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    These 5 ancient cities once ruled North America—what happened to them?

    Published November 21, 2022

    12 min read

    Long before Europeans arrived in the New World, indigenous Americans raised pyramids and palaces, temples and tombs in booming cities whose sizes rivaled those in Europe. Citizens of Cahokia traded with their Mesoamerican neighbors; the enigmatic people of Teotihuacan had ties throughout Central America; and Spiro Mounds is said to have equaled the power and sophistication of the Inca and Aztec. Today, investigators are still uncovering major urban centers that testify to the complexity of America’s first megalopolises.

    (Explore the palaces and tombs of these “lost cities” across the Americas.)

    At its peak in 400 A.D., Teotihuacan, just 30 miles northeast of present-day Mexico City in the Valley of Mexico, reigned as perhaps the largest city in the Americas. More than 100,000 Teotihuacanos dwelled among an impressive array of palaces, temples, plazas, avenues, and thousands of apartment buildings within 8 square miles. Along with priests, soldiers, and merchants, Teotihuacan had a flourishing artist community whose wares influenced cultures throughout Mesoamerica. Today it’s Mexico’s most important archaeological site.

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