They used other trade goods, such as hematite, ashiny volcanic stone, tomake polished mirrorsand basalt for carving gigantic stone heads. TheOlmec used the region’s many rivers as highways for trade, but eventually, the inland peoples seized control of the trade. One of these groups built the first planned city in the Americas. It became known as Teotihuacán(TAY • oh • TEE • wuh •KAHN), or “Place of the Gods.” The city reached its height around A.D.400. It had a population of between 120,000 to 200,000people. As Teotihuacán’s power spread, a people called the Maya(MY• uh) built another civilization in the steamy rain forests of the Yucatán Peninsula(YOO•kuh•TAN). They, too, traded throughout Mesoamerica. The Maya used their central location to reach into what is now southern Mexico and Central America. Mayan traders in sea-goingcanoespaddled along the coast, perhaps reaching as far as the present-day United States.What happened to the Maya? Teotihuacán and Mayan cities hit their peaks in the A.D. 400s and A.D. 500s. Then, around A.D. 600, Teotihuacán started to decline. No one is sure why this happened. Some experts say overpopulation drained the city of food and resources. Others blame a long drought, or period without rain. Still others say that the poor people rebelled against their rich rulers. Whatever the reason, by A.D. 750, the city had been destroyed. The Mayan civilization lasted about 200 years longer. But it also came to a mysterious end. The Maya abandoned their cities, and by the A.D. 900s, the cities lay deserted, hidden in a thick tangle of vines. As the Maya left their cities, a people called the Toltec(TOHL•TEHK) seized what is now northern Mexico. These warrior nomads built the city of Tula northwest of present-day Mexico City. From Tula, they conquered lands all the way to the Yucatán Peninsula. Toltec rulers tightly controlled trade. They held a monopolyor sole right, to the trade inobsidian. Obsidian is a hard, dark, glasslike volcanicrock that was used to make knives, arrowheads, andswords. As a result, the Toltec kept other people frommaking weapons to challenge them. Around A.D. 1200,invaders from the north captured Tula. One group ofinvaders, who called themselves the Aztec, admired theToltec and copied their ways. Aztec warriors then tookcontrol of the region’s trade and built a huge empire.When Europeans arrived in the A.D. 1500s, the Aztecruled about five million people.
The Moche and Inca South of Mesoamerica, other civilizations developedalong the west coast of South America. The Moche(MOH• cheh) people were located in the dry coastaldesert of what is now Peru. The Moche ruled fromabout A.D. 100 to A.D. 700. They dug canalsthatcarried water from rivers in the Andes mountain rangesto their desert homeland. Because of this irrigation, thedesert bloomed with crops. The Moche suffered noshortage of food. They ate corn, squash, beans, andpeanuts. They also hunted llamas and guinea pigs andfished in the nearby Pacific Ocean. This wealth of foodfreed the Moche to do other things. Moche engineers