The Central Maya Lowlands with sites mentioned in the perspective by B.L. Turner of Arizona State University and Jeremy A. Sabloff of the Santa Fe Institute published Aug. 21 in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (Credit: Image prepared by Barbara Trapido-Lurie/Arizona State University)
ScienceDaily (Aug. 21, 2012) — A new analysis of complex interactions between humans and the environment preceding the 9th century collapse and abandonment of the Central Maya Lowlands in the Yucatán Peninsula points to a series of events -- some natural, like climate change; some human-made, including large-scale landscape alterations and shifts in trade routes -- that have lessons for contemporary decision-makers and sustainability scientists.
In their revised model of the collapse of the ancient Maya, social scientists B.L. "Billie" Turner and Jeremy "Jerry" A. Sabloff provide an up-to-date, human-environment systems theory in which they put together the degree of environmental and economic stress in the area that served as a trigger or tipping point for the Central Maya Lowlands.
The co-authors described the Classic Period of the Lowland Maya (CE 300-800) as a "highly complex civilization organized into networks of city-states," in their perspective article published Aug. 21 in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The ancient Maya in this hilly and riverless region confronted long-term climatic aridification, experienced decadal to century-level or longer droughts amplified by the landscape changes that they made, including large-scale deforestation indicated in the paleoecological record.