An archaeological site is a place in which evidence of past activity is preserved, which has been, or may be, investigated using the discipline of archaeology and represents a part of the archaeological record. Sites may range from those with few or no remains visible above ground, to buildings and other structures still in use. Beyond this, the definition and geographical extent of a "site" can vary depending on the period studied and the theoretical approach of the archaeologist, it is invariably difficult to delimit a site. It is sometimes taken to indicate a settlement of some sort although the archaeologist must define the limits of human activity around the settlement. Any episode of deposition such as a hoard or burial can form a site as well. Development-led archaeology undertaken as cultural resources management has the disadvantage of having its sites defined by the limits of the intended development. In this case however, in describing and interpreting the site, the archaeologist will have to look outside the boundaries of the building site.
According to Jess Beck in "How Do Archaeologists find sites?" the areas with a large number of artifacts are good targets for future excavation, while areas with small number of artifacts are thought to reflect a lack of past human activity.” Many areas have been discovered by accident. The most common person to have found artifacts are farmers who are plowing their fields or just cleaning them up find archaeological artifacts. Many people who are out hiking and pilots find artifacts they end up reporting them to archaeologist to do further investigation; when they find sites, they have to first record the area and if they have the money and time for the site they can start digging. There are many ways to find sites, one example can be through surveys. Surveys involve walking around analyzing the land looking for artifacts, it can involve digging, according to the Archaeological Institute of America, “archaeologists search areas that were to support human populations, or in places where old documents and records indicate people once lived.”
This helps archaeologists in the future. In case there was no time, or money during the finding of the site, archaeologists can come back and visit the site for further digging to find out the extent of the site. Archaeologist can sample randomly within a given area of land as another form of conducting surveys. Surveys are useful, according to Jess Beck, “it can tell you where people were living at different points in the past.” Geophysics is a branch of survey becoming more and more popular in archaeology, because it uses different types of instruments to investigate features below the ground surface. It is not as reliable, because although they can see what is under the surface of the ground it does not produce the best picture. Archaeologists have to still dig up the area in order to uncover the truth. There are two most common types of geophysical survey, which is, magnetometer and ground penetrating radar. Magnetometry is the technique of mapping patterns of magnetism in the soil, it uses an instrument called a magnetometer, required to measure and map traces of soil magnetism.
The ground penetrating radar is a method. It uses electro magnetic radiation in the microwave band of the radio spectrum, detects the reflected signals from subsurface structures. There are many other tools that can be used to find artifacts, but along with finding artifacts, archaeologist have to make maps, they do so by taking data from surveys, or archival research and plugging it into a Geographical Information Systems and that will contain both locational information and a combination of various information. This tool is helpful to archaeologists who want to explore in a different area and want to see if anyone else has done research, they can use this tool to see what has been discovered. With this information available, archaeologists can expand their research and add more to what has been found. Traditionally, sites are distinguished by the presence of both features. Common features include the remains of houses. Ecofacts, biological materials that are the result of human activity but are not deliberately modified, are common at many archaeological sites.
In the cases of the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic eras, a mere scatter of flint flakes will constitute a site worthy of study. Different archaeologists may see an ancient town, its nearby cemetery as being two different sites, or as being part of the same wider site; the precepts of landscape archaeology attempt to see each discrete unit of human activity in the context of the wider environment, further distorting the concept of the site as a demarcated area. Furthermore, geoarchaeologists or environmental archaeologists would consider a sequence of natural geological or organic deposition, in the absence of human activity, to constitute a site worthy of study. Archaeological sites form through human-related processes but can be subject to natural, post-depositional factors. Cultural remnants which have been buried by sediments are in many environments more to be preserved than exposed cultural remnants. Natural actions resulting in sediment being deposited include aeolian natural processes. In jungles and other areas of lush plant growth, decomposed vegetative sediment can result in layers of soil deposited over remains.
