Hunter gatherers began to occupy the central valley of the state around 7000 BCE, but little is known about them.The oldest archaeological remains in the seat are located at the Santa Elena Ranch in Ocozocoautla whose finds include tools and weapons made of stone and bone. Recent excavations in the Soconusco region of the state indicate that the oldest civilization to appear in what is now modern Chiapas is that of the Mokaya, which were cultivating corn and living in houses as early as 1500 BCE, making them one of the oldest in Mesoamerica.From then until 1500 CE, social organization of the region fragmented into much smaller units and social structure became much less complex.
Rainfall decreases moving towards the Pacific Ocean, but it is still abundant enough to allow the farming of bananas and many other tropical crops near Tapachula.
On the several parallel "sierras" or mountain ranges running along the center of Chiapas, climate can be quite temperate and foggy, allowing the development of cloud forests like those of the Reserva de la Biosfera el Triunfo, home to a handful of resplendent quetzals and horned guans.
The Chiapans, for whom the state is named, migrated into the center of the state during this time and settled around Chiapa de Corzo, the old Mixe–Zoque stronghold.
The first contact between Spaniards and the people of Chiapas came in 1522, when Hernán Cortés sent tax collectors to the area after Aztec Empire was subdued.
The first military incursion was headed by Luis Marín, who arrived in 1523.
For three years, Marín was able to subjugate a number of the local peoples, but met with fierce resistance from the Tzotzils in the highlands.
In Chiapas, Mayan sites are concentrated along the state's borders with Tabasco and Guatemala, near Mayan sites in those entities. At its height, it had large cities, a writing system, and development of scientific knowledge, such as mathematics and astronomy.
Cities were centered on large political and ceremonial structures elaborately decorated with murals and inscriptions.
However, the main two groups, the Tzotzils and Tzeltals of the central highlands were subdued enough to establish the first Spanish city, today called San Cristóbal de las Casas, in 1528.