian islands and China.
Angkor Wat (Cambodia)
Angkor Wat was left out of the new Seven Wonders, something reader Jan S. cannot understand. Page 9.
How Long Have Horses Been Our Pards?
The modern domesticated horse (Equus caballus) is spread throughout the world and is among the most diverse creatures on the planet.
Mehrgarh (Pakistan)
Mehrgarh is a Neolithic (7000-3200 BC) site on the Kachi plain of Baluchistan, Pakistan, and one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming (wheat and barley) and herding (cattle, sheep and goats) in south Asia.
Need Ideas for an Archaeology Paper? Try These...
The hardest thing a student does is pick a research paper topic. Archaeology, the study of a million years of human behavior, is an excellent starting place.
The Moche Culture
The Moche culture was a South American society, whose sites were located along the arid coast of what is now Peru between 100 and 800 AD
Why Did Shihuangdi Need aTerracotta Army?
The exquisite terracotta army of the first Qin Dynasty ruler Shihuangdi represents the emperor’s ability to control the resources of the newly unified China, and his attempt to recreate and maintain that empire in the afterlife.
What Does the Term 'Material Culture' Mean?
: The term "material culture" is often used by archaeologists as a non-specific way to refer to the artifacts
Out of Africa Hypothesis
The Out of Africa or African Replacement Hypothesis argues that every living human being is descended from a small group in Africa.
Guide to Pre-Clovis
Pre-Clovis is the name archaeologists have given to the oldest and now fairly well-established human occupations of the Americas.
10 Unknown Ancient Empires
Everyone knows of some ancient civilizations, either from World History classes in school, from books or films, or from television specials on the Discovery Channel, the BBC or Public Broadcasting. Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, all of these are covered again and again in our books, magazines, and television shows. But there are so many interesting, less well-known civilizations! Here's an admittedly biased selection of some of them and why they are not to be forgotten.
Tenochtitlan: How a City in a Swamp Became the...
The Aztec culture site called Tenochtitlan was located in a very peculiar place today, in a marsh in the middle of a lake surrounded by mountains--a place now called Mexico City.
The Legend of the Aztec God of War and Sacrifice
Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war and sacrifice, learn more about Aztec mythology and religion
Aztec Religion
The Aztecs had a complex set of beliefs, ceremonies and gods, each one overlooking an aspect of human life...
Quetzalcoatl
The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, is one of the most famous pre-Columbian deity and his cult was widespread in many Mesoamerican cultures
History of Rice, Part One
Archaeology has traced the history of rice to nearly 12,000 years ago.
Why Would Anybody Domesticate a Goat?
Beginning about 10,500-10,800 years ago, Neolithic farmers in the Near East began keeping small herds of goats for their milk, meat, dung, as well as for materials for clothing and building: hair, bone, and sinew.
Angkor or Khmer Empire Ruled Southeast Asia...
The Angkor Civilization (or Khmer Civilization) is the name given to an important civilization of southeast Asia, including all of Cambodia and southeastern Thailand and northern Vietnam
How Archaeologists Conduct Background Research
Background research refers to accessing the collection of previously published and unpublished information about a site, region, or particular topic of interest and it is the first step of all good archaeological investigations, as well as that of all writers of any kind of research paper.
What You Need to Know About the Early Stone Age
The Lower Paleolithic period (2.7 million to 200,000 years ago) is the first archaeology, that is to say, that period when the first evidence of what scientists consider human behaviors occurred.
Caral: The Earliest Civilization in the New World
A collection of sites in the Supe Valley of Peru are proving to be the ancestral source of the Inca and other later civilizations of South and Central America. Caral and the other Supe Valley sites promise to teach us why people choose to become urban dwellers.
Was Piprahwa Stupa the Burial Place of the...
The Bones of the Buddha is an hour long video describing the archaeological and historical search for one of Buddha's burial places.
