Southern Maya area
The Southern Maya Area (SMA) is a part of Mesoamerica, long believed important to the rise of Maya civilization, the period that is also known as Preclassic Maya. It lies within a broad arc or cantilevered rectangle from Chiapa de Corzo, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in the northwest due south to Izapa and Paso de la Amada, from Chiapa de Corzo southeast to Copán, Honduras, and from Copán south to Chalchuapa, El Salvador.The Pacific Ocean forms the southern and western limits of the Southern Maya Area. Within this area and in addition to these sites are found the major centers of Kaminaljuyu, Takalik Abaj, Chocolá, El Sitio, El Jobo, La Blanca, Ujuxte, Palo Gordo, El Baúl, Cotzumalhuapa, Monte Alto, Semetabaj, El Portón, Zacualpa, Zaculeu, Balberta, and La Montana; many of these sites are believed to have been built and populated by speakers of Maya languages, and others by speakers of other Mesoamerican languages, including Xinca, Lenca, Mixe–Zoquean, and Pipil; accordingly, in consideration of the multilingual character of the Southern Maya Area, in many ways Southern ""Maya"" Area is a misnomer.Most of these centers developed to their apogees in the Preclassic period before declining or disappearing. In addition to these large sites, many Early Preclassic communities, found mostly along the Pacific Coast, bear witness to the seminal character of the Southern area; notably these include La Victoria, a site studied by Michael Coe that yielded the first secure ceramic sequence from early on in Preclassic times. Since Coe’s work, John E. Clark and other scholars from the New World Archaeological Foundation have found, at Paso de la Amada and other sites, ceramics that refine and deepen in time Coe’s sequence, pushing back to ca. 2000 BC the earliest nuclear centers, fine pottery, figurines, and other manifestations of the beginnings of complex society and culture in Mesoamerica. The earliest pristine ballcourt and evidence of a ranked society (a rich child's burial), indicative of emerging social hierarchization, were found at Paso de la Amada and nearby. At La Blanca, archaeologists discovered a quatrefoil made of baked clay buried near Mound 1, one of the largest and earliest temple mounds in Mesoamerica, indicating an early fount of what later became core Maya ideology.