Some observers believe that the Mayans predicted the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012. While scholars hypothesize that the date was an end to one Mayan calendar period, they unanimously disagree that the date portended the apocalypse.
Scholars agree that the Mayans made significant advances to build their highly successful society. They developed the only language that was both written and spoken in the Americas prior to the arrival of Europeans.
The Mayans excelled in architecture and engineering. For example, archaeologists believe the Mayans used plumbing systems with enhanced water pressure. The Mayans built temples in the form of pyramids that they intended to last indefinitely. They also made advances in astronomy and mathematics, and their society included gifted artists.
The Mayans lived in the area occupied by modern day Mexico as early as 1,800 B.C. Mayan people still live in the area and speak Mayan languages rather than Spanish. Ancient Mayans were prolific farmers with a sophisticated system of agriculture, and they traded goods, including salt and cacao with neighbors.
The downfall of the Mayans has been attributed to a variety of possible causes, including illnesses, invasion by foreigners, a revolt by the poor, climate change and severe drought. Some evidence indicates that the Mayan population grew too large for the natural resources of the area to support.