Why Did the Mayan Civilization Collapse?

2267 WordsNov 18, 201210 Pages
To gaze upon the majestic ruins of the Mayan civilisation which collapsed over a thousand years ago, one is often stirred with wonder and a deep sense of curiosity (Diamond, 2005, p157-8). What happened to this great empire and what brought about its demise? The tremendous task of erecting such elaborate and colossal structures was clearly performed by the hands of a well-organized and adept group of humans (Crist and Paganini, 1980, pg24). Their empire occupied a vast area of roughly 325000 square kilometres in what is now southern Mexico and northern Central America (Fash, 1994, p182). This report will explore the causes that set in motion the collapse of the Mayan civilisation in the 10th century. I will examine particular elements…show more content…
However what must be considered is what would happen through periods of sustained drought? Iconography found at major sites depict rulers within Mayan society were believed to have special ties with the gods and therefor worshipped and appeased in hopes of being blessed with a strong rain season. (Lucero, 2002, p815). In public centers a variety of elaborate water rituals were performed by those in power to maintain and strengthen social order (Scarborough et al, 1993, pg137). A common complication faced by the Mayans was unreliable rain patterns. A year with insufficient levels of precipitation could have had devastating effects. Sustained periods of drought may have led to a sharp decline in agricultural output. Due to the already low nutrient content in their diet consisting primarily of corn, maze and beans, fluctuations in farming output would show a significant effect on the nutrition and sustenance of the people (Diamond, 2003). Figure 1(Gill et al, 2007, p299) The graph above represents periods of droughts in the Yucatan Peninsula. These results are based on fossil shells in lake sediments in which the ratio of oxygen isotopes are analysed against other isotopes present to identify periods of climatic change through variations in evaporation and density. These particular results shows that the period around and during the 10th century were far dryer than anything experienced for over 6000 years in that region (Gill et al, 2007,

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