The Early Classic is often referred to as the intellectual period and artistic high point of the Maya lowlands, due to a rapid growth of new sites in every sub-region of the Maya area. With the increase of new communities came even more specialized functions in the art, public works, administrative duties and commerce. The expansion of trade networks and increase contact with other communities led to greater cultural similarities, particularly in the style of architecture, pottery as well as in hieroglyphic inscriptions and religious concepts.
Studies of ancient settlement patterns demonstrate that the population of classic periods centres were far greater than previously thought. Belize alone contained more prehistoric mounds than modern houses today, the country probably supported close to a million inhabitants by AD 600. New research has refuted an earlier assumption that the ancient mayas were predominantly milpa farmers and has recovered evidence of a variety of intensive agricultural systems that were utilized by mayan at this time.
Further increase of population during the classic period led to great increase in competition for decreasing resources which may have strained relationships between centres and resulted in widespread conflict and warfare. Evidence of conflict and war was recorded on mural scenes painted on the walls of palaces at major sites and many of the carved monuments and pottery.