At the height of its glory, this mysterious civilization ruled a territory of 125,000 square miles across parts of Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize. What began as a modest population of hunters and gatherers expanded into more than forty flourishing city-states built within lush rainforests and ruled by dynasties of mighty kings. In an extraordinary burst of creativity from 250 AD to 900 AD, without the use of metal, pack animals or even the wheel, the Maya engineered sky-high temple-pyramids, ornate palaces and advanced hydraulic systems - all to appease their gods and support their growing populations. But the building of the giant Maya world did not come without extreme consequences. As the urban centers grew, so did the political tensions between neighboring kingdoms and the demand for natural resources. By 900 AD, the classic Maya cities collapsed, and the glittering structures that once dominated the horizon were reclaimed by the wild jungles of Central America and hidden for centuries. Where did the Maya come from? And what catastrophes had overwhelmed their cities? Many of the answers lie in the Maya hieroglyphs, a cryptic writing system that is taking hundreds of years to decipher. From it, we can begin to understand how the ancient Maya constructed the most innovative civilization of the New World. From the Temple-Pyramids at Tikal, to the royal tomb at Palenque, to the star observatory at Chichén Itzá, this episode will examine the architecture and infrastructure that enabled the rise and fall of the ancient Maya civilization.