Post Classic period

The Early Postclassic period defined between 900 A.D. and 1,200 A.D., is of supreme importance, since it symbolizes the continuity of the Mayan Civilization after the Classic collapse. Apart from the Northern Lowlands not many sites of this period are known, probably because the effects of many migrations out of Petén. However, there is no evidence that mass movements of people in the Highlands occurred, suggesting that current Mayan populations are descendants of the same groups that settled before the Postclassic. In this regard we must contextualize the Mayan sites within the Mesoamerican scope, because the early Postclassic period is the period called “Toltec”, when predominated a “international” style of art, expressed in architecture, ceramics and sculpture. However the word Toltec has a strong mythological meaning, tollan or tula is the name of the place of origin of many populations. Therefore, the Toltec influence should be understood as a process similar to what happened with the Olmecs during the Middle Preclassic and Teotihuacan in the early classic, and not as conquests or migrations from one place. What is clear from this period is the disappearance of the monarchical system of the classic, which was replaced by Governments based in confederations or councils, where the lineage was the basic unit of the social and political organization. The concentration of populations in the high lands of the North was due in large part to the rise of the trade route that surrounded the Yucatan peninsula, significantly transforming economic patterns. For example, it is notorious that jade declined as an element of luxury, which was relatively replaced by gold, turquoise, and other materials from the Northwest of Mesoamerica.

Finally, the Late Postclassic represents the last moment of pre-Hispanic Maya culture, which began in 1200 AD and ends with the different processes of conquest throughout the region. This period is characterized by the disappearance of large territorial states in the Lowlands, as the territory is fragmented into many provinces, governed by capitals of smaller scale. On the contrary, in the Highlands were consolidated strong political entities, who achieved unprecedented territorial expansion, to such an extent that they conquered and integrated several different ethnic groups under its control. However, conflicts between these groups were used by the conquerors as an effective means for eventual defeat and domination in the sixteenth century. At the same time, the Mayan groups of the Gulf Coast enjoyed a prosperity period, thanks to its mastery of the marine routes and the direct contact that they had with the Aztecs. This is why they were able to confront the Spaniards with a high degree of resistance.