Select Text Level:

On January 16, 378, a Maya king, Jaguar Paw, was killed in what is now Tikal, Guatemala. Jaguar Paw’s death was probably a result of the arrival of an invading army from Teotihuacan, a city in the highlands of the Valley of Mexico, near what is today Mexico City, Mexico. The invading Teotihuacano army did not destroy the Maya, however—they helped expand the culture’s sphere of influence to its greatest extent.
 
Tikal was a thriving city by the time the Teotihuacanos arrived. More than 10,000 people lived in the city, deep in the rain forest of Central America. Jaguar Paw’s enormous stone palace is still standing, the center of one of Guatemala’s most popular national parks. The written Maya language was a sophisticated series of hieroglyphics, only deciphered in the 20th century. 
 
The Teotihuacano period in Tikal’s history contributed to an even more advanced Maya civilization. The city grew to more than 90,000 people. Agricultural techniques such as irrigation, composting, and terracing began to thrive throughout the lowland Maya kingdom. Maya pyramids served as observatories where astronomers calculated seasonal and meteorological changes. Tikal became part of a trade network expanding from the mountains of what is today southern Guatemala (where jade was exported); to Teotihuacan and the Valley of Mexico to the west (where obsidian was exported) and both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Central America (where salt—difficult to find in the rain forest—was exported to Tikal).
 
The Maya civilization of Tikal dominated the lowland region in northern Central America for more than 500 years. Long before Europeans arrived in the New World, the Maya had lost their power to civilizations such as the Aztec, Acolhua, and Tepanec.
army
Noun

military land forces.

astronomer
Noun

person who studies space and the universe beyond Earth's atmosphere.

calculate
Verb

to reach a conclusion by mathematical or logical methods.

city
Noun

large settlement with a high population density.

Noun

complex way of life that developed as humans began to develop urban settlements.

Noun

edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

compost
Noun

mixture of decaying organic material, such as food waste and plants.

Noun

agricultural produce.

cultivate
Verb

to encourage the growth of something through work and attention.

culture
Noun

learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

decipher
Verb

to figure out or interpret.

defeat
Verb

to overcome an enemy or obstacle.

destroy
Verb

to ruin or make useless.

dominate
Verb

to overpower or control.

enormous
Adjective

very large.

expand
Verb

to grow or get larger.

export
Verb

to transport goods to another place for trade.

hieroglyphics
Plural Noun

written language using images to represent words.

highlands
Plural Noun

plateau or elevated region of land.

invade
Verb

to enter and attack.

Noun

watering land, usually for agriculture, by artificial means.

Noun

type of government with a king or queen as its leader, or the land ruled by that king or queen.

language
Noun

set of sounds, gestures, or symbols that allows people to communicate.

Maya
Noun

people and culture native to southeastern Mexico and Central America.

Noun

study of weather and atmosphere.

national park
Noun

geographic area protected by the national government of a country.

network
Noun

series of links along which movement or communication can take place.

New World
Noun

the Western Hemisphere, made up of the Americas and their islands.

observatory
Noun

place or building equipped and used for making observations of astronomical, meteorological, or other natural phenomena, usually equipped with powerful telescopes.

obsidian
Noun

black glass formed as lava cools above ground.

palace
Noun

large home or mansion, often the home of a leader or dignitary.

Noun

area of tall, mostly evergreen trees and a high amount of rainfall.

Noun

any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

sophisticated
Adjective

knowledgeable or complex.

sphere of influence
Noun

area or region where a nation or cultural group has cultural, economic, military, or political influence.

Teotihuacan
Noun

(200-750) ancient civilization in what is now central Mexico.

terrace
Noun

flat surface created on a steep hillside.

thrive
Verb

to develop and be successful.

trade
Noun

buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.