The Maya area was initially inhabited around the 10th century BC. Recent discoveries of Maya occupation at Cuello in Belize have been carbon dated to around 2600 BC. This level of occupation included monumental structures. The Maya calendar, which is based around the so-called Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, commences on a date equivalent to 11 August, 3114 BC. However, according to "accepted history" the first clearly “Maya” settlements were established in approximately 1800 BC in Soconusco region of the Pacific Coast. This period, known as the Early Preclassic, was characterized by sedentary communities and the introduction of pottery and fired clay figurines.
Important sites in the southern Maya lowlands include Nakbe, El Mirador, Cival, and San Bartolo. In the Guatemalan Highlands Kaminal Juyú emerges around 800 BC. For many centuries it controlled the Jade and Obsidian sources for the Petén and Pacific Lowlands. The important early sites of Izapa, Takalik Abaj and Chocolá at around 600 BC were the main producers of Cacao. Mid-sized Maya communities also began to develop in the northern Maya lowlands during the Middle and Late Preclassic, though these lacked the size, scale, and influence of the large centers of the southern lowlands. Two important Preclassic northern sites include Komchen and Dzibilchaltun. The first written inscription in Maya hieroglyphics also dates to this period (c. 250 BC).
There is disagreement about the boundaries which differentiate the physical and cultural extent of the early Maya and neighboring Preclassic Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Olmec culture of the Tabasco lowlands and the Mixe-Zoque– and Zapotec–speaking peoples of Chiapas and southern Oaxaca, respectively. Many of the earliest significant inscriptions and buildings appeared in this overlapping zone, and evidence suggests that these cultures and the formative Maya influenced one another. Takalik Abaj, in the Pacific... [continues]
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