Preclassic period

The Early Preclassic period indicates the moment in which the Mayan societies were provided with proper cultural features that distinguish them from other Middle American groups. The societies are already sedentary agricultural villages, by what the ceramics appear for the first time. On the Pacific Coast this period initiates about 1,800 B.C., but in the rest of the Mayan area it is defined from 1,000 or 1,200 B.C.

It is early Middle Preclassic, around 800 BC, when the first complex societies appear in the Maya area, in the form of chiefdoms or headquarters. These settlements show signs of a hierarchical organization, with the presence of a dignitary who enjoys privileges, represented in the first examples of monumental architecture and the presence of imported high-value objects, reflecting the existence of networks of Exchange. At this time the Maya established a strong connection with the Olmec civilization that developed on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, therefore it is common to find iconographic elements associated with this region. It is at this time when appear the first expressions of political power in the form of art objects, especially stone sculptures. The end of this period lies between 400 and 300 BC, which coincides with the abandonment of the Olmec centers.

Initially the Preclassic period was defined as a moment of training prior to the Classic Maya civilization, so much so that some researchers prefer the term Formative. However, today it is undisputed that the Maya civilization had already developed as such during the late Preclassic, covering the year covering 300 BC to 250 A.D. At this time there are monumental centers that housed thousands of people, whose architecture denotes a high degree of labor organization. The use of art as a means of political legitimacy achieves a high degree of development, both in the sculptures and architectural elements, and the use of writing begins. The iconography of the Late Preclassic is highly rich in symbols, by which evidence the existence of institutionalized religious systems that were based on mythological narratives for the development of large public ceremonies. The large number of settlements of different scales indicates that the territorial organization is hierarchical, where one greater Center has dominion over other minor centers around. For these reasons it has come to theorize that the Mayan places of this period correspond to “the early states”, where the political power was not relapsing completely into only one leader, but was distributed in a system of bureaucratic nature, formed by specialists in different areas.