The earliest known inhabitants were the Mayans, whose extensive civilisation (CE 250–900) reached its peak in about the 8th century, spreading northward throughout Yucatan. The Mayans cultivated most of the arable land in the country and built cities and ceremonial centres out of limestone. By the time the Spanish arrived, in the early 16th century, the numbers of Mayans had declined, and many of the remainder were sent to Guatemala or died of introduced diseases.


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