Colluviation, the burial of a site by sediments moved by gravity can happen at sites on slopes. Human a
Sacrifice in Maya culture
Sacrifice was a religious activity in Maya culture, involving either the killing of animals or the bloodletting by members of the community, in rituals superintended by priests. Sacrifice has been a feature of all pre-modern societies at some stage of their development and for broadly the same reason: to propitiate or fulfill a perceived obligation towards the gods. What is known of Mayan ritual practices comes from two sources: the extant chronicles and codices of the missionary-ethnographers who arrived with or shortly after the Spanish conquest of Yucatán and subsequent archaeological data; the historical record is more sparse than that for the Aztecs, can only be reliable in regards to the Post-Classical period, long after the Classic Maya collapse. The chroniclers have been accused of colonial bias, but the most comprehensive account of Maya society, by Diego de Landa, has been described by modern experts as an "ethnographic masterpiece”, despite his role in the destruction of Maya codices.
The archaeological data has continued to expand as more excavations are undertaken, confirming much of what the early chroniclers wrote. A major breakthrough was the deciphering of the Maya syllabary in the 1950s, which has allowed the glyphs carved into many temples to be understood. Excavation and forensic examination of human remains has thrown light on the age and cause of death of sacrificial victims; the Mayas engaged in a large number of festivals and rituals on fixed days of the year, many of which involved animal sacrifices and all of which seem to have involved blood letting. The ubiquity of this practice is a unique aspect of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican culture, is now believed to have originated with the Olmecs, the region's first civilization. Ritualised sacrifice was performed in public by religious or political leaders piercing a soft body part, most the tongue, ear or foreskin, collecting the blood to smear directly on the idol or collecting it on paper, burned. In what is today Nicaragua, the blood was smeared on maize, distributed to the people and baked into sacred bread.
The blood could be collected from the non-elite from the foreskins of youths, or from high-ranking women. The site of collection was of obvious ritual significance. Joralemon notes it is "virtually certain" that blood from the penis and the vagina were the most sacred and had "extraordinary fertilizing power" and that such rituals were essential for the regeneration of the natural world cultivated plants. In one dramatic variant men and women "gathered in the temple in a line, each made a pierced hole through the member, across from side to side, passed through as great a quantity of cord as they could stand, but auto-sacrifice could be an everyday event, with those passing by an idol anointing it with blood drawn on the spot as a sign of piety. Blood sacrifice to the Maya gods was vigorously opposed by the Spanish clergy as the most visible sign of native apostasy, as De Landa, to become the second bishop of the Yucatán, makes clear: "After the people had been thus instructed in religion, the youths benefitted as we have said, they were perverted by their priests and chiefs to return to their idolatry.
Upon this the friars held an Inquisition. Some of the Indians out of grief, deluded by the devil, hung themselves. Mesoamerica lacked domesticated food animals such as sheep and pigs, so animal protein and byproducts could only be obtained by hunting. Montero-Lopez argues that on the basis of analysis of the distribution of deer parts in Classical Maya sites, the archeological record does not support a clear distinction between the secular and sacred uses of animals. After deer, the next most common sacrificial animals were dogs and various birds, followed by a wide range of more exotic creatures, from jaguars to alligators. Animal sacrifice seems to have been a common ritual before the commencement of any important task or undertaking. De Landa provides the most comprehensive account of calendar festivals and rituals, but in none of these regular events is human sacrifice mentioned, which must mean his Maya informants were unaware of any instances since the cleric would hardly have suppressed such information.