The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro
A 4500 year old statuette of a dancing girl from the ancient Harappan town of Mohenjo-Daro dances across space and time into our imaginations.
Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta stone is a big hunk of volcanic basalt found near the town of Rosetta, Egypt in 1799, by the French emperor Napoleon's expedition.
Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic period saw great changes in the world as Homo sapiens became the only hominid running around on our planet.
How Long Have People Been Hanging Out in the...
Plazas, opens spaces in communities that allow the people to come together, are nearly as old as the first cities, at least 9400 years ago.
El Sidrón (Spain)
El Sidron is an archaeological site in the Asturias region of northern Spain where the remains of at least 12 Neanderthals have been recovered.
Wouldn't You Live in a House Made of Elephant...
In central Europe about 16,000 years ago, some stylish hunter gatherers built their houses out of ancient elephant bones. What a great idea!
The Agave Plant: one of America's First Textile...
Agave Americana (also called maguey) is an plant used throughout Mesoamerica as fiber for clothing and textiles and to produce alcoholic beverages.
Piprahwa Stupa (India)
The Piprahwa Stupa is a religious structure, first built in the 5th century BC to hold the cremated remains of the fifth and most famous of Buddhas, Guatema Siddhartha
Machu Picchu (Peru)
The New Seven Wonders: Machu Picchu (Peru). Page 4.
Popol Vuh
The Popol Vuh, often dubbed the Bible of the Maya, is a colonial document which narrates the creation myth of the Maya Quiché of Guatemala and the Story of the Hero Twins...
Here Are the Basic Facts and Timeline of the...
After classical Egypt, the first civilization in Africa was called Kush or Kushite, located on the third cataract of the Nile River in what is now the Sudan.
NAGPRA
The acronym NAGPRA refers to one of the most important pieces of American legislation affecting archaeologists.
Ancient Maya Bloodletting Rituals
Bloodletting rituals and sacrifices were a widespread practice among the ancient people of Mesoamerica.
Who Were the Vikings, Anyway?
The Vikings were a farming culture, who originated in Scandinavia about the 4th century AD, and began to spread out and conquer the Europe in the 9th century AD. They were mostly defeated or subsumed into other cultures by the 13th century AD.
Archaeology of the Minotaur, Ariadne and Daedalus
The Palace of Minos, excavated by Arthur Evans, is a standard Minoan palace of extraordinary size, begun during the prepalatial period of the Minoan civilization.
The Memory of a Tipi Resides in its Stone...
Tipi rings are rings of boulders, remnants of Plains Indian tipis in North America, their stories told by oral history, ethnography, and archaeology.
A Beginner's Guide to the Persian Empire
At its height about 500 BC, the Persian empire had conquered Asia as far as the Indus River, Greece, and North Africa including what is now Egypt and Libya.
Aztlán, The Mythical Homeland of the...
Aztlan is the mythical homeland from which the Aztec/Mexica migrated to the Valley of Mexico in the 13th century.
Tezcatlipoca
Tezcatlipoca was the Aztec god of night, north direction and patron deity of Aztec kings
Writing a First Draft
Writing a first draft of a research paper in archaeology doesn't have to be daunting, if you're prepared and you take it one step at a time.
Radiocarbon Dating
Radiocarbon dating is a method used by archaeologist to date organic materials by comparing the amount of Carbon 14 (C14) available in living creatures as a measuring stick.
Pharaoh Hatshepsut's Deir el-Bahri
Hatshepsut's Deir el-Bahri (also spelled Deir el-Bahari) is one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt, built by the architects of Queen Hatshepsut, a pharaoh of the New Kingdom.
Lucy (Hominid at AL 288, Ethiopia)
Lucy is the name of the nearly complete skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis, found in 1974 at AL 288, a site in the Hadar archaeological region on the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia.
Feudalism
Feudalism is a system of political organization, in which an elite individual called a lord controls several common people (vassals).
