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Late Classic Maya Collapse

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Most impressive buildings date to Terminal Classic ... Goodbye Lamanai. So, why did the Classic Maya Collapse/Decline?? Does one reason fit all? ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Late Classic Maya Collapse


1
Late Classic Maya Collapse
  • A.D. 800-900

2
Collapse
  • Most impressive buildings date to Terminal
    Classic
  • Major construction virtually ceased after 810 A.
    D.
  • last date at Yaxchilan between AD 810-840
  • Bonampak AD 800
  • Copan shortly after AD 800

http//www.ku.edu/hoopes/506/Lectures/Collapse.ht
ml
3
Representation of the Classic Maya Collapse, from
Lowe, 1985
http//www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/slides/slideset/12/
12_201_bslide.html
4
Events
  • slowdown in construction and erection of
    monuments
  • lack of hieroglyphic texts
  • long-distance trade contacts ended

5
Characteristics
  • Collapse" may be a poor term
  • Failure more complete in core than in periphery
  • Decline most profound at Tikal
  • population at Tikal only one-tenth of pre-AD 800
    size
  • populations appear to continue in vicinity of
    Late Peten-Itza
  • increase of activity in northern Lowlands
  • Population centers abandoned

6
Reasons internal factors
  • natural disasters
  • Earthquakesevidence at Xunantunich and Quirigua
  • hurricanes
  • Epidemics/disease
  • yellow fever
  • presence in monkeys suggests it may be indigenous
  • skeletal evidence from Tikal and Altar suggest
    nutritional decline

7
Internal Factors, cond
  • ecological disasters
  • decline in soil fertility
  • over exploitation
  • failure of swidden agriculture
  • failure of productivity of grasslands

8
Documenting Climate Change
  • One area of study, Lake Chichancanab, is located
    in the center of the Yucatan.
  • Lake Chichancanab is a long (26-km), narrow (2
    km) lake, consisting of a series of basins that
    are connected during high water level.
  • Sediment cores were collected from the central
    basin in a water depth of 6.9 m.

http//www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/slides/slideset/12/
12_206_slide.html
9
Lake Chichancanab looking towards the eastern
hills
http//www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/slides/slideset/12/
12_206_bslide.html
10
Other study sites
  • Lake Punta Laguna, located in the northeastern
    part of the Yucatan Peninsula about 20 km N-NE of
    Coba, a major Mayan archaeological site.
  • Punta Laguna consists of three interconnected
    basins, each with a maximum depth of about 20-m.
  • The coring site was located in the far basin in a
    water depth of about 6.3-m.

http//www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/slides/slideset/12/
12_207_slide.html
11
Lake Punta Laguna located in the northeastern
section of the Yucatan Peninsula
http//www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/slides/slideset/12/
12_207_bslide.html
12
Illustration of using lakes to determine climate
change
  • This illustration shows the simple working
    assumptions for interpreting changes in the
    sediment record in terms of climate
    (evaporation/precipitation).
  • Top Under conditions of wet climate (low E/P),
    we expect high lake levels, dilute concentrations
    of solutes, low 18O to 16Oratios in lake water
    and aquatic shells, and sediments consisting of
    mainly organic carbon and calcite.
  • Middle Under conditions of drier climate
    (moderate E/P), we expect lower lake levels,
    higher concentrations of dissolved solutes,
    higher ratios of 18O and 16O, and perhaps
    sediments dominated by calcite.
  • Bottom Under arid climate conditions (high E/P),
    we expect low lake levels (perhaps desiccation),
    high dissolved solute concentrations, high ratios
    of 18O and 16O and, in the case of Lake
    Chichancanab, sediments dominated by gypsum
    (CaSO4).

http//www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/slides/slideset/12/
12_214_slide.html
13
Possible period of draught
http//www.ldeo.columbia.edu/edu/dees/V1003/lectur
es/culture_climate/sld023.html
14
Other Internal Factors
  • Social disasters
  • popular revolt, suggested by Thompson
  • evidence and Piedras Negras of broken thrones
  • increased differences between elite and non-elite
    classes
  • rupture in trade i.e. rise of trading centers on
    peripheries led to collapse of core
  • competition from Mexican states
  • traditional ruling elite could not or would not
    improve competitive efficiency
  • notions of cyclical history
  • fatalistic associations with Katun 11 Ahau
  • may have been exacerbated by distance between
    social classes
  • civil warfare
  • attempts by one center at consolidation most
    scholars interpret depictions as small-scale
    warfare and capture

