Late Classic Maya Collapse by yaofenji


									Late Classic Maya Collapse

      A.D. 800-900

   Most impressive buildings date to
    Terminal Classic
   Major construction virtually ceased
    after 810 A. D.
        last date at Yaxchilan between AD 810-
        Bonampak AD 800
        Copan shortly after AD 800
Representation of the Classic Maya
Collapse, from Lowe, 1985

   slowdown in construction and erection
    of monuments
   lack of hieroglyphic texts
   long-distance trade contacts ended
   “Collapse" may be a poor term
   Failure more complete in core than in
   Decline most profound at Tikal
       population at Tikal only one-tenth of pre-AD 800
       populations appear to continue in vicinity of Late
       increase of activity in northern Lowlands
   Population centers abandoned
Reasons: internal factors
   natural disasters
       Earthquakes:evidence at Xunantunich and
       hurricanes
       Epidemics/disease
           yellow fever
               presence in monkeys suggests it may be indigenous
           skeletal evidence from Tikal and Altar suggest
            nutritional decline
Internal Factors, con’d

   ecological disasters
       decline in soil fertility
       over exploitation
       failure of swidden agriculture
       failure of productivity of grasslands
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
   Sediment cores were collected from the
    central basin in a water depth of 6.9 m.
Lake Chichancanab looking towards
the eastern hills
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.
Lake Punta Laguna located in the northeastern
section of the Yucatan Peninsula
     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
   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).

     Possible period of draught
    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
       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
    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
        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
  Evidence: Copan

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

     One side of this altar was completed, but the other sides were left
     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.

        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.
       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
       At some point, these
        houses were abandoned.
        Eventually, some houses
        were completely buried by
        erosion debris