Tlaloc, the Aztec Rain God
Tlaloc, the rain god, was one of the most important gods in Aztec religion
Arrowheads and Projectile Points
Arrowheads are the most identifiable archaeological artifact in the world. Whether they've personally collected them from nearby farmlands, seen them in museum displays or just watched them being shot into people in John Wayne movies, most people know the triangular tips of arrow shafts are the remnants of a hunting trip.
The Taj Mahal (India)
The New Seven Wonders: Taj Mahal (India). Page 3.
The opposite of monocultural agriculture is...
Mixed cropping, also known as inter-cropping or co-cultivation, is a type of agriculture that involves planting two or more of plants simultaneously in the same field.
Pit Houses: Warm in the Winters and Cool in the...
A pit house (also spelled pithouse) is a type of dwelling that was excavated partly into the earth, from a few inches to more than three feet.
Middle Paleolithic
The Middle Paleolithic period (ca 200,000 to 45,000 years ago or so) is the period during which Archaic humans including Homo sapiens neanderthalensis appeared and flourished all over the world.
Burzahom (India)
The site of Burzahom is a Neolithic settlement and cemetery in the Kashmir state of India, occupied between about 3000-1500 BC.
The Solutrean-Clovis Connection
The Solutrean-Clovis connection suggests that at least some of the Clovis people from the North American continent were direct descendants of Solutreans from Europe.
Islamic Civilization
The Islamic Civilization is in reality an amalgam of wide variety of cultures, from North Africa to the western periphery of the Pacific Ocean, and from Central Asia to sub-Saharan Africa.
Social Organization
The study of social organization in anthropology was an outgrowth of the social evolutionism movement of the nineteenth century.
What Is Stratigraphy?
In archaeology, the study of stratigraphy involves looking at the geological and archaeological layers that make up an archaeological deposit to better understand the processes that created the site.
Chichén Itzá (Mexico)
New Seven Wonders Chichén Itzá - Mexico. Page 6.
Why Were Guinea Pigs Domesticated? (Hint: Not...
Guinea pigs are small rodents domesticated about seven thousand years ago in South American Andes mountains primarily for food, and brought to Europe as pets in the 16th century.
10,000 Years of Peering at the Stars
People began building stone monuments to track the movements the sun, moon and stars at least 10,000 years ago, and probably a lot longer. Here are my favorite...
What Science Knows about the Culture and...
The rulers of the Inca Empire were known known as the 'capac', and there are 12 known leaders of the Inca Empire, led by the founder Manco Capac. Page 2.
The Bering Land Bridge Brought People into the...
The Bering Strait is a sea lane between Russia and North America, located over the top of the Bering Land Bridge, that now-submerged portion of the Bering Strait, that once connected the Siberian mainland with North America.
The Collapse of Angkor
The end of the Khmer Empire (or Angkor civilization) came about as a direct result of the civilization's inability to adapt to an extended drought brought about by climate change.
What is the difference between llamas and...
Llamas and alpacas are two different species native to South America, both domesticated in about the same location and time in the Andean highlands.
Axumite Civilization
The Axumite civilization is a Coptic pre-Christian state in Ethiopia, from about AD 100-800.
Aztec Sacrifices
The Aztecs, or more properly the Mexica, practiced several different types of ritual sacrifice to secure the benevolence of the gods.
What killed the ancient mammals in the last Ice...
At the end of the last ice age (ca 15,000-10,000 years ago), 85 percent of the large mammals (called megafauna) went extinct.
Jericho (Palestine)
Jericho (also called Tell es-Sultan) is the name of tell situated on an ancient lake bed plain in what is known as the West Bank, in the territory belonging to Palestine.
Archaeology Equipment: The Tools of the Trade
A photo essay of the tools that archaeologists use during the course of an investigation, before, during and after the excavations.
Chalcolithic
The Chalcolithic is the name given to the period in the Near East and Europe after the Neolithic and before the Bronze Age, between about 4500 and 3500 BC.
