I. Prehistoric Times > N. Chiefdoms and States in the Americas (c. 1500 B.C.E.–1532 C.E.) > 2. Mesoamerican Civilizations > b. Teotihuacán
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  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
b. Teotihuacán
 
In the highlands, village populations rose sharply after 1000 B.C.E., leading to more intensive agriculture and increasingly sophisticated trade networks. By 200 B.C.E., the effects of this intensified economic activity led to the founding of the city of Teotihuacán in the Valley of Mexico. A century later, Teotihuacán expanded rapidly. Its streets, pyramids, and plazas covered eight square miles by 500 C.E. The city grew according to a master plan that was followed for six centuries. Bisected by the Avenue of the Dead, Teotihuacán was dominated by the 210-foot-high Pyramid of the Sun. At least 120,000 people lived in the city during its heyday, ruled by a tiny elite of powerful, militaristic nobles. It was the dominant economic and religious state over much of highland Mexico until 750 C.E., when it collapsed suddenly. The collapse may have resulted from a combination of many factors, among them overexploitation of the commoners by the elite and a series of drought cycles that may have forced the population to disperse into smaller communities.  1
Maya Civilization developed in the Mesoamerican lowlands by 600 B.C.E. At Nakbe and El Mirador, the Maya erected elaborate ceremonial centers of stone and stucco buildings standing on pyramids and platforms. Even as El Mirador prospered, other important centers like Tikal and Uaxactún grew in importance, ushering in the Classic Period of Maya Civilization from 300 C.E. to 900. Maya life was governed by an intricate calendar system and a recently deciphered hieroglyphic script. Their writings tell us of a lowland civilization ruled by powerful lords, who presided over small city-states. Each state competed constantly with its neighbors, as different centers like Tikal, Palenque, and Copán vied for control of key trade routes and for political and religious prestige.  2
Maya lords considered themselves intermediaries between the living and spiritual worlds. A small nobility controlled Maya society. Their power base gave way suddenly in about 900 C.E., probably as a result of partial ecological collapse as farmlands became exhausted. Nevertheless, Maya Civilization continued to flourish in the northern Yucatán until the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century C.E.  3
In the highlands, the Toltecs held brief sway over the Valley of Mexico from about 900 C.E. to 1200, ruling their state from Tula, north of the valley. They may also have had some influence over lowland politics, for there is strong Toltec influence at Chichén Itzá, a great ceremonial center in the northern Yucatán. Political chaos followed the collapse of Toltec civilization in the 13th century. Eventually, the Aztecs, once nomadic farmers, rose to power in the Valley of Mexico.  4
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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