The various windows in the structure align with the risings and the set tings

The various windows in the structure align with the

This preview shows page 174 - 176 out of 491 pages.

The various windows in the structure align with the risings and the set- tings of Venus and other heavenly bodies along the horizon.
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800 ce , and the major centers in the central regions of Mayan civiliza- tion collapsed entirely around 900 . A resurgence of Mayan power developed on the Yucatan peninsula—notably in Chichén Itzá—in the following period to 1200 , but from the eleventh century the Long Count fell into disuse, and the record indicates a decline in the rigor of training for scribes and priests. Thereafter the high civilization of the Maya passed into history. An array of causes have been put forward and debated to explain the protracted death of Mayan civilization. Endemic warfare among confederations of city-states may have played a role, and the inevitable pressures of population measured against a fragile system of food production may have produced radical demo- graphic fluctuations. Compounding such possibilities, two centuries of drought—the worst in 8 , 000 years—affected the Mayan lowlands in 800–1000 and no doubt took a heavy toll. Researchers have recently highlighted the problems of deforestation stemming from Mayan tech- niques of using large amounts of wood to make lime for stucco with which Mayan monumental architecture was plastered. Deforestation probably disrupted rainfall patterns and, at least in places, led to soil erosion and thereby the ruination of agriculture. Mayan civilization gradually waned, and with it the exquisite system of understanding nature that the Maya had achieved. Cactus and Eagle Central America also saw the rise of Toltec and Aztec civilizations. Based on irrigation agriculture, between 900 and 1100 ce the Toltec city of Tula had 35 , 000–60 , 000 inhabitants, and the Toltecs built what is technically the largest pyramid in the world, a manmade mountain of 133 million cubic feet, 1 , 000 feet on a side, and 170 feet high cov- ering 45 acres at Cholula. The Aztecs began as a seminomadic tribe, and in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they established the most powerful empire in Cen- tral America. They built their city of Tenochtitlán in 1325 on a lake where Mexico City presently stands; according to legend, an omen— an eagle perched on a cactus—drew them to the lake. The Aztecs proved to be master hydraulic engineers. The lake, Lake Texcoco, was saltwater, and Aztec engineers built a huge dike across it to separate a fresh-water portion (fed by springs) from the brine; they also installed floodgates to regulate lake levels and aqueducts to bring additional fresh water to the lake. Each year millions of fish and ducks were taken from lakes, which also provided a nutritious algae paste. The Aztecs developed an intensive style of lake-marsh (or lacustrine) agriculture that involved dikes, dams, drainage canals, and land reclamation, all produced as public works under state management. Agricultural pro- duction was literally based on floating paddies known as chinampas.
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