IELTS READING LEVEL 5.5 – Ruins in the Rain Forest

Ruins in the Rain Forest

This text is adapted from an original work of the Core Knowledge Foundation.

 

The Vanishing Civilization

 

In the centuries before Europeans came to the Americas, great civilizations thrived in present-day Mexico, Central-America, and South America. These included the Maya, Aztec, and Inca.

 

Do you like mysteries? Try this one: More than a thousand years ago, a great civilization of American Indian peoples built cities across Mesoamerica-an area today that is made up of parts of Mexico and Central America. They built stone temples and pyramids that rose far above the forest treetops. They were the Maya.

The Maya, one group of native peoples, discovered important mathematical ideas. They also studied the movements of the stars. Using this knowledge, the Maya made a calendar almost as accurate as the one we use today. Then, after hundreds of years of growth, many key elements of Maya civilization disappeared. The people abandoned their once-thriving cities. This great urban society and many of its traditions were mysteriously transformed, although Mayan-speaking people continue in this part of Mesoamerica to the present.

 

Finding the Ruins

In 1839, two American explorers heard stories of mysterious ruins in the rain forests of Central America. Curious, they set out to see for themselves. The two men first explored the remains of the city of Copán (/koh*pahn/) in the present-day country of Honduras.

From the architecture, it was clear the ruins had been left by an ancient and advanced civilization. The two Americans continued their journey, exploring many other ruins. Then, they returned to the United States and wrote a best-selling book about their findings. Their tales and drawings inspired worldwide interest in the history of the Maya.

Archaeologists still study the remarkable Maya.

Since the mid-1800s, archaeologists and other experts have continued to study these remarkable people. Recent breakthroughs in research have revealed just how much the Maya accomplished. Let’s take a closer look at what we know about them and what still remains a mystery.

At its peak, the Maya civilization included a large group of city-states that were allied with, fought, and conquered each other. These cities were located on the Yucatán Peninsula in what is today southeastern Mexico and the countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize. Archaeologists believe that Maya civilization reached its greatest extent between about 200 and 900 CE.

Maya pyramids were grand monuments that reached toward the sky.

The largest buildings in Maya cities were pyramids that also served as temples. These structures served religious purposes. From their size, it is clear that religion was a key part of Maya life. Maya pyramids rose high above the surrounding treetops. Maya pyramids were some of the tallest structures in the Americas until 1902. That year, the twenty-two-story Flatiron Building was constructed in New York City.

 

 


 

Vocabulary

 

breakthrough    break · through

Advanced Definition

noun

  1. an act of overcoming or moving through an obstacle or restriction.
  2. an important discovery in a particular field that encourages an acceleration in knowledge or

The discovery of penicillin was a tremendous breakthrough in the treatment of disease.

 

These are some examples of how the word or forms of the word are used:

  1. In 2006, some of Carroll’s lab mates made a breakthrough.
  2. It brings the breakthrough ideas of developers to life, but does not create them in and of
  3. Although many people hail the birth of Snuppy as a scientific breakthrough, others say scientists are barking up the wrong tree when they clone dogs.
  4. If we increase the kind of basic research we’re doing right now, he says, “I think in five to 10 years we’ll reach a breakthrough and something great is going to happen.”

 


 

ruin    ru · in

Definition

verb

  1. to destroy or damage something.

A flood ruined the village.

 

Advanced Definition

noun

  1. complete destruction or decay.

It’s not clear what caused the ruin of this ancient civilization.

The earth’s rain forests are facing ruin.

  1. (usu. pl.) the product or condition of such destruction or decay.

The dress was torn to ruins.

The ruins of some of the buildings still remain. They found their home in ruins after the hurricane.

  1. a complete downfall, as in health, or financial or social standing.

These bad investments led to the company’s ruin.

  1. the cause of destruction or downfall.

The scandal was the ruin of his political ambitions.

 

transitive verb

  1. to cause the destruction of; wreck or devastate.

The bad publicity ruined his career. The disease ruined the crops.

The flood ruined their homes.

  1. to cause the downfall or disgrace of.
  2. to make unusable or unable to be enjoyed; spoil.

The ink stain ruined the dress.

The rowdy guests ruined the party.

 

intransitive verb

  1. to be wrecked; fall into ruins.
  2. to suffer a downfall; come to ruin.

 

Spanish cognate

ruina: The Spanish word ruina means ruin.

 

These are some examples of how the word or forms of the word are used:

  1. Tornadoes ruin whatever is in their path. They can destroy houses and other buildings.
  2. Do construction sounds ruin your day? Unpleasant human-made sounds are noise pollution, which comes from many sources.
  3. It is dark so that light doesn’t ruin the negatives. Photography makes our lives richer in many sources.
  4. Emily didn’t think it was possible for Rick to ruin her party if he wasn’t allowed out of the She hadn’t counted on a remote control.
  5. He knows the boys are trying to make him mad so that they’ll have an excuse to ruin his “I’m sorry you feel that way,” Tommy says.
  6. I’ve read so many descriptions in newspapers of the ruin and desolation caused in this war.

 


 

structure    struc · ture

Definition

noun

  1. a thing that is made up of different parts that are connected in a particular way.

