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The Maya

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Title: The Maya


1
The Maya
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  • Mayan cities were rediscovered by John Stephens
    in 1839
  • Stephens, a rich American lawyer, heard rumors of
    ruins in the jungle and had himself appointed
    ambassador to the Confederation of Central America

5
  • The city was desolate. No remnant of this race
    hangs around the ruins . . . Here were the
    remains of a cultivated, polished, and peculiar
    people, who had passed through all the stages
    incident to the rise and fall of nations, reached
    their golden age and perished . . . -John
    Stephens

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  • Mayan cities were located 17-22 degrees north of
    the equator, not tropical!
  • Rainy season from May to October
  • Northern cities received 18 inches of
    precipitation annually, southern cities received
    100 inches annually
  • Mayan cities depended on cenotes (artificial
    reservoirs) for water

8
  • Corn made up at least 70 of the Mayan diet
  • Beans also important
  • Domestic animals dog, turkey, Muscovy duck,
    stingless honey bee
  • Deer and fish were wild food sources mostly
    reserved for the elite

9
  • United States- farmers are about 2 of
    population, each farmer grows enough food for 125
    people
  • Ancient Egypt-each farmer could support 5
    families
  • Maya-each farmer could support only two families,
    about 70 of Maya were peasants

10
Mayan agricultural limitations
  • Corn has little protein compared to other food
    crops
  • Maya had few domesticated plants and animals
  • Mayan agriculture was less intensive
  • Corn could not be stored for more than one
    yearhumid climate
  • No animal tranport or plows

11
  • Low food production Maya remained divided into
    many small kingdoms, perpetual warfare

12
Copan
  • Western Honduras, steep hills
  • Hills more productive than valley but erode
    quickly
  • Earliest date 426 AD, Latest 822 AD
  • Health of skeletal remains deteriorated from
    650-850 as hills eroded
  • Increased competition for valley farmland

13
Copan (cont.)
  • Palace burned around 850 as king failed to
    deliver rain and prosperity
  • Population dropped in 950 to 15,000 (peak was
    27,000)
  • No signs of people after 1250

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Maya Collapse
  • 1. Not all Maya collapsed at once
  • 2. Some Maya (those with stable water supplies)
    survived till European contact
  • 3. Kings collapsed before general population
  • 4. War led to some collapses
  • 5. Some cities fell, others thrived

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Was there really a collapse?
  • 90-99 of population disappear after 800 AD
  • Southern lowlands (formerly most densely
    populated) are abandoned
  • Kings, long count calendar, political and
    cultural institutions disappeared

16
War
  • Fighting intensified during collapse period
  • Kings fought to take each other captive
  • Losers were tortured and sacrificed

17
Torture and Sacrifice
  • Fingers pulled from sockets
  • Teeth pulled
  • Lower jaw removed
  • Lips and fingertips cut off
  • Fingernails pulled out
  • Lips pinned through
  • Tied into ball and rolled down stairs

18
Drought in Maya Country
  • Dry from 475-250 BC
  • Wet after 250 BC (during rise of pre-Classic Maya
    civilization)
  • Drought from 125-250 AD (El Mirador and other
    cities collapse)
  • Drought around 600 AD (decline of Tikal)
  • Worst drought in 7,000 years around 800 AD (time
    of Classic collapse)

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Depopulation
  • Centrel Peten contained 3-14 million Maya at its
    peak, only 30,000 at Spanish arrival, about 3,000
    after Spanish occupation
  • Cortez almost starved in this area because of so
    few villages and corn, he passed within miles of
    Tikal and Palenque but saw nothing

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Depopulation (cont.)
  • Central Peten contained about 25,000 people by
    1960s (less than 1 of peak Mayan population)
  • 300,000 by 1980s
  • Half of Peten is deforested
  • ¼ of Honduran forests destroyed from 1964-1989

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Questions
  • How are the collapse of the Maya similar to
    Easter Island?
  • How are the Maya similar to us today?
  • If our society were to collapse, how would it
    happen?
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