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[[File:Olmec 1-58d925da3df78c5162d1ba64.jpg|thumb|left|250px|Figure 1. The
Olmec's became very influential on Mayan culture and formed perhaps the earliest complex society in the Mayan regions.]]
Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World, the ancient Maya thrived and relatively rapidly disintegrated as a major political force. While the Maya, as a people, persisted long after the collapse of the Classical Maya civilizations, their cities were much reduced or abandoned by the time Columbus arrived.