A human cell is a complicated structure. That new hotel is an interesting structure.

  1. the way in which the parts of something connect with each other.

A carpenter knows about the structure of furniture.

 

Advanced Definition

noun

  1. a thing consisting of a number of elements joined together in a certain way.

A human cell is a complicated structure.

  1. the way in which such a thing is joined together.

We’re studying the structure of atoms in chemistry class.

  1. anything, esp. a building, that has been constructed.

They’ve finished building the new structure for the playground.

  1. the relationship between and among the parts of a relatively complex process or entity.

On our first day at the job, we learned about the structure of the organization.

  1. a planned way of proceeding that imposes some degree of discipline and places limits on individual choice.

Some children can work independently, but others require more structure so that they can concentrate on their task.

 

transitive verb

  1. to give organization to; arrange.

You structured your essay very logically.

 

Spanish cognate

estructura: The Spanish word estructura means structure.

 

These are some examples of how the word or forms of the word are used:

  1. They also have structures called pavilions. People can meet or rest inside them.
  2. The Shasta Dam is an extremely impressive structure, and is the result of hard work by many people.
  3. Coral reefs may look like rocks, but they are actually living structures. They are made up of tiny sea animals.
  4. Egyptian pyramids are stone structures with four triangular sides. At the time they were built, the pyramids were the tallest buildings in the world.
  5. In some cases, communities can strengthen structures that already exist. These include dams, bridges, water systems, schools, hospitals, and lifelines (electrical, gas, and water lines).
  6. Do you know how to change the properties, structure and state of matter of a substance? If you have made ice before, the answer is yes.
  7. With those who are willing to join, let us cooperate to reduce the burden of arms, to strengthen the structure of peace, to lift up the poor and the hungry.
  8. This tendency to stay connected to other liquid bits of water is what makes water pool together on a table, if you spill a glass. What could force it to abandon its rigid structure, though, is heat.
  9. Truss bridges, however, feature loadbearing structures called trusses, which are connected elements forming triangles. These are one of the oldest types of modern bridges, and are one of the cheapest to make, since they often require less material than other bridges.
  10. Sound waves enter through our outer ear and cause the eardrum to vibrate. The three bones in our middle ear pass these vibrations on to the cochlea. The cochlea is a snail-shaped structure in the inner ear that is filled with a special fluid.

 


Name: ___________________________________ Date: _______________

 

1. Who were the Maya?
A. the New Yorkers who constructed the Flatiron Building
B. the people currently living in Mesoamerica
C. a great and ancient civilization of American Indians
D. a large group of archaeologists and experts

 

2. What does this text describe?
A. This text describes the Maya civilization, their accomplishments, what archaeologists and other experts have discovered about them, and the mysteries that remain about this civilization.
B. This text describes the many ways the Maya people have helped and influenced the society in which we live in today and what we hope to learn from these people in the future.
C. This text describes the challenges that the two American explorers faced while exploring the remains of the city of Copán (/koh*pahn/) in the present-day country of Honduras.
D. This text describes what life was like for people who lived in the Maya civilization when it reached its greatest extent between about 200 and 900 CE.

 

3. The Maya people were an advanced civilization.

What evidence from the text supports this statement?
A. Ancient Maya cities were located on the Yucatán Peninsula. Today this is southeastern Mexico and the countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize.
B. In 1839, two American explorers heard stories of mysterious ruins in the rain forests of Central America. Curious, they set out to see for themselves. The two men first explored the remains of the city of Copán.
C. When the two American explorers returned to the United States, they wrote a best- selling book about their findings. Their tales and drawings inspired worldwide interest in the history of the Maya.
D. The Maya discovered important mathematical ideas. They also studied the movements of the stars. Using this knowledge, the Maya made a calendar almost as accurate as the one we use today.

4. Read these sentences from the text:

Archaeologists believe that Maya civilization reached its greatest extent between about 200 and 900 CE. The largest buildings in Maya cities were pyramids that also served as temples . . . Maya pyramids rose high above the surrounding treetops. Maya pyramids were some of the tallest structures in the Americas until 1902. That year, the twenty-two-story Flatiron Building was constructed in New York City.

Based on this information, what can you conclude about the Maya Civilization?
A. The Maya civilization had better architects than we have today.
B. They were an extremely advanced civilization for their time.
C. They only built tall buildings.
D. All of their buildings were shaped like pyramids.

 

5. What is the main idea of this text?
A. The Maya civilization reached its greatest extent between about 200 and 900 CE. Maya pyramids were some of the tallest structures in the Americas until 1902. That year, the twenty-two-story Flatiron Building was constructed in New York City.
B. When two American explorers returned from their trip exploring the Maya ruins, they wrote a best-selling book about their findings. Their tales and drawings inspired worldwide interest in the history of the Maya.
C. The Maya people were anancient and very advanced civilization. Since the mid- 1800s, experts have studied these remarkable people and have discovered some of the amazing things they accomplished; however, many mysteries still remain.
D. The Maya built stone temples and pyramids that rose far above the forest treetops. They discovered important mathematical ideas. They also studied the movements of the stars. Using this knowledge, the Maya made a calendar almost as accurate as the one we use today.

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