Archaeology: Secrets of the Maya

After a century and a half of research, scientists are finally unraveling the mystery of who the Maya were, how they lived -- and why their civilization suddenly collapsed

The crowd at the base of the enormous bloodred pyramid has been standing for hours in the dripping heat of the Guatemalan jungle. No one moves; every eye stays fixed on the building's summit, where the king, his head adorned with feathers, his scepter a two-headed crocodile, is about to emerge from a sacred chamber with instructions from his long-dead ancestors. The crowd sees nothing of his movements, but it knows the ritual: lifted into the next world by hallucinogenic drugs, the king will take an obsidian blade or the spine of a stingray, pierce his own penis, and then draw...

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