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By Lynn V. Foster

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Atop the towering pyramidal platforms, in front of the most sacred temples, priests stretched their still-living victims over sacrificial stones and cut out their hearts. Sometimes they cut out the entrails, too, and flayed the skin in order to make “cloaks” worn by priests in honor of Xipe Totec, a god of spring. The remaining corpse would be rolled down the steps of the Aztec Great Temple where the captors of the prisoner had the right to take home various parts for a cannibalistic corn stew.

But one additional element of the collapse cannot be overlooked, that of the environment. D. D. June 3, 702 to August 30, 711. Considerable historical knowledge, such as K’an Xul’s name (now known to be more accurately spelled phonetically as K’an Hok’ Chitam) and his royal lineage, has resulted from rapid advances in interpreting Maya hieroglyphs. Scholars have known for the past century how to translate the Maya long count into our Gregorian calendar, but the rulers’ names, their births, accession, and other events in their lives have been translated through phonetic decipherments only in the past few decades.

250 to 900 many of the Protoclassic cities achieved their greatest heights, from Teotihuacán and Monte Albán to Maya cities like Palenque in Chiapas and Uxmal in Yucatán. D. 900 to 1200 many of the classic cities were forever abandoned while others, such as Tula in central Mexico and Chichén Itzá in Yucatán, flourished. Finally, during the Late Postclassic period much of Mesoamerica was dominated by the Aztecs. This last Mesoamerican horizon came to a calamitous end with the Spanish conquest (see chart on page 24).

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