Jan 16, 378 CE: A Maya Kingdom Falls . . . and Another Rises

Jan 16, 378 CE: A Maya Kingdom Falls . . . and Another Rises

On January 16, 378, a Maya king, Jaguar Paw, was killed in what is now Tikal, Guatemala. The conquering army did not destroy the Maya, however—it expanded the Maya sphere of influence to its greatest height.


9 - 12


Geography, Human Geography, Physical Geography, Social Studies, World History

NGS Resource Carousel Loading Logo
Loading ...

On January 16, 378, a Maya king, Jaguar Paw, was killed in what is now Tikal, Guatemala. Jaguar Paw’s death was probably a result of the arrival of an invading army from Teotihuacan, a city in the highlands of the Valley of Mexico, near what is today Mexico City, Mexico. The invading Teotihuacano army did not destroy the Maya, however—they helped expand the culture’s sphere of influence to its greatest extent.

Tikal was a thriving city by the time the Teotihuacanos arrived. More than 10,000 people lived in the city, deep in the rainforest of Central America. Jaguar Paw’s enormous stone palace is still standing, the center of one of Guatemala’s most popular national parks. The written Maya language was a sophisticated series of hieroglyphics, only deciphered in the 20th century. The Teotihuacano period in Tikal’s history contributed to an even more advanced Maya civilization. The city grew to more than 90,000 people. Maya pyramids served as observatories where astronomers calculated seasonal and meteorological changes.

Tikal became part of a trade network expanding from the mountains of what is today southern Guatemala (where jade was exported); to Teotihuacan and the Valley of Mexico to the west (where obsidian was exported) and both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Central America (where salt—difficult to find in the rain forest—was exported to Tikal). The Maya civilization of Tikal dominated the lowland region in northern Central America for at least 700 years. Long before Europeans arrived in the New World, the Maya had lost their power to civilizations such as the Aztec, Acolhua, and Tepanec.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. They will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to them, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.


If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.


Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.


Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources