Mayan History religion
Archaeologists have found that religion was important in the formation and history of early cities and states, such as the Mayan city of Teotihuacan (pictured), but the shift in religious power from local to a central region would have led to religious-based social and political conflict
More than 2, 000 years ago, powerful states emerged covering swathes of the Central American region, which covers present day Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.
Mesoamerica gave rise to numerous advanced early cultures during its history.
These included the ancient Olmecs through to the rise of the powerful Maya, and eventually the Aztecs, each with their own political systems and religious beliefs.
But did religion bind or divide these complex early cultures?
To explore the interplay between politics and religion in early Mesoamerica, archaeologists from the University of Central Florida (UCF) and University of Colorado Boulder focused on the period from 700BC to 250AD, a time at which this powerful states first emerged in the region.
Stable centralised states in Mesoamerica emerged more than 2000 years ago. They ultimately led to the rise of power hubs, such as Chichen Itza (pictured), an ancient Mayan city at the heart of the civilisation
Two regions in particular were studied - the Lower Rio Verde Valley and the Valley of Oaxaca, both in Mexico.
The team found that in Rio Verde, the religious beliefs of the peoples hindered a move towards centralised power.
In particular, in the lower Verde, religious rituals involving offerings and the burial of people in cemeteries at smaller communities created strong ties to the local community that impeded the creation of state institutions.
Religious conflict between local groups and people looking to create a centralised power were neutralised quickly.
Archaeologists studied two regions - the Lower Rio Verde Valley and the Valley of Oaxaca, both in Mexico (pictured) - to look at the effect of religion on social and political change