The Maya are found in the tropical southern Mesoamerican lowlands, inhabiting the modern day countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras.
The tropical Maya forest emerged around 8,000 years ago, after humans expanded across the New World. Mesoamericans based agricultural strategies on native plants and adapting to local climate as they domesticated the landscape. They developed their food system without draft animals and were only introduced to invasive methods of agriculture, like plowing, during the Spanish conquest. Beginning as mobile horticulturalists, the early Mesoamericans began to modify the landscape to meet their extensive subsistence needs. The Maya’s acquired understanding of their surrounding terrain allowed them to develop a symbiotic forest system rich in biodiversity and productivity. This relationship to the landscape was integral to the development of the Maya civilization. The continuation of the Maya forest is possible because of the ancient Maya practices that exist among traditional farmers today.