Mayan Highlands

Mayan Highlands are located mostly in the territory of Guatemala and Chiapas, as part of the mountain systems of the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes and Sierra Madre, which rise to 3,800 meters above sea level. The broken landscape of the area contains fertile valleys that have been continuously used for agriculture, and the hills were exploited for defensive purposes settlements. The presence of many water springs, streams, rivers and lakes provided good access to water. As for the vegetation, dominated by coniferous forests, where different species of pines and cypresses predominate. In the Verapaces and in Chiapas there are more humid parts with vast cloud forest, and in the higher areas of Huehuetenango plants proper to the tundra are found. In the driest zones the low forests come across sorts of prickly shrubs and cactaceae. Within the scenic context, the presence of uncountable hills in the Highlands is important to interpret the architectonic development of ancient cities of this zone, since those geographic features were the central focus of religious ceremonies and therefore the need to construct large-sized temples was not prevailing, as it happened on the Lowlands, where the landscape lacks mountains. As to resources, Highlands were the richest in mineral deposits, so they exploded deposits located in river basins, canyons, volcanic outcrops and other types of geological formations. Between these areas highlights the Motagua River Valley, where are the unique deposits of jade in the entire American continent. This is why many sites competed for control of this important trade route.