The end of the first millennium was a period of transition in Mesoamerica. The Toltecs, the dominant power for two centuries, were in decline, evicted from the Yucatan peninsula by a confederation of Mayan city-states, the League of Mayapan. The Toltec capital, Tula, with a peak population of c. 60,000, never reached the scale of its regional predecessors Teotihuacan and Tikal, but the Toltecs were revered by the Aztecs for their virtuosity in architecture, metalwork and warfare. To the north of Yucatan, El Tajin prospered as the Toltecs began to decline. Outside the Mayapan confederacy, to Yucatan’s south, the highland Maya formed several city-states, including Zaculeu and Kaminaljuyu. Mesoamerican cities displayed certain consistent features: they were structured around ceremonial zones, often featuring flat-topped pyramids, which served as centres of ritual, including human and animal sacrifice. The use of memorial stelae was widespread, as were recreational ballcourts.
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