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Essay on Collapse in Maya Society

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At the end of the first millennium A.D., the lowland Maya empires disintegrated after 750 years of prominence (Handout 1). Warfare, the growing population, resource depletion, and climatic fluctuations contributed to the downfall of the Classical lowland empires (Schele and Freidel 321). 500 years later, the scattered Maya that remained would again face a crisis as the Spanish conquistadores invaded Yucatan, conquered, and began to rule. Though the Spanish conquest of the Maya brought a new religion and diseases that decimated the population, the collapse of Classical Maya civilization was the greatest crisis in Maya history. It marked the end of the great Classical empires whose knowledge and artistic achievements surpassed all…show more content…
The Maya participated in extensive trade networks, as the Spanish discovered when Columbus captured a trading canoe off the coast of Honduras that contained cacao beans, Mexican obsidian, copper axes, woven garments, and slaves (Clendinnen 3). The fall of lowland Maya culture resulted from a confluence of factors. Over-population and environmental degradation led to malnutrition and disease, as residential complexes expanded to cover agricultural land and the clearing of forests for milpa agricultural resulted in erosion (Schele and Freidel 321). Social stress compounded the environmental strains, and warfare between neighboring states also affected the morale of the population (Lecture 2/10). The kings attempted to address these problems, but pride and exclusivity prevented them from sharing power or admitting defeat at the hands of an enemy (Schele and Freidel 347-8). The collapse of Teotihuacan in the 7th century A.D. altered trade and power relationships, which also may have contributed to the tumultuous state of the lowland empires prior to their collapse (Lecture 2/10). The collapse of the lowland Maya empires marked the end of a way of life. When the villagers lost faith in the powers of the ahauob they dispersed into the forests and returned to their lives as farmers (128). With the decline of the Maya kings, Maya religion also underwent changes to become a more local matter. In the northern empires that persisted, the ruling structure
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