The Maya are an Mesoamerican people living in what today in most parts is Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and some western portions of Honduras and El Salvador. In pre-Columbian times their culture is considered as one of the most advanced in all of the Americas; it included a elaborate Hieroglyphic writing system, a precise Calender, as well as beautiful art and architecture.
The ancient Maya are also known for their bloodthirsty wars among the city states located across the Yucatan peninsula and the highlands to the east, as well as their ritual human sacrifices that supposedly took place atop the Pyramids located in every city. They, however, share these traits with some of the other Mesoamerican cultures like the Aztecs.
When the Spaniards arrived in the early 1500s, they quickly conquered the already in decline Maya cities and only few pre-Columbian documents survived the following Christianisation. Today their cities are mostly ruins, overgrown by the jungle.
The Maya in Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider: Underworld
There are a lot of Maya influences visible in the Mexican levels of Tomb Raider: Underworld, e.g. The Unnamed Days or the Maya Calendar puzzle that leads to the Maya underworld of Xibalba. However, the mythological background of these are barely explained. The whole Mexican setting only serves as another place where some underworld has to be explored in order to stop Natla.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
The stories and the culture of the Maya play a vital part in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Lara is looking for the Key of Chak Chel, a obsidian dagger and supposedly the key that opens the Silver Box of Ix Chel, when she inadvertently triggers The Cleansing, a Maya apocalypse, that starts with earthquakes and a tsunami laying waste to Cozumel.