In the 16th century the Mayas and Quiches had attained a high level of civilization (see Central America, Archaeology), and at least two of the Guatemalan languages, Quiche and Cakchiquel, possess the rudiments or the relics of a literature.
The Nahuatl lapidaries had at hand many varieties of workable and beautiful stone - onyx, marble, limestone, quartz and quartz crystal, granite, syenite, basalt, trachyte, rhyolite, diorite and obsidian, the best of material prepared for them by nature; while the Mayas had only limestone, and hard, tenacious rock with which to work it, and timber for burning lime.
Other remains which bear witness to tlae civilization of, the Mayas are the paved highways and the artificial reservoirs (aguadas) designed for the preservation of water for towns through the long dry season.
The Mayas have left no r cord of their institutions or of the causes of their decline, beyond what may be deduced from their ruined structures.
Confirmatory evidence of this is to be found, not only in the character of their constructions, but in the circumstance that a tribe closely akin to the Mayas (the Huastecos) still occupies a retired mountain valley of Vera Cruz, entirely separated from their kinsmen of the south, and that a dialect of the Maya language is still spoken in northern Vera Cruz.
UXMAL, a deserted city of the Mayas in the state of Yucatan, Mexico, 20 m.
None of them were written except through the use of ideographs, in the making of which the Aztecs used colours with much skill, while the Mayas used an abbreviated form, or symbols.
Since the Spanish conquest, the Mayas have clung to the semi-barren, open plains of the peninsula, and have more than once revolted.
Occasionally the Church gave trouble - the presence of foreign priests was complained of; attempts to evade the law prohibiting conventual life were detected and foiled (1891, 1894); and there were Indian risings, repressed sometimes with great severity, among the Mayas of Yucatan, whose last stronghold was taken in 1891, and the Yaquis of Sonora (1899-1900).
The Itzas, Mopans, Lacandons, Chols, Pokonchi and the Pokomans who inhabit the large settlement of Mixco near the capital, all belong to the Maya family; but parts of central and eastern Guatemala are peopled by tribes distinct from the Mayas and not found in Mexico.