The Mayan civilization has left many mysteries behind. Some of the questions have already been answered, while many still puzzle modern scientists. The once flourishing civilization, which territories covered a huge part of Central America, has disappeared. It has left behind only the monumental pyramids and abandoned cities, as well as the main question – what has happened to the Maya? Around 900 AD the Mayan civilization has totally changed its lifestyle, leaving the cities and moving to rural areas. Different theories propose such reasons for this change, as external invasion, ecological devastation, war among the city-states, agricultural exhaustion, social imbalance etc.
Arthur Demarest (2004) has developed a theory according to which Mayan civilization has abandoned their cities because of a long-lasting war between city-states (p. 275). As this civilization, on the contrast to Incas and Aztecs, did not have one central city but rather a number of equally strong centers, this theory is possible.
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A number of other researchers argue that the growth of city populations, and thus increasing territories for cultivation of crops have led to the devastation of the land and later abandonment of cities. According to Demarest’s theory, the more trees were cut to create crop fields, the less productive and resistant to the rains soil could become, and rains are frequent on this territory. As a result, the remaining soil could not provide cities with enough food. His theory is supported by the studies of NASA archeologist Tom Sever, who states that deforestation of the Mayan lands would have not only led to the erosion of the land, but have also raised the temperature of the territory by around 6 degrees (“The Rise and Fall of the Mayan Empire”, 2004). This temperature boost would have changed the rainfall patterns, which could cause water scarce and extended dry seasons. Thus, urban lifestyle could lead to death of either thirst or hunger. This unwise use of land seems to be a valid reason for the abandonment of Mayan cities.
There are numerous theories on the disappearance of Mayan urban civilization. Some of them seem to be fictional, while others are based on more realistic conclusions. This paper studied the influence of Mayan urban lifestyle on ecology and the latter impact of ecology on the destruction of Mayan urban civilization. This theory might be true, as now we are witnessing the same patterns in the development of our modern civilization. Unwise use of natural resources has already caused a number of natural disasters in recent history. If this phenomenon is affecting civilizations nowadays, why couldn’t it also have influenced the Mayan downfall?
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