The Mayan civilization was one of the most advance and sophisticated cultures in the Western Hemisphere before the arrival of European explorers. It flourished between 300 and 900 AD and once consisted of over 40 cities spread across southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and northern Belize where there are some of the most impressive ruins of these ancient cities that can be visited today. Many of these Mayan ruins have been designated World Heritage Sites.
The Mayan cities, full of magnificent stone temples and pyramids, were primarily ceremonial centers. Most of the Maya lived in rural areas and were farmers who looked to the priests of the cities for direction on the best days to plant, harvest, and marry. The Maya are famed for their impressive knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, which were integral to their religious rituals. They are also known for the practice of human sacrifice, which was a means of appeasing and nourishing the gods.