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While Europe was buried in the Dark Ages, the Maya were producing astonishing sculpture, stelae and wall murals, as well as building magnificent temples, tombs and ball courts. This extraordinary volume pairs the leading Maya scholar and one of the world's finest photographers of ancient sites to trace the rise and fall of Mayan civilization through its great royal cities. From El Mirador to the cities of the Maya Renaissance and finally to Chichen Itza, where the 700-year flowering of the Mayan people came to a halt, the riveting history of powerful dynasties, political intrigues and a flourishing culture is illuminated through new research and evocative photographs. A new reading of artifacts, reliefs, murals, maps and other archaeological evidence allows Coe to untangle the complex sequence of internecine ritual warfare that fatally weakened the late Maya era. Documented with specially commissioned maps and plans based on the latest research, "Royal Cities of the Ancient Maya" will be irresistible to everyone from the casual visitor to Pre-Columbian experts.