The traditional view is that the Mayans were far less prolific in sacrificing people than their neighbours. Bancroft notes: "An event which in Mexico would be the death-signal to a hecatomb of human victims would in Yucatán be celebrated by the death of a spotted dog." But mounting archeological evidence has for many decades now supported the chroniclers' contention that human sacrifice was far from unknown in Maya society. The city of Chichen Itza, the main focus of Maya regional power from the Late Classical period, appears to have been a major focus of human sacrifice. There are two natural sinkholes, or cenotes, at the site of the city, which would have provided a plentiful supply of potable water; the largest of these, Cenote Sagrado, was where many victims were cast as an offering to the rain god Chaac. A 2007 study of remains taken from this cenote found that they had wounds consistent with
Actun Tunichil Muknal
Actun Tunichil Muknal known locally as ATM, is a cave in Belize, near San Ignacio, Cayo District, notable as a Maya archaeological site that includes skeletons and stoneware. There are several areas with skeletal remains in the main chamber; the best known is "The Crystal Maiden", the skeleton of an adolescent a sacrifice victim, whose bones have been calcified to a sparkling, crystallized appearance. The ceramics at the site are significant because they are marked with "kill holes", which indicate that they were used for ceremonial purposes. Many of the Maya artifacts and remains are calcified to the cave floor. One artifact, named the "Monkey Pot", is one of just four of its type found in Central America; the Maya modified cave formations here, in some instances to create altars for the offerings, in others to create silhouettes of faces and animals or to project a shadow image into the cave. The cave is extensively decorated with cave formations in the upper passages. Animal life in the cave includes a large population of bats, large freshwater crabs, crayfish and other tropical fish.
Large invertebrates like Amblypygi and various predatory spiders inhabit the cave. Agouti and otters may use the cave; these and many other species are quite common in river caves of this size in Belize. Other Maya archaeological sites in the vicinity are Cahal Pech, Chaa Creek, El Pilar, Xunantunich. Actun Tunichil Muknal should not be confused with Actun Tun Kul in the Chiquibul Cave System; the Belize Tourism Board, in coordination with the Belize National Institute of Culture and History, Institute of Archaeology, has granted licenses to a small group of agents to conduct tours to this cave, in an attempt to balance its protection against tourist revenue. The cave is located in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve; the main cave system is about 3 mi long and consists of a long river passage for 2 mi, which ends at an upstream sump. A series of upper prehistoric passages continues another mile past the sump through massive breakdown boulders and giant rooms; the cave can be exited through a tight squeeze ending in a giant sink hole collapse in the jungle.
The cave's upper passage is located about 1/3 of the way in from the lower entrance. Here 14 skeletal remains have been found, numerous examples of ancient Maya pottery remain; the cave periodically closes when rainfall causes the river's water level to rise and flood parts of the cave. In late May 2012, a tourist accidentally dropped a camera and fractured a human skull estimated to be over one thousand years old; as a result, all cameras without a permit are banned from the cave. A different visitor once broke another skull by accidentally stepping on it. All visitors are told to remove their shoes and wear socks when reaching the upper dry chamber to help minimize foot traffic impact. Ghost Hunters International season 3 episode 9 "The Crystal Maiden: Belize and France" evaluated the ghost stories behind the mysterious maiden. National Geographic listed it as #1 on their list of Top 10 Sacred Caves. Maya cave sites Marachov and Williams, Nick Below Belize ca. 1991. Miller, Tom Tunichil Muknal The Canadian Caver vol 21 no 2, 1989.
Williams, Nick An Introduction to Cave Exploration in Belize. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies 58:69-75 Actun Tunichil Muknal at TravelBelize.org
Slash-and-burn agriculture called fire-fallow cultivation, is a farming method that involves the cutting and burning of plants in a forest or woodland to create a field called a swidden. The method begins by cutting down the trees and woody plants in an area; the downed vegetation, or "slash", is left to dry right before the rainiest part of the year. The biomass is burned, resulting in a nutrient-rich layer of ash which makes the soil fertile, as well as temporarily eliminating weed and pest species. After about three to five years, the plot's productivity decreases due to depletion of nutrients along with weed and pest invasion, causing the farmers to abandon the field and move over to a new area; the time it takes for a swidden to recover depends on the location and can be as little as five years to more than twenty years, after which the plot can be slashed and burned again, repeating the cycle. In India, the practice is known as jhoom. Slash-and-burn can be part of shifting cultivation, an agricultural system in which farmers move from one cultivable area to another.
