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The Fall of the Mayan Civilization Essay

The Mayan people were comprised of many small kingdoms and never unified into one entity (Sayre, 2011). They occupied many regions and spread rapidly in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize (James & Thorpe, 1999). Their civilization declined around the year 850 (Sayre, 2011). There is some speculation as to why they disappeared so abruptly.

The researcher’s theories are (a) lack of food due to the overpopulation of their culture, (b) climate change and the ecosystem and (c) warfare. In 1999, Peter James, writer and Dr. Nick Thorpe, archaeologist subtitle one of their theories as “Too Many Mouths, Too Little Food” (p. 0) They discuss that through droughts, plant diseases and pests, low quality soil, and a population that became difficult to feed; the population could not flourish and thus their culture collapsed (James & Thorpe, 1999). Gaia Vince writes about a new study conducted by Gerald Haug and his team, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (2003). They drilled into the earth’s core to find sediments’ of titanium and took measurements. They found that although these samples were taken 200 kilometers from the Mayan cities that there climate is identical.

From their samples they found different bands deciphering wet and dry periods. Haug and his team concluded that there were three periods that indicate drought through low titanium levels. These droughts would have taken place in the years AD 810, 860, and 910 (Science, vol 299, p. 1731). Vince concludes that the scientists say that “These dates correspond to the three years of Mayan collapse” (2003). James and Thorpe (1999) mention a theory of warfare that was brought to their attention by Eric Thompson, an avid advocate.

This theory is further elaborated by Morley and Brainerd (1983) in their esearch of political and social downfall, lowlands were abandoned due to the erosion of the elite and the battles fought with the non-elite as is better know as the “peasant revolt” (p. 144). Identify one of the theories and provide at least two convincing reasons why the theory you have chosen is the best one to explain the mystery. The author realizes that both the lack of food and the climate change are explainable theories and are tied together in some fashion. If there was a repeated drought the soil would become dry and hard to work with.

Overpopulation would require large amounts of fertile land for agriculture. The means to feeding their culture was unavailable. This would lead to famine and the Mayan people would wither away or flee for better agricultural settings. One theory suggests that there were too many people to feed and the other theory was that drought made farming the land difficult. These go hand in hand. These factors along with possible natural disasters and elite rulers that fought amongst their own culture may as well been the fall of the Mayan Civilization.

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