In the seventh century, the central and northern Maya lowlands experience substantial population growth. Hundreds of settlements, large and small, fill a region stretching from Palenque in the west to Altun Há in the east, and from Uxmal in the north to Copán in the south. More than sixty kingdoms, each ruled by a k’uhul ajaw (“divine lord”), compete for control of land, raw materials, and trade routes. Their intense political and economic rivalry is also apparent in the unprecedented profusion of artistic production and diversity of styles. Early in the ninth century, the dynasties of the central region begin to collapse, population levels decline sharply, and most centers are abandoned by about 900 A.D., never to be substantially reoccupied. The northern centers are unaffected by these events and continue to flourish.