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In this new archaeological study, Arthur Demarest brings the lost pre-Columbian civilization of the Maya to life. In applying a holistic perspective to the most recent evidence from archaeology, paleoecology, and epigraphy, this theoretical interpretation emphasises both the brilliant rain forest adaptations of the ancient Maya and the Native American spirituality that permeated all aspects of their daily life. Demarest draws on his own discoveries and the findings of colleagues to reconstruct the complex lifeways and volatile political history of the Classic Maya states of the first to eighth centuries. He provides a new explanation of the long-standing mystery of the ninth-century abandonment of most of the great rain forest cities. Finally, he draws lessons from the history of the Classic Maya cities for contemporary society and for the ongoing struggles and resurgence of the modern Maya peoples, who are now re-emerging from six centuries of oppression.