The recent interpretation of Maya hieroglyphs has given us the first written history of the New World as it existed before the European invasion. In this book, two of the first central figures in the massive effort to decode the glyphs, Linda Schele and David Freidel, make this history available in all its detail. A Forest of Kings is the story of Maya kingship, from the beginning of its institution and the first great pyramid builders two thousand years ago to the decline of Maya civilization and its destruction by the Spanish. Here the great historic rulers of pre-Columbian civilization come to life again with the decipherment of their writing. At its height, Maya civilization flourished under great kings like Shield-Jaguar, who ruled for more than sixty years, expanding his kingdom and building some of the most impressive works of architecture in the ancient world. Long placed on a mist-shrouded pedestal as austere, peaceful stargazers, the Maya elites are now known to have been the rulers of populous, aggressive city-states. Hailed as "a Rosetta stone of Maya civilization" (Brian M. Fagan, author of People of the Earth), A Forest of Kings is "a must for interested readers," says Evon Vogt, professor of anthropology at Harvard University.