Popol Vuh is a cultural narrative that recounts the mythology and history of the Kʼicheʼ people who inhabit the Guatemalan Highlands northwest of present-day Guatemala City. The Popol Vuh is a creation narrative written by the Kʼicheʼ people before the Spanish conquest of Guatemala preserved through oral tradition until 1550 when it was written down; the survival of the Popol Vuh is credited to the 18th century Dominican friar Francisco Ximénez who made a copy of the original text in Spanish. The name "Popol Vuh" translates as "Book of the Community", "Book of Counsel", or more as "Book of the People"; the Popol Vuh includes the Mayan creation myth, beginning with the exploits of the Hero Twins Hunahpú and Xbalanqué. As with similar texts, a great deal of the Popol Vuh's significance lies in the scarcity of early accounts dealing with Mesoamerican mythologies due to the purging of documents by the Spanish Conquistadors. In 1701, Father Ximénez came to Santo Tomás Chichicastenango; this town was in the Quiché territory and therefore is where Fr.
Ximénez first redacted the mythistory. Ximénez translated the manuscript in parallel Kʼicheʼ and Spanish columns. In or around 1714, Ximénez incorporated the Spanish content in book one, chapters 2–21 of his Historia de la provincia de San Vicente de Chiapa y Guatemala de la orden de predicadores. Ximénez's manuscripts remained posthumously in the possession of the Dominican Order until General Francisco Morazán expelled the clerics from Guatemala in 1829–30 whereupon the Order's documents passed to the Universidad de San Carlos. From 1852 to 1855, Moritz Wagner and Carl Scherzer traveled to Central America, arriving in Guatemala City in early May 1854. Scherzer found Ximénez's writings in the university library, noting that there was one particular item "del mayor interes". With assistance from the Guatemalan historian and archivist Juan Gavarrete, Scherzer copied of the Spanish content from the last half of the manuscript, which he published upon his return to Europe. In 1855, French Abbot Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg found Ximénez's writings in the university library.
However, whereas Scherzer copied the manuscript, Brasseur stole the university's volume and took it back to France. After Brasseur's death in 1874, the Mexico-Guatémalienne collection containing Popol Vuh passed to Alphonse Pinart through whom it was sold to Edward E. Ayer. In 1897, Ayer decided to donate his 17,000 pieces to The Newberry Library, a project that tarried until 1911. Father Ximénez's transcription-translation of "Popol Vuh" was among Ayer's donated items. Father Ximénez's manuscript sank into obscurity until Adrián Recinos discovered it at The Newberry in 1941. Speaking, Recinos receives credit for finding the manuscript and publishing the first direct edition since Scherzer, but Munro Edmonson and Carlos López attribute the first discovery to Walter Lehmann in 1928. Allen Christenson, Néstor Quiroa, Rosa Helena Chinchilla Mazariegos, John Woodruff, Carlos López all consider the Newberry's volume to be Ximénez's one and only "original." It is believed that Ximénez borrowed a phonetic manuscript from a parishioner for his source, although Néstor Quiroa points out that "such a manuscript has never been found, thus Ximenez's work represents the only source for scholarly studies."
This document would have been a phonetic rendering of an oral recitation performed in or around Santa Cruz del Quiché shortly following Pedro de Alvarado's 1524 conquest. By comparing the genealogy at the end of Popol Vuh with dated colonial records, Adrián Recinos and Dennis Tedlock suggest a date between 1554 and 1558, but to the extent that the text speaks of a "written" document, Woodruff cautions that "critics appear to have taken the text of the first folio recto too much at face value in drawing conclusions about Popol Vuh's survival." If there was an early post-conquest document, one theory ascribes the phonetic authorship to Diego Reynoso, one of the signatories of the Título de Totonicapán. Another possible author could have been Don Cristóbal Velasco, who in Titulo de Totonicapán, is listed as "Nim Chokoh Cavec". In either case, the colonial presence is clear in Popol Vuh's preamble: "This we shall write now under the Law of God and Christianity. Accordingly, the need to "preserve" the content presupposes an imminent disappearance of the content, therefore, Edmonson theorized a pre-conquest glyphic codex.
No evidence of such a codex has yet been found. A minority, disputes the existence of pre-Ximénez texts on the same basis, used to argue their existence. Both positions are based on two statements by Ximénez; the first of these comes from Historia de la provincia where Ximénez writes that he found various texts during his curacy of Santo Tomás Chichicastenango that were guarded with such secrecy "that not a trace of it was revealed among the elder ministers" although "almost all of them have it memorized." The second passage used to argue pre-Ximénez texts comes from Ximénez's addendum to "Popol Vuh." There he states that many of the natives' practices can be "seen in a book that they have, something like a prophecy, from the beginning of their days, where they have all the months and
A trecena is a 13-day period used in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican calendars. The 260-day calendar was divided into 20 trecenas. Trecena is derived from the Spanish chroniclers and translates to "a group of thirteen" in the same way that a dozen relates to the number twelve, it is associated with the Aztecs, but is called different names in the calendars of the Maya, Zapotec and others of the region. Many surviving Mesoamerican codices, such as Codex Borbonicus, are divinitory calendars, based on the 260-day year, with each page representing one trecena. Aztec calendar Maya calendar Tonalpohualli K'atun
Mexico the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States. Covering 2,000,000 square kilometres, the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity, the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Puebla, Tijuana and León. Pre-Columbian Mexico dates to about 8000 BC and is identified as one of five cradles of civilization and was home to many advanced Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Olmec, Teotihuacan, Zapotec and Aztec before first contact with Europeans. In 1521, the Spanish Empire conquered and colonized the territory from its politically powerful base in Mexico-Tenochtitlan, administered as the viceroyalty of New Spain.
Three centuries the territory became a nation state following its recognition in 1821 after the Mexican War of Independence. The post-independence period was tumultuous, characterized by economic inequality and many contrasting political changes; the Mexican–American War led to a territorial cession of the extant northern territories to the United States. The Pastry War, the Franco-Mexican War, a civil war, two empires, the Porfiriato occurred in the 19th century; the Porfiriato was ended by the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, which culminated with the promulgation of the 1917 Constitution and the emergence of the country's current political system as a federal, democratic republic. Mexico has the 11th largest by purchasing power parity; the Mexican economy is linked to those of its 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement partners the United States. In 1994, Mexico became the first Latin American member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, it is classified as an upper-middle income country by the World Bank and a newly industrialized country by several analysts.
The country is considered both a regional power and a middle power, is identified as an emerging global power. Due to its rich culture and history, Mexico ranks first in the Americas and seventh in the world for number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Mexico is an ecologically megadiverse country, ranking fourth in the world for its biodiversity. Mexico receives a huge number of tourists every year: in 2018, it was the sixth most-visited country in the world, with 39 million international arrivals. Mexico is a member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G8+5, the G20, the Uniting for Consensus group of the UN, the Pacific Alliance trade bloc. Mēxihco is the Nahuatl term for the heartland of the Aztec Empire, namely the Valley of Mexico and surrounding territories, with its people being known as the Mexica, it is believed to be a toponym for the valley which became the primary ethnonym for the Aztec Triple Alliance as a result, although it could have been the other way around.
In the colonial era, back when Mexico was called New Spain this territory became the Intendency of Mexico and after New Spain achieved independence from the Spanish Empire it came to be known as the State of Mexico with the new country being named after its capital: the City of Mexico, which itself was founded in 1524 on top of the ancient Mexica capital of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. Traditionally, the name Tenochtitlan was thought to come from Nahuatl tetl and nōchtli and is thought to mean "Among the prickly pears rocks". However, one attestation in the late 16th-century manuscript known as "the Bancroft dialogues" suggests the second vowel was short, so that the true etymology remains uncertain; the suffix -co is the Nahuatl locative, making the word a place name. Beyond that, the etymology is uncertain, it has been suggested that it is derived from Mextli or Mēxihtli, a secret name for the god of war and patron of the Mexica, Huitzilopochtli, in which case Mēxihco means "place where Huitzilopochtli lives".
Another hypothesis suggests that Mēxihco derives from a portmanteau of the Nahuatl words for "moon" and navel. This meaning might refer to Tenochtitlan's position in the middle of Lake Texcoco; the system of interconnected lakes, of which Texcoco formed the center, had the form of a rabbit, which the Mesoamericans pareidolically associated with the moon rabbit. Still another hypothesis suggests that the word is derived from Mēctli, the name of the goddess of maguey; the name of the city-state was transliterated to Spanish as México with the phonetic value of the letter x in Medieval Spanish, which represented the voiceless postalveolar fricative. This sound, as well as the voiced postalveolar fricative, represented by a j, evolved into a voiceless velar fricative during the 16th century; this led to the use of the variant Méjico in many publications in Spanish, most notably in Spain, whereas in Mexico and most other Spanish–speaking countries, México was the preferred spelling. In recent years, the Real Academia Española, which regulates the Spanish l
Mesoamerican Long Count calendar
The Mesoamerican Long Count calendar is a non-repeating and base-18 calendar used by several pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures, most notably the Maya. For this reason, it is known as the Maya Long Count calendar. Using a modified vigesimal tally, the Long Count calendar identifies a day by counting the number of days passed since a mythical creation date that corresponds to August 11, 3114 BCE in the Proleptic Gregorian calendar; the Long Count calendar was used on monuments. The two most used calendars in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, were the 260-day Tzolkʼin and the 365 day Haabʼ; the equivalent Aztec calendars are known in Nahuatl as Xiuhpohualli. The combination of a Haabʼ and a Tzolkʼin date identifies a day in a combination which does not occur again for 18,980 days, a period known as the Calendar Round. To identify days over periods longer than this, Mesoamericans used the Long Count calendar; the Long Count calendar identifies a date by counting the number of days from a starting date, calculated to be August 11, 3114 BCE in the proleptic Gregorian calendar or September 6 in the Julian calendar.
There has been much debate over the precise correlation between the Western calendars and the Long Count calendars. The August 11 date is based on the GMT correlation; the completion of 13 bʼakʼtuns marks the Creation of the world of human beings according to the Maya. On this day, Raised-up-Sky-Lord caused three stones to be set by associated gods at Lying-Down-Sky, First-Three-Stone-Place; because the sky still lay on the primordial sea, it was black. The setting of the three stones centered the cosmos which allowed the sky to be raised, revealing the sun. Rather than using a base-10 scheme, like Western numbering, the Long Count days were tallied in a modified base-20 scheme. In a pure base-20 scheme, 0.0.0.1.5 is equal to 25 and 0.0.0.2.0 is equal to 40. The Long Count is not pure base-20, since the second digit from the right rolls over to zero when it reaches 18, thus 0.0.1.0.0 does not represent 400 days, but rather only 360 days and 0.0.0.17.19 represents 359 days. The name bʼakʼtun was invented by modern scholars.
The numbered Long Count was no longer in use by the time the Spanish arrived in the Yucatán Peninsula, although unnumbered kʼatuns and tuns were still in use. Instead the Maya were using an abbreviated Short Count. Long Count dates are written with Mesoamerican numerals. A dot represents 1 while a bar equals 5; the shell glyph was used to represent the zero concept. The Long Count calendar required the use of zero as a place-holder and presents one of the earliest uses of the zero concept in history. On Maya monuments, the Long Count syntax is more complex; the date sequence is given once, at the beginning of the inscription and opens with the so-called ISIG which reads tzik-a habʼ. Next come the 5 digits of the Long Count, followed by supplementary series; the supplementary series is optional and contains lunar data, for example, the age of the moon on the day and the calculated length of current lunation. The text continues with whatever activity occurred on that date. A drawing of a full Maya Long Count inscription is shown below.
The earliest contemporaneous Long Count inscription yet discovered is on Stela 2 at Chiapa de Corzo, Mexico, showing a date of 36 BCE, although Stela 2 from Takalik Abaj, Guatemala might be earlier. Takalik Abaj Stela 2's battered Long Count inscription shows 7 bak'tuns, followed by k'atuns with a tentative 6 coefficient, but that could be 11 or 16, giving the range of possible dates to fall between 236 and 19 BCE. Although Takalik Abaj Stela 2 remains controversial, this table includes it, as well as six other artifacts with the eight oldest Long Count inscriptions according to Dartmouth professor Vincent H. Malmström. Interpretations of inscriptions on some artifacts differ. Of the six sites, three are on the western edge of the Maya homeland and three are several hundred kilometers further west, leading some researchers to believe that the Long Count calendar predates the Maya. La Mojarra Stela 1, the Tuxtla Statuette, Tres Zapotes Stela C and Chiapa Stela 2 are all inscribed in an Epi-Olmec, not Maya, style.
El Baúl Stela 2, on the other hand, was created in the Izapan style. The first unequivocally Maya artifact is Stela 29 from Tikal, with the Long Count date of 292 CE, more than 300 years after Stela 2 from Chiapa de Corzo. More with the discovery in Guatemala of the San Bartolo stone block text, it has been argued that this text celebrates an upcoming time period ending celebration; this time period may have been projected to end sometime between 126.96.36.199.0 and 188.8.131.52.0 — 295 and 256 BCE, respectively. Besides this being the earliest Maya hieroglyphic text so far uncovered, it would arguably be the earliest glyphic evidence to date of Long Count notation in Mesoamerica; the Maya and Western calendars are correlated by using a Julian day number of the starting date of the current creation — 184.108.40.206.0, 4 Ajaw, 8 Kumkʼu. This is referred to; the accepted correlation constant is the Modified Thompson 2, "Goodman–Martinez–Thomps
Monte Albán is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site in the Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán Municipality in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. The site is located on a low mountainous range rising above the plain in the central section of the Valley of Oaxaca where the latter's northern Etla, eastern Tlacolula, southern Zimatlán & Ocotlán branches meet; the present-day state capital Oaxaca City is located 9 km east of Monte Albán. The excavated civic-ceremonial center of the Monte Albán site is situated atop an artificially-leveled ridge, which with an elevation of about 1,940 m above mean sea level rises some 400 m from the valley floor, in an defensible location. In addition to the monumental core, the site is characterized by several hundred artificial terraces, a dozen clusters of mounded architecture covering the entire ridgeline and surrounding flanks; the archaeological ruins on the nearby Atzompa and El Gallo hills to the north are traditionally considered to be an integral part of the ancient city as well.
Besides being one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica, Monte Albán's importance stems from its role as the pre-eminent Zapotec socio-political and economic center for close to a thousand years. Founded toward the end of the Middle Formative period at around 500 BC, by the Terminal Formative Monte Albán had become the capital of a large-scale expansionist polity that dominated much of the Oaxacan highlands and interacted with other Mesoamerican regional states such as Teotihuacan to the north; the city had lost its political pre-eminence by the end of the Late Classic and soon thereafter was abandoned. Small-scale reoccupation, opportunistic reutilization of earlier structures and tombs, ritual visitations marked the archaeological history of the site into the Colonial period; the etymology of the site's present-day name is unclear, tentative suggestions regarding its origin range from a presumed corruption of a native Zapotec name to a colonial-era reference to a Spanish soldier by the name Montalbán or to the Alban Hills of Italy.
The ancient Zapotec name of the city is not known, as abandonment occurred centuries before the writing of the earliest available ethnohistorical sources. Being visible from anywhere in the central part of the Valley of Oaxaca, the impressive ruins of Monte Albán attracted visitors and explorers throughout the colonial and modern eras. Among others, Guillermo Dupaix investigated the site in the early 19th century CE, J. M. García published a description of the site in 1859, A. F. Bandelier visited and published further descriptions in the 1890s. A first intensive archaeological exploration of the site was conducted in 1902 by Leopoldo Batres General Inspector of Monuments for the Mexican government under Porfirio Diaz, it was however only in 1931 that large-scale scientific excavations were undertaken under the direction of Mexican archaeologist Alfonso Caso. In 1933, Eulalia Guzmán assisted with the excavation of Tomb 7. Over the following eighteen years Caso and his colleagues Ignacio Bernal and Jorge Acosta excavated large sections within the monumental core of the site, much of what is visible today in areas open to the public was reconstructed at that time.
Besides resulting in the excavation of a large number of residential and civic-ceremonial structures and hundreds of tombs and burials, one lasting achievement of the project by Caso and his colleagues was the establishment of a ceramic chronology for the period between the site's founding in ca. 500 BCE to end of the Postclassic period in CE 1521. The investigation of the periods preceding Monte Albán's founding was a major focus of the Prehistory and Human Ecology Project started by Kent Flannery of the University of Michigan in the late 1960s. Over the following two decades this project documented the development of socio-political complexity in the valley from the earliest Archaic period to the Rosario phase preceding Monte Albán, thus setting the stage for an understanding of the latter's founding and developmental trajectory. In this context, among the major accomplishments of Flannery's work in Oaxaca are his extensive excavations at the important formative center of San José Mogote in the Etla branch of the valley, a project co-directed with Joyce Marcus of the University of Michigan.
A further important step in the understanding of the history of occupation of the Monte Albán site was reached with the Prehistoric Settlement Patterns in the Valley of Oaxaca Project begun by Richard Blanton and several colleagues in the early 1970s. It is only with their intensive survey and mapping of the entire site that the real extension and size of Monte Albán beyond the limited area explored by Caso became known. Subsequent seasons of the same project under the direction of Blanton, Gary Feinman, Steve Kowalewski, Linda Nicholas, others extended the survey coverage to the entire valley, producing an invaluable amount of data on the region's changing settlement patterns from the earliest times to the arrival of the Spanish in CE 1521; as indicated by Blanton's survey of the site, the Monte Albán hills appear to have been uninhabited prior to 500 BCE. At that time, San José Mogote was the major population center in the valley and head of a chiefdom that controlled much of the northern Etla branch.
