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In the 9th century, there was a widespread political collapse in the central Maya region, resulting in internecine warfare, the abandonment of cities, and a northward shift of population. "The Not So Peaceful Civilization: A Review of Maya War". The Postclassic period saw the rise of Chichen Itza in the north, and the expansion of the aggressive K'iche' kingdom in the Guatemalan Highlands. This region consists of the northern lowlands encompassing the Yucatán Peninsula, and the highlands of the Sierra Madre, running from the Mexican state of Chiapas, across southern Guatemala and onwards into El Salvador, and the southern lowlands of the Pacific littoral plain. The Archaic period, prior to 2000 BC, saw the first developments in agriculture and the earliest villages. In the 16th century, the Spanish Empire colonized the Mesoamerican region, and a lengthy series of campaigns saw the fall of Nojpetén, the last Maya city, in 1697. Classic period rule was centred on the concept of the "divine king", who acted as a mediator between mortals and the supernatural realm. "Chiapas y sus regiones" [Chiapas and its Regions]. Chiapas: los rumbos de otra historia [Chiapas: The courses of a different history] (in Spanish). The Mesoamerican language area shares a number of important features, including widespread loanwords, and use of a vigesimal number system. 276 (1257, The Place of Astronomy in the Ancient World): 83–98. The Maya civilization occupied a wide territory that included southeastern Mexico and northern Central America. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.
Mesoamerica is linguistically diverse, with most languages falling within a small number of language families – the major families are Mayan, Mixe–Zoquean, Otomanguean, and Uto-Aztecan; there are also a number of smaller families and isolates.
As a part of their religion, the Maya practised human sacrifice. "Procedures in Human Heart Extraction and Ritual Meaning: A Taphonomic Assessment of Anthropogenic Marks in Classic Maya Skeletons".
The set of traits shared by Mesoamerican cultures also included astronomical knowledge, blood and human sacrifice, and a cosmovision that viewed the world as divided into four divisions aligned with the cardinal directions, each with different attributes, and a three-way division of the world into the celestial realm, the earth, and the underworld.
This area included the entire Yucatán Peninsula and all of the territory now incorporated into the modern countries of Guatemala and Belize, as well as the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador.
Dense forest covers northern Petén and Belize, most of Quintana Roo, southern Campeche, and a portion of the south of Yucatán state.