It may be part of transhumance, the moving of livestock between seasons. A rough estimate is. In 2004, it was estimated that in Brazil alone, 500,000 small farmers each cleared an average of one hectare of forest per year; the technique is not sustainable for large human populations. Methods such as Inga alley cropping and slash-and-char have been proposed as alternatives which would cause less environmental degradation. A similar term is assarting, the clearing of forests for the purpose of agriculture. Assarting does not include burning. Slash-and-burn cultivation has been practiced throughout much of the world, in grasslands as well as woodlands. During the Neolithic Revolution, which included agricultural advancements, groups of hunter-gatherers domesticated various plants and animals, permitting them to settle down and practice agriculture, which provides more nutrition per hectare than hunting and gathering; this happened in the river valleys of Mesopotamia. Due to this decrease in food from hunting, as human populations increased, agriculture became more important.
Some groups could plant their crops in open fields along river valleys, but others had forests blocking their farming land. In this context, humans used slash-and-burn agriculture to clear more land to make it suitable for plants and animals. Thus, since Neolithic times, slash-and-burn techniques have been used for converting forests into crop fields and pasture. Fire was used before the Neolithic as well, by hunter-gatherers up to present times. Clearings created by the fire were made for many reasons, such as to draw game animals and to promote certain kinds of edible plants such as berries. Slash-and-burn fields are used and owned by a family until the soil is exhausted. At this point the ownership rights are abandoned, the family clears a new field, trees and shrubs are permitted to grow on the former field. After a few decades, another family or clan may use the land and claim usufructuary rights. In such a system there is no market in farmland, so land is not bought or sold on the open market and land rights are traditional.
In slash-and-burn agriculture, forests are cut months before a dry season. The "slash" is permitted to dry and burned in the following dry season; the resulting ash fertilizes the soil and the burned field is planted at the beginning of the next rainy season with crops such as upland rice, cassava, or other staples. Most of this work is done by hand, using such basic tools such as machetes, axes and makeshift shovels; the old American civilizations, like the Inca and Aztecs used this old agricultural technique. Large families or clans wandering in the lush woodlands long continued to be the most common form of society through human prehistory. Axes to fell trees and sickles for harvesting grain were the only tools people might bring with them. All other tools were made from materials they found at the site, such as fire stakes of birch, long rods, harrows made of spruce tops; the extended family conquered the lush virgin forest and cultivated their selected swidden plots, sowed one or more crops, proceeded on to forests, noted in their wanderings.
In the temperate zone, the forest regenerated in the course of a lifetime. So swidden was repeated several times in the same area over the years, but in the tropics the forest floor depleted. It was not only in the moors, as in Northern Europe, but in the steppe, prairie and barren desert in tropical areas where shifting cultivation is the oldest type of farming. Cultivation is similar to slash-and-burn.. Southern European Mediterranean climates have favored evergreen and deciduous forests. With slash-and-burn agriculture, this type of forest was less able to regenerate than those north of the Alps. Although in northern Europe one crop was harvested before grass was allowed to grow, in southern Europe it was more common to exhaust the soil by farming it for several years. Classical authors mentioned large forests, with Homer writing about "wooded Samothrace," Zakynthos and other woodlands; these authors indicated. Although parts of Europe aside from the north remained wooded, by the Roman Iron and early Viking Ages, forests were drastically reduced and settlements moved.
The reasons for this pattern of mobility, the transition to stable
A Mesoamerican ballcourt is a large masonry structure of a type used in Mesoamerica for over 2,700 years to play the Mesoamerican ballgame the hip-ball version of the ballgame. More than 1,300 ballcourts have been identified. Although there is a tremendous variation in size, in general all ballcourts are the same shape: a long narrow alley flanked by two walls with horizontal and sloping faces. Although the alleys in early ballcourts were open-ended ballcourts had enclosed end-zones, giving the structure an -shape when viewed from above. Ballcourts were used for functions other than, or in addition to, ballgames. Ceramics from western Mexico show ballcourts being used for other sporting endeavours, including what appears to be a wrestling match, it is known from archaeological excavations that ballcourts were the sites of sumptuous feasts, although whether these were conducted in the context of the ballgame or as another event is not as yet known. The siting of the most prominent ballcourts within the sacred precincts of cities and towns, as well as the votive deposits found buried there, demonstrates that the ballcourt were places of spectacle and ritual.