As many as three or four other smaller chiefly centers controlled other sub-regions of the valley, including Tilcajete in the southern Valle Grande branch and Yegüih in the Tlacolula arm to the east. Competition and warfare seem to have characterized the R
Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America. It extends from central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and northern Costa Rica, within this region pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas. In the 16th century, European diseases like smallpox and measles caused the deaths of upwards of 90% of the indigenous people, it is one of five areas in the world where ancient civilization arose independently, the second in the Americas along with Norte Chico in present-day Peru, in the northern coastal region. As a cultural area, Mesoamerica is defined by a mosaic of cultural traits developed and shared by its indigenous cultures. Beginning as early as 7000 BCE, the domestication of cacao, beans, avocado, vanilla and chili, as well as the turkey and dog, caused a transition from paleo-Indian hunter-gatherer tribal grouping to the organization of sedentary agricultural villages. In the subsequent Formative period and cultural traits such as a complex mythological and religious tradition, a vigesimal numeric system, a complex calendric system, a tradition of ball playing, a distinct architectural style, were diffused through the area.
In this period, villages began to become stratified and develop into chiefdoms with the development of large ceremonial centers, interconnected by a network of trade routes for the exchange of luxury goods, such as obsidian, cacao, Spondylus shells and ceramics. While Mesoamerican civilization did know of the wheel and basic metallurgy, neither of these technologies became culturally important. Among the earliest complex civilizations was the Olmec culture, which inhabited the Gulf Coast of Mexico and extended inland and southwards across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Frequent contact and cultural interchange between the early Olmec and other cultures in Chiapas and Oaxaca laid the basis for the Mesoamerican cultural area. All this was facilitated by considerable regional communications in ancient Mesoamerica along the Pacific coast; this formative period saw the spread of distinct religious and symbolic traditions, as well as artistic and architectural complexes. In the subsequent Preclassic period, complex urban polities began to develop among the Maya, with the rise of centers such as El Mirador and Tikal, the Zapotec at Monte Albán.
During this period, the first true Mesoamerican writing systems were developed in the Epi-Olmec and the Zapotec cultures, the Mesoamerican writing tradition reached its height in the Classic Maya hieroglyphic script. Mesoamerica is one of only three regions of the world where writing is known to have independently developed. In Central Mexico, the height of the Classic period saw the ascendancy of the city of Teotihuacan, which formed a military and commercial empire whose political influence stretched south into the Maya area and northward. Upon the collapse of Teotihuacán around 600 AD, competition between several important political centers in central Mexico, such as Xochicalco and Cholula, ensued. At this time during the Epi-Classic period, the Nahua peoples began moving south into Mesoamerica from the North, became politically and culturally dominant in central Mexico, as they displaced speakers of Oto-Manguean languages. During the early post-Classic period, Central Mexico was dominated by the Toltec culture, Oaxaca by the Mixtec, the lowland Maya area had important centers at Chichén Itzá and Mayapán.
Towards the end of the post-Classic period, the Aztecs of Central Mexico built a tributary empire covering most of central Mesoamerica. The distinct Mesoamerican cultural tradition ended with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Over the next centuries, Mesoamerican indigenous cultures were subjected to Spanish colonial rule. Aspects of the Mesoamerican cultural heritage still survive among the indigenous peoples who inhabit Mesoamerica, many of whom continue to speak their ancestral languages, maintain many practices harking back to their Mesoamerican roots; the term Mesoamerica means "middle America" in Greek. Middle America refers to a larger area in the Americas, but it has previously been used more narrowly to refer to Mesoamerica. An example is the title of the 16 volumes of The Handbook of Middle American Indians. "Mesoamerica" is broadly defined as the area, home to the Mesoamerican civilization, which comprises a group of peoples with close cultural and historical ties. The exact geographic extent of Mesoamerica has varied through time, as the civilization extended North and South from its heartland in southern Mexico.
The term was first used by the German ethnologist Paul Kirchhoff, who noted that similarities existed among the various pre-Columbian cultures within the region that included southern Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, western Honduras, the Pacific lowlands of Nicaragua and northwestern Costa Rica. In the tradition of cultural history, the prevalent archaeological theory of the early to middle 20th century, Kirchhoff defined this zone as a cultural area based on a suite of interrelated cultural similarities brought about by millennia of inter- and intra-regional interaction. Mesoamerica is recognized as a near-prototypical cultural area, the term is now integrated in the standard terminology of pre-Columbian anthropological studies. Conversely, the sister terms Aridoamerica and Oasisamerica, which refer to northern Mexico and the western United States have not entered into widespread usage; some of the significant cultural traits defining the Mesoamerican cultural tradition are: sedentism based on maize agricultu
Guatemala the Republic of Guatemala, is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 16.6 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; the territory of modern Guatemala once formed the core of the Maya civilization, which extended across Mesoamerica. Most of the country was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century, becoming part of the viceroyalty of New Spain. Guatemala attained independence in 1821 as part of the Federal Republic of Central America, which dissolved by 1841. From the mid to late 19th century, Guatemala experienced civil strife. Beginning in the early 20th century, it was ruled by a series of dictators backed by the United Fruit Company and the United States government. In 1944, authoritarian leader Jorge Ubico was overthrown by a pro-democratic military coup, initiating a decade-long revolution that led to sweeping social and economic reforms.
A U. S.-backed military coup in 1954 installed a dictatorship. From 1960 to 1996, Guatemala endured a bloody civil war fought between the US-backed government and leftist rebels, including genocidal massacres of the Maya population perpetrated by the military. Since a United Nations-negotiated peace accord, Guatemala has witnessed both economic growth and successful democratic elections, though it continues to struggle with high rates of poverty, drug trade, instability; as of 2014, Guatemala ranks 31st of 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries in terms of the Human Development Index. Guatemala's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems includes a large number of endemic species and contributes to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity hotspot; the name "Guatemala" comes from the Nahuatl word Cuauhtēmallān, or "place of many trees", a derivative of the K'iche' Mayan word for "many trees" or more for the Cuate/Cuatli tree Eysenhardtia. This was the name the Tlaxcaltecan soldiers who accompanied Pedro de Alvarado during the Spanish Conquest gave to this territory.
The first evidence of human habitation in Guatemala dates back to 12,000 BC. Evidence, such as obsidian arrowheads found in various parts of the country, suggests a human presence as early as 18,000 BC. There is archaeological proof. Pollen samples from Petén and the Pacific coast indicate that maize cultivation had developed by 3500 BC. Sites dating back to 6500 BC have been found in the Quiché region in the Highlands, Sipacate and Escuintla on the central Pacific coast. Archaeologists divide the pre-Columbian history of Mesoamerica into the Preclassic period, the Classic period, the Postclassic period; until the Preclassic was regarded as a formative period, with small villages of farmers who lived in huts, few permanent buildings. However, this notion has been challenged by recent discoveries of monumental architecture from that period, such as an altar in La Blanca, San Marcos, from 1000 BC; the Classic period of Mesoamerican civilization corresponds to the height of the Maya civilization, is represented by countless sites throughout Guatemala, although the largest concentration is in Petén.
This period is characterized by urbanisation, the emergence of independent city-states, contact with other Mesoamerican cultures. This lasted until 900 AD, when the Classic Maya civilization collapsed; the Maya abandoned many of the cities of the central lowlands or were killed off by a drought-induced famine. The cause of the collapse is debated, but the drought theory is gaining currency, supported by evidence such as lakebeds, ancient pollen, others. A series of prolonged droughts, among other reasons such as overpopulation, in what is otherwise a seasonal desert is thought to have decimated the Maya, who relied on regular rainfall; the Post-Classic period is represented by regional kingdoms, such as the Itza, Kowoj and Kejache in Petén, the Mam, Ki'che', Chajoma, Tz'utujil, Poqomchi', Q'eqchi' and Ch'orti' in the highlands. Their cities preserved many aspects of Maya culture; the Maya civilization shares many features with other Mesoamerican civilizations due to the high degree of interaction and cultural diffusion that characterized the region.
Advances such as writing and the calendar did not originate with the Maya. Maya influence can be detected from Honduras, Northern El Salvador to as far north as central Mexico, more than 1,000 km from the Maya area. Many outside influences are found in Maya art and architecture, which are thought to be the result of trade and cultural exchange rather than direct external conquest. After they arrived in the New World, the Spanish started several expeditions to Guatemala, beginning in 1519. Before long, Spanish contact resulted in an epidemic. Hernán Cortés, who had led the Spanish conquest of Mexico, granted a permit to Captains Gonzalo de Alvarado and his brother, Pedro de Alvarado, to conquer this land. Alvarado at first allied himself with the Kaqchikel nation to fight against their traditional rivals the K'iche' nation