We explain what the Mesoamerican classic period was and its characteristics. The civilizations that developed and the end of the period.

What was the Classic Period?

The Mesoamerican Classic period, also known as the fourth period of the prehistory of the Americas,  spanned from 200 AD. C. until 900 AD. C. . It was preceded by the Late Preclassic in which the Teotihuacan culture dominated, which, starting in the 7th century, began its process of decline. The Mayan culture became the maximum expression of the Classic period.

The Mayans were not organized as a consolidated empire, but rather were a group of independent city-states governed by priests , among whom trade and constant wars existed. However, the Mayan civilization managed to be one of the most advanced, especially because of its writing system, the most sophisticated in Mesoamerica.

Some of the most significant aspects of the Mesoamerican Classic period were the general growth of  populations , the construction of imposing and large urban centers, the sophisticated use of stone, and the improvement in the management of agriculture.

Characteristics of the classical period

Characteristics of the classical period

The Classic period of Mesoamerica was characterized by:

  • Sophisticated farming techniques. The improvement of agricultural activity allowed the transformation of societies , after making possible the supply of food to large populations and the commercial capacity with other nearby populations.
  • Organized town planning. The construction of the cities was carefully planned, contemplating the location of the administrative, religious, productive and commercial centers, as well as the land surrounding the houses.
  • The writing system. The Mayans reached the most advanced knowledge of writing , mathematics and astronomy in all of Mesoamerica. They became the most sophisticated civilization even though the Teotihuacan culture established the most important city at that time.
  • The paucity of written evidence. Information regarding the Classic period was obtained from archaeological finds and some texts sculpted, mostly by the Maya. Because the writing was in full swing, not enough evidence was found. In addition, after the Spanish colonization, many materials have been destroyed.
  • colossal monuments. The construction of the first sculptures and monuments of extraordinary sizes were characteristic of the Classic period, such as the stone heads made by the Olmecs or the pyramids of Chichen Itzá, currently considered a World Heritage Site.
  • The power of the priests. The priests exercised great influence in the  social , cultural, economic and political organization. They had in their possession various knowledge of astronomy and mathematics, as well as religious.
  • The construction of ceremonial centers. The evidence of the great urban centers dedicated to ceremonial rites shows how strong religious beliefs were. They used to satisfy the deities who were the ones who governed the lives of men through a single king. He acted as a mediator between mortals and the supernatural world.

Classic period civilizations

Classic period civilizations

During the Classic period numerous independent populations inhabited within the Maya region , which corresponded to the current region of southeastern Mexico, Guatemala , Honduras and El Salvador. Although they were independent, they used to form alliances among themselves, such as the city-states of Uxmal, Palenque, Tikal, Calakmul, Copán, Cobá and Caracol, among others.

The Mayan civilization, made up of a consolidated group of several city-states, reached its golden age in the 6th century and stood out for its important contributions to later Mesoamerican cultures .

The Mayans stood out for their development in agriculture, ceramic techniques , the writing system, the development of a calendar, mathematical and astrological calculations. In addition, they reached an unprecedented level of architecture .

End of the classical period

End of the classical period

The decline of the Mayan civilization remains mysterious even today. For whatever reason, the classical lowland cities were abandoned around 900 AD. C. Researchers hold various theories, among the main ones are:

  • The depletion of natural resources. It is believed that by the 9th century the Mayans may have depleted the resources of the environment around them, to the point that they were unable to support such a large population. There are those who maintain that, as a consequence, hunger and disease stalked the population.
  • The constant wars. It is believed that the clashes between the same city-states that made up the Mayan civilization weakened its progress and continuity to such an extent that it was impossible to exercise control through an army or continue with any type of trade.
  • Natural catastrophes. It is believed that certain environmental changes may have devastated the Mayan civilization, such as the constant droughts that prevented harvesting and maintaining water channels for consumption. As a consequence, famine is believed to have rapidly ravaged such a large population.

It is also believed that the succession of the three factors may have influenced the fall of the Mayan civilization, that is, an overpopulation that generated an abuse of the available resources, with greater confrontations and natural catastrophes that were impossible to cope with.

In the following period, called the Postclassic (900 – 1500 AD), some Mayan cities resurfaced, such as Chichén Itzá, Uxmal and Mayapán. However, the civilizations culminated in their entirety after the invasion and colonization of the Spanish, from 1492 AD. C., a process that lasted several years.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


Passionate about understanding and contributing to a world that does not stop changing. New forms of Work, Sustainability and Technology. For many years he has worked as a creative for large international companies. He has a Ph.D. in information technology and he has been doing quantitative research in the interdisciplinary areas of information systems, cyber security, data analytics and artificial intelligence. He continue to look for creative solutions through technology to help companies to be more humane and sustainable..

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