More than 3,000 years ago, the ancient Maya spread across the Yucatán Peninsula and neighbouring areas, clearing rainforest for agriculture and cities as they went. Though their civilisation mysteriously collapsed around the ninth century, it left an indelible mark on the region’s tropical rainforests, one that presents a warning to people clear-cutting the tropics today.
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The ancient Maya were an innovative people. They constructed intricate cities throughout the tropical lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula, communicated using one of the world's first written languages, and created two calendar systems by studying the stars. But despite their achievements, the thriving Mayan civilisation mysteriously collapsed sometime between the eighth and ninth centuries. We still don't know exactly why.