Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

The Maya

Today, more than seven million Maya live in their original homelands of Mesoamerica and in countries all over the world. Two thousand years ago, the ancient Maya developed one of the most advanced civilizations in the Americas. They developed a written language of hieroglyphs and invented the mathematical concept of zero. With their expertise in astronomy and mathematics, the Maya developed a complex and accurate calendar system. Hundreds of restored ancient cities with temple-pyramids, palaces, ball courts, and grand plazas are studied by archaeologists, and are visited by millions of tourists from all over the world each year. Contemporary Maya live and work near many of these archaeological sites. Language, tradition, and a deep sensibility toward the land and the sky continue to shape their worldview. The Maya are guardians of their culture and actively work to rediscover their own past as they look towards the future.

"The Maya today today–we are the direct descendants of our ancient culture made up of expert builders, excellent astronomers, precise calendar keepers, and experienced artists. We give continuity to our traditions, our ways of thinking and our language, and we are worthy heirs of our origins. Weyano’one–we are here." José Huchim Herrera, Yucatec Maya, Archaeologist and Architect