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In Chiapas, Mayan sites are concentrated along the state's borders with Tabasco and Guatemala, near Mayan sites in those entities. At its height, it had large cities, a writing system, and development of scientific knowledge, such as mathematics and astronomy.

Cities were centered on large political and ceremonial structures elaborately decorated with murals and inscriptions.

Chiapas has a coastline along the Pacific Ocean to the south. In the north, in the area bordering Tabasco, near Teapa, rainfall can average more than 3,000 mm (120 in) per year.

In the past, natural vegetation in this region was lowland, tall perennial rainforest, but this vegetation has been almost completely cleared to allow agriculture and ranching.

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On the several parallel "sierras" or mountain ranges running along the center of Chiapas, climate can be quite temperate and foggy, allowing the development of cloud forests like those of the Reserva de la Biosfera el Triunfo, home to a handful of resplendent quetzals and horned guans.This is three hundred years before the Mayans developed their calendar. During the pre Classic era, it is known that most of Chiapas was not Olmec, but had close relations with them, especially the Olmecs of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.Olmec-influenced sculpture can be found in Chiapas and products from the state including amber, magnetite, and ilmenite were exported to Olmec lands.The Olmecs came to what is now the northwest of the state looking for amber with one of the main pieces of evidence for this called the Simojovel Ax. Development of this culture was agricultural villages during the pre-Classic period with city building during the Classic as social stratification became more complex.The Mayans built cities on the Yucatán Peninsula and west into Guatemala.

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