The Mayan legacy of magnificent temples and palaces plays an important role in the history of Belize. Mayan habitation began as early as 1500 B.C. and lasted until it began declining in 900 A.D., although some Mayan cultural centers continued to thrive until the Spanish arrived in the 15th century. Belize's population was very large during the classic period (250 A.D. to 900 A.D.), reaching a height of nearly one million people when Belize became the hub of the Mayan civilization. There remains a significant number of Mayan descendants living in small villages throughout the country today. The government of Belize, through the Department of Archaelogy, is determined to give travelers access to these sites, which are scattered across the country's landscape.