15
Reasons External Factors
  • Foreign invasion
  • iconographic evidence from Seibal
  • identified as Putun Maya, people from Gulf Coast
  • rose to great power in Postclassic period
  • may have become mercantile center with Altar
    eventually abandoned
  • lack of evidence elsewhere
  • suggests invasion may have been more of an effect
    than cause of collapse
  • change in trade patterns suggests Late Classic
    Maya may have been isolated
  • Putun Maya were seacoast traders
  • demise of Tikal canoe routes so busy in Early
    Classic
  • superceded by ocean-going routes around Yucatan
  • withdrawal of Teotihuacan interaction may have
    caused Middle Classic hiatus

16
Evidence Copan
  • Two skulls from Copan showing anemia.
  • The skull on the right is from an elite
    individual.

http//www.learner.org/exhibits/collapse/copan/bon
es.php?s_id138282932404B
17
Copan
  • One side of this altar was completed, but the
    other sides were left unfinished.
  • On one of these unfinished sides, the Maya text
    shows a date, equivalent to February 10, A.D.
    822. The remaining text was never finished. There
    are no known monuments at Copán dated after A.D.
    822.

http//www.learner.org/exhibits/collapse/copan/mon
uments.php?s_id138282932404BC
18
Copan
  • This slide is of mahogany pollen, dating to
    around A.D. 1200-1250.
  • It shows that the Copán Valley had largely
    returned to forest by that time.
  • Before A.D. 1200-1250, there is little evidence
    of mahogany pollen in the sample. Mahogany pollen
    would be present in areas of tall forest, but not
    in areas of heavy farming.

http//www.learner.org/exhibits/collapse/copan/bot
any.php?s_id138282932404BCAB
19
Copan Erosion
  • Some Copán houses found near hillsides show
    debris from erosion.
  • The probable cause of this erosion is that people
    were overfarming the hillsides.
  • The erosion seems to have begun in the mid-eighth
    century and to have continued for a long time
    afterward.
  • At some point, these houses were abandoned.
    Eventually, some houses were completely buried by
    erosion debris.

http//www.learner.org/exhibits/collapse/copan/hou
ses.php?s_id138282932404BCABD
20
Copan Obsidian manufacture
  • Obsidian blades found in Copán households show a
    range of dates, from A.D. 500 to 1200.
  • After A.D. 950-1000, the number of blades drops
    off.

http//www.learner.org/exhibits/collapse/copan/hou
ses.php?s_id138282932404BCABD
21
Collapse at Copan? Decline may be better term.
  • Based on the evidence found at Copán, this team
    of archaeologists concluded that overpopulation
    was a major contributor to collapse.
  • A very large number of people lived in the Copán
    Valley, and so more and more of the land was
    farmed, just as it is today.
  • This caused environmental stresses, such as
    erosion and crop shortages.
  • These in turn caused malnutrition and disease,
    which were clear from the anemia shown in the
    skullseven the skulls of the noble classes.
  • From the obsidian dates and the pollen sample,
    the archaeologists concluded that the end of
    Copán was gradual, at least in the countryside.
  • Though no monuments were built after A.D. 822,
    the population in the valley did not drop off
    seriously until about A.D. 950-1000.
  • Significant farming continued in the area until
    A.D. 1200-1250.
  • After 1200-1250, the Copán Valley returned to
    forest, this previous center of Maya life
    abandoned by all but a few remaining farmers.

http//www.learner.org/exhibits/collapse/copan/exp
erts.php
22
Lamanai
  • Anomaly, because it continued beyond the Classic
    period.
  • Lamanai, or "submerged crocodile," began around
    1500 B.C.

http//www.northernbelize.com/see_lamanai.html
23
Lamanai, cond
  • Located adjacent to the New River lagoon,
    Lamanai's main structures and excavated artifacts
    exhibit many representations of the crocodile.
  • Some of Lamanai's ruins are some of the oldest in
    Belize dating back to 700 B.C.,
  • Yet, of the 700 buildings within the complex,
    less than five percent have been excavated and
    explored.
  • Aside from the central pyramid, thick forest has
    consumed many of the limestone mounds that housed
    the thousands of Mayan inhabitants.
  • With a population exceeding 35,000 at the height
    of the city's power, Lamanai's trading influence
    extended over the borders of present-day
    Guatamala, Honduras, Mexico, and Belize.

http//www.northernbelize.com/see_lamanai.html
24
Lamanai New River Lagoon
25
Reconstructed Main Temple
26
Main Temple Under Construction
http//www.northernbelize.com/see_lamanai.html
27
Lamanai ball court
28
Lamanai
29
Lamanai temple with mask
30
Lamanai Mask
31
Lamanai Stela 9
32
Lamanai Crocodile
33
Goodbye Lamanai
34
So, why did the Classic Maya Collapse/Decline??
  • Does one reason fit all?
  • Do several reasons fit all?
  • Different reasons for different sites?
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