The history of the Mayan Indians is a fascinating tale of incredible cities, amazing culture and a society that was notable for its achievements in the arts, astronomy, mathematics and writing. According to many experts, the Mayan people came to the Yucatan in about 2600 B.C. and then advanced to a prominent civilization in about 250 A.D. At the height of the Mayan period, it's speculated that there may have been more than 40 cities with populations that ranged from 5,000 to 50,000.
Eventually, these great cities declined, and many possibilities for this decline have been offered. One of the theories is that there may have been an extended drought that was devastating to the large cities' populations forcing residents to seek homes elsewhere. Another theory suggests that warfare among the various Mayan people and their neighbors caused the rapid exodus. The remaining Mayans were conquered in the 16th century by the Spaniards.
Today, descendents of the original Mayans inhabit various areas within Mexico and the government returned some of the lands taken throughout history to those wanting to establish their homes there. Visits to some of the local villages provide a chance to see many forms of Mayan art and history, and in Tulum, there is a Mayan ruin overlooking the sea that offers amazing views. Other ruins are located throughout the area and more are still being discovered.
For more on the Riviera Maya's fascinating history, go to the Riviera Maya Tourism Promotion Board at rivieramaya.com.