Although ballcourts are found within most Mesoamerican sites, they are not distributed across time or geography. For example, the Late Classic site of El Tajin, the largest city of the ballgame-obsessed Classic Veracruz culture, has at least 18 ballcourts while Cantona, a nearby contemporaneous site, sets the record with 24. In contrast, Northern Chiapas and the northern Maya Lowlands have few, ballcourts are conspicuously absent at some major sites, including Teotihuacan and Tortuguero, it is thought that ballcourts are an indication of decentralization of political and economic power: areas with a strong centralized state, such as the Aztec Empire, have few ballcourts while areas with smaller competing polities have many. At Cantona, for example, the extraordinary number of ballcourts is due to the many and diverse cultures residing there under a weak state. Ballcourts vary in size. One of the smallest, at Tikal site, is only one-sixth the size of the Great Ballcourt at Chichen Itza. Despite the variation in size, ballcourts' playing alleys are the same shape, with an average length-to-width ratio of 4-to-1, although some regional variation is found: Central Mexico, for example, has longer playing alleys, the Maya Northern Lowlands wider.
The following is a comparison of the size of the playing alleys for several well-known ballcourts. The earliest ballcourts were doubtless temporary marked off areas of compacted soil much like those used to play the modern ulama game, the Mesoamerican ballgame's descendant. Paso de la Amada, along the Pacific coast boasts the oldest ballcourt yet identified, dated to 1400 BC; this narrow ballcourt has an 80 m × 8 m flat playing alley defined by two flanking earthen mounds with "benches" running along their length. By the Early Classic, ballcourt designs began to feature an additional pair of mounds set some distance beyond the ends of the alley as if to keep errant balls from rolling too far away. By the Terminal Classic, the end zones of many ballcourts were enclosed, creating the well-known -shape; the evolution of the ballcourt is, of course, more complex than the foregoing suggests, with over 1300 known ballcourts, there are exceptions to any generalization. Open ballcourts continued to be constructed at smaller sites.
Some ballcourts featured only one enclosed endzone while some ballcourts' endzones are of different depths. During the Formative period, some enclosed ballcourts were rectangular, without endzones. One such court, at La Lagunita in the Guatemala Highlands, features rounded side walls. Unlike the compacted earth of the playing alley, the side walls of the formal ballcourts were lined with stone blocks; these walls featured 3 or more sloping surfaces. Vertical surfaces are less common, but they begin to replace the sloping apron during the Classic era, are a feature of several of the largest and best-known ballcourts, including the Great Ballcourt at Chichen Itza and the North and South Ballcourts at El Tajin. There the vertical surfaces were covered with elaborate reliefs showing scenes sacrificial scenes, related to the ballgame. Most prominent ballcourts were part of their town or city's central monumental precinct and as such they share the orientation of pyramids and other structures there.
Since many Mesoamerican cities and towns were oriented to a few degrees east of north, it is not surprising to find that in the Valley of Oaxaca, for example, ballcourt orientations tend to be a few degrees east of north, or at right angles to that. Other than this general trend, no consistent orientation of ballcourts throughout Mesoamerica has been found, although some patterns do emerge at the regional level. In the Cotzumalhuapa region, for example, open-ended ballcourts with a north-south orientation were earlier than east-west enclosed courts. Stone rings, tenoned into the wall at mid-court, appeared in the Terminal Classic era. Sending a ball through the ring must have been a rare occurrence; the players could not use their hands or feet to guide the ball. Moreover, the rings were only larger than the ball itself and were located at no small distance from the playing alley. At Chichen Itza, for example, they were set 6 meters above the alley, while at Xochicalco they set at the top of an 11-meter-wide apron, 3 meters above the playing alley.
