People first came to Mexico and Central America millennia ago, living as hunter-gatherers in the rain forests and volcanic hills of the region. They first began developing cultural characteristics associated with the Maya civilization around 1800 B.C. on Guatemala's western coast. By 1000 B.C. the Maya had spread throughout the lowland forests of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. The Maya of the Preclassic period lived in small villages in basic homes and dedicated themselves to subsistence agriculture. The major cities of the Maya, such as Palenque, Tikal and Copán, were established during this time and began to prosper. Basic trade was developed, linking the city-states and facilitating cultural exchange.