The Mayan civilization is well-known for its elaborate temples, sophisticated writing system, and mathematical and astronomical developments, yet its origins remain something of a mystery. Anthropologists typically fall into one of two competing camps: the first believes that it developed almost entirely on its own in the jungles of what now is Guatemala and southern Mexico; the second believes that the Mayan civilization developed as the result of direct influences from the older Olmec civilization and its center of La Venta.
It is likely that neither of those theories tells the full story, according to findings of the husband-and-wife team of Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan. "We really focused on the beginning of this remarkable civilization and how it developed," notes Inomata, professor of anthropology at University of Arizona, Tucson, and the study's lead author.
In their excavations at Ceibal, an ancient Mayan site in Guatemala, researchers found that Ceibal actually predates the growth of La Venta as a major center by as much as 200 years, suggesting that La Venta could not have been the prevailing influence over early Mayan development. …