Heinrich Schliemann and the Discovery of Troy
Heinrich Schliemann, that quintessential archaeologist of the 19th century, claimed to have discovered the real site of Troy. But did he?
Coconut Domestication
There are two broad types of coconuts, called dwarf and tall, and the types are part of the history of the origins of domestication. Page 2.
Aztecs or Mexica?
The name Aztec is an incorrect term to define the ancient inhabitants of the city of Tenochitlan or the inhabitants of the Valley of Mexico. This term originated in the 19th century, whereas the Aztecs called themselves Mexica..
Monumental Architecture
Monumental architecture refers to large man-made structures of stone or earth.
Baltic Amber and the Amber Trade
Baltic amber is a fossilized tree resin which formed about 60 million years ago and was actively traded beginning in the Mesolithic period of Europe.
What do silk worms have to do with silk?
The use of the silk worm species Bombyx to produce cloth was invented at least as early as the Longshan period (3500-2000 BC), and perhaps earlier.
Banana History
It takes the latest archaeological research techniques to figure out how long the banana has been a staple crop of humans--and it turns out to be one of our oldest domesticated plants.
Olmec Timeline and Definition
A guide to the Olmec civilization, including timelines, important sites, important facts, subsistence and settlement, burning issues, and a bibliography
Who Were the Aztecs and Where Did They Live?
Aztecs are the collective name given to seven Chichimec tribes of northern Mexico
Anthropology Defined
Anthropology is the study of human beings; their culture, their behavior, their beliefs, their ways of surviving; but that's just my opinion. Here is a collection of other definitions.
BCE (or B.C.E.) and CE (or C.E.)
BCE (or B.C.E.) and CE (or C.E.) definitions and proper usage examples.
Characteristics of Ancient Civilizations
Archaeologists recognize that in some cases, in some places, at some times, simple societies for one reason and another morph into more and more complex societies, and some become civilizations.
The Great Wall of China
The New Seven Wonders: The Great Wall of China. Page 7.
Cultural Evolution
Cultural evolution is the theory that culture changes over time as an adaptive response to stimulus.
World History Timelines
A collection of timelines for the world history of ancient cultures
Marine Isotope Stages (MIS)
Green isotope stages, or oxygen isotope stages, are the steps of and chronological listing of alternating cold and warm periods on our planet, identified by paleoclimatologists for the past 2 1/2 million years. This page lists the current dates for the past million years, as well as the cultural events that took place in human history.
Cultural Resource Management
Cultural Resource Management is, essentially, a process by which the protection and management of the multitudinous but scarce elements of cultural heritage are given some consideration in a modern world with an expanding population and changing needs.
Stonehenge (England)
Stonehenge - Left off the New Seven Wonders. Page 8.
Petra (Jordan)
New Seven Wonders: Petra (Jordan). Page 5.
Pyramids at Giza, Egypt
New Seven Wonders: Pyramids at Giza
What Did the Egyptians Know That Helped Modern...
Archaeologists have identified a dozen of medical manuscripts, written by the ancient Egyptians of the Middle and New Kingdoms.
Santo Domingo Rock Art in Danger
Melissa Massat, a former Peace Corps volunteer and student of the world, expresses her dismay at the destruction of one of Peru's national treasures, resulting from the conflicting demands of development and preservation.
Guide to Ancient Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is an ancient civilization that took up pretty much everything that today is modern Iraq, a triangular patch wedged between the Tigris River, the Zagros Mountains, and the Lesser Zab River.
Chaac
Chaac, was the Mayan god of rain, water and lightning. His origins are very ancient and he was worshiped all over the Maya area...
The Ancient Maya or Mayans?
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Learn All about Maya Civilization with This...
The Maya Civilization refers to several independent, loosely affiliated city states who shared a cultural heritage beginning about 2,500 years ago.
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