Through a clearing in the jungle, visitors catch their first glimpse of the ancient Maya ruins of Yaxchilan in Mexico's southern Chiapas state. Stubborn vines have penetrated the walls of the Maya temple of the underworld. Bats hang in the cool vaulted ceiling and spiders scurry around the structure where ancient nobles once meditated and prayed to their gods.
Here, like across the Maya civilization, abandoned cities hidden in the rainforests of Mexico and Central America stand as reminders of the collapse of one of the most sophisticated cultures of its time – one that, a thousand years later, no scholar fully understands.
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