As shown on Az
Belize is a country located on the eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the northwest by Mexico, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, on the south and west by Guatemala, it has an area of 22,970 square kilometres and a population of 387,879. Its mainland is 68 mi wide, it has the lowest population density in Central America. The country's population growth rate of 1.87% per year is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere. The Mayan civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 B. C. and 300 A. D. and flourished until about 1200. European exploration campaigns began in 1502 when Christopher Columbus sailed along the Gulf of Honduras. European settlement was begun by English settlers in 1638; this period was marked by Spain and Britain both laying claim to the land until Britain defeated the Spanish in the Battle of St. George's Caye, it became a British colony in 1840, known as British Honduras, a Crown colony in 1862. Independence was achieved from the United Kingdom on 21 September 1981.
Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and languages that reflect its rich history. English is the official language of Belize. Over half the population is multilingual, with Spanish being the second most common spoken language, it is known for its extensive barrier reef coral reefs and punta music. Belize's abundance of terrestrial and marine species and its diversity of ecosystems give it a key place in the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, it is considered a Central American and Caribbean nation with strong ties to both the American and Caribbean regions. It is a member of the Caribbean Community, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Central American Integration System, the only country to hold full membership in all three regional organisations. Belize is a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state; the earliest known record of the name "Belize" appears in the journal of the Dominican priest Fray José Delgado, dating to 1677.
Delgado recorded the names of three major rivers that he crossed while travelling north along the Caribbean coast: Rio Soyte, Rio Xibum and Rio Balis. The names of these waterways, which correspond to the Sittee River, Sibun River and Belize River, were provided to Delgado by his translator, it is that Delgado's "Balis" was the Mayan word belix, meaning "muddy-watered". Some have suggested that the name derives from a Spanish pronunciation of the name of the Scottish buccaneer Peter Wallace, who established a settlement at the mouth of the Belize River in 1638. There is no proof that Wallace settled in this area and some scholars have characterized this claim as a myth. Writers and historians have suggested several other possible etymologies, including postulated French and African origins; the Maya civilization emerged at least three millennia ago in the lowland area of the Yucatán Peninsula and the highlands to the south, in the area of present-day southeastern Mexico, Belize and western Honduras.
Many aspects of this culture persist in the area despite nearly 500 years of European domination. Prior to about 2500 BC, some hunting and foraging bands settled in small farming villages. A profusion of languages and subcultures developed within the Maya core culture. Between about 2500 BC and 250 AD, the basic institutions of Maya civilization emerged; the peak of this civilization occurred during the classic period, which began about 250 AD. The Maya civilization spread across what is now Belize around 1500 BC, flourished there until about AD 900; the recorded history of the middle and southern regions is dominated by Caracol, an urban political centre that may have supported over 140,000 people. North of the Maya Mountains, the most important political centre was Lamanai. In the late Classic Era of Maya civilisation, as many as one million people may have lived in the area, now Belize; when Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century, the area, now Belize included three distinct Maya territories: Chetumal province, which encompassed the area around Corozal Bay.
Spanish conquistadors explored the land and declared it a Spanish colony but chose not to settle and develop because of its lack of resources and the hostile Indian tribes of the Yucatán. English and Scottish settlers and pirates known as the Baymen entered the area from the 17th century, with Baymen first settling on the coast of what is now Belize in 1638, seeking a sheltered region from which they could attack Spanish ships; the settlers established a trade colony and port in what became the Belize District, during the 18th century, established a system using black slaves to cut logwood trees. This yielded a valuable fixing agent for clothing dyes, was one of the first ways to achieve a fast black before the advent of artificial dyes; the Spanish granted the British settlers the right to occupy the area and cut logwood in exchange for their help suppressing piracy. The British first appointed a superintendent over the Belize area in 1786. Before the British government had not recognized the settlement as a colony for fear of provoking a Spanish attack.
