300 AD to 600 AD
This is the pre-classic and early classic period. It is marked by exquisite pottery and sculpture. An example of the earliest known writing in the New World, inscribed with a date corresponding to 320 AD, appears in an inscription on a jade celt named the Leiden Plate. The Maya civilization is on the rise. Cities begin to be built and there is active coastal trade by canoe. To the west, Teotihuacan is an important center, setting up contact and trade routes with the Maya. Undoubtedly, cacao, from the hot jungle regions to the south and east was an important trade commodity. Cacao beans also became a means of exchange and were used as money.
The Leiden plate, an inscibed jade celt.
Photograph © Justin Kerr
Temple 1, Tikal, Guatemala also known as the Temple of the Jaguar; in ancient city built in the jungle. Photograph © Justin Kerr
Courtesy of Mars, Incorporated