After about 500 BCE the Olmec “unification” gave way to an era (consisting of the Late Formative and Classic periods) of separate regional styles and kingdoms. These lasted until c. 700–900 CE. Among these are the well-known Maya, Zapotec, Totonac, and Teotihuacán civilizations. While sharing a common Olmec heritage, they also displayed many differences. For example, the Maya excelled in the intellectual pursuits of hieroglyphic writing, calendar making, and mathematics, while the Teotihuacán civilization placed its emphasis on political and commercial power. Teotihuacán, in the Valley of Mexico, was an urban centre of some 150,000 people, and the influence of its civilization eventually radiated over much of Mesoamerica. As such, Teotihuacán constituted a second grand civilizational climax or “unification” (400–600 CE). Teotihuacán power waned after about 600, and a “time of troubles” ensued, during which a number of states and nascent empires competed for supremacy. Among these competitors were the Toltecs of Tula, in central Mexico, who held sway from perhaps 900 to 1200 (the Early Postclassic Period). After their decline (in the Late Postclassic Period), another interregnum of warring states lasted until 1428, when the Aztec defeated the rival city of Azcapotzalco and emerged as the dominant force in central Mexico. This last native Mesoamerican empire was conquered by Hernán Cortés (or Cortéz) and the Spaniards in 1521.
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