The delay in governm
Spanish conquest of Chiapas
The Spanish conquest of Chiapas was the campaign undertaken by the Spanish conquistadores against the Late Postclassic Mesoamerican polities in the territory, now incorporated into the modern Mexican state of Chiapas. The region is physically diverse, featuring a number of highland areas, including the Sierra Madre de Chiapas and the Montañas Centrales, a southern littoral plain known as Soconusco and a central depression formed by the drainage of the Grijalva River. Before the Spanish conquest, Chiapas was inhabited by a variety of indigenous peoples, including the Zoques, various Maya peoples, such as the Lakandon Chʼol and the Tzotzil, an unidentified group referred to as the Chiapanecas. Soconusco had been incorporated into the Aztec Empire, centred in Valley of Mexico, paid the Aztecs tribute. News of strangers first arrived in the region as the Spanish penetrated and overthrew the Aztec Empire. In the early 1520s, several Spanish expeditions crossed Chiapas by land, Spanish ships scouted the Pacific coast.
The first highland colonial town in Chiapas, San Cristóbal de los Llanos, was established by Pedro de Portocarrero in 1527. Within a year, Spanish dominion extended over the upper drainage basin of the Grijalva River, Comitán, the Ocosingo valley. Encomienda rights were established, although in the earlier stages of conquest these amounted to little more than slave-raiding rights; the colonial province of Chiapa was established by Diego Mazariegos in 1528, with the reorganisation of existing encomiendas and colonial jurisdictions, the renaming of San Cristóbal as Villa Real, its relocation to Jovel. Excessive Spanish demands for tribute and labour caused a rebellion by the indigenous inhabitants, who attempted to starve out the Spanish; the conquistadores launched punitive raids, but the natives abandoned their towns and fled to inaccessible regions. Internal divisions among the Spanish led to a general instability in the province; the Mexican state of Chiapas occupies the extreme southeast of Mexico, covering an area of 74,415 square kilometres.
To the west, it borders with the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Veracruz, to the north with Tabasco. It borders on the east with Guatemala. Chiapas is culturally diverse, it features two principal highland regions: to the south is the Sierra Madre de Chiapas and in central Chiapas are the Montañas Centrales. They are separated by the Depresión Central, containing the drainage basin of the Grijalva River; the Sierra Madre highlands gain altitude from west to east, with the highest mountains near the Guatemalan border. The littoral zone of Soconusco lies to the south of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, consists of a narrow coastal plain and the foothills of the Sierra Madre. Although the entire coastal strip is referred to as Soconusco, Soconusco proper is the southeastern portion characterised by a humid tropical climate and rich agricultural lands; the northwestern portion of the coastal strip featuring a drier climate was referred to as El Despoblado. The Depresión Central consists of a drainage basin some 200 kilometres long and varying in width from 30 to 60 kilometres.
The Grijalva River is fed by drainage from the Cuchumatanes mountains of Guatemala and from both of the Chiapas highland regions, particlularly the Sierra Madre. The wide plains feature a hot climate with moderate rainfall; the Depresión Central is itself divided into two zones, the eastern is the Grijalva Valley stretching from the Guatemalan border to the Sumidero Canyon. This region of high plains blocks the passage of the Grijalva River, which has cut its way through towards Tabasco by means of the Sumidero Canyon. Los Chimalapas is another highland region at the northern extreme of the Meseta Central and bordering with Oaxaca; the Central Highlands rise to the north of the Grijalva, to a maximum altitude of 2,400 metres descend towards the Yucatán Peninsula. They are cut by deep valleys running parallel to the Pacific coast, feature a complex drainage system that feeds both the Grijalva and the Lacantún River, which feeds into the Usumacinta River; the Central Highlands feature high rainfall and diverse vegetation dependent upon altitude, from high-altitude pine forests to lowland tropical forest further north and east towards the plains of Tabasco and Petén.
At the eastern end of the Central Highlands is the Lacandon Forest, mountainous with lowland tropical plains at its easternmost extreme. The earliest human inhabitants of Chiapas were foragers living in the northern highlands and along the coastal strip from 6000 BC until about 2000 BC. For the last two millennia BC, the majority of the territory, now covered by the state of Chiapas was occupied by Zoque-speaking peoples. Mayan-speakers began to make inroads from the east and, from about 200 AD, Chiapas was divided equally between the Zoques in the western half and Maya in the eastern half. A broad swathe of western Chiapas was held by the Zoques, covering the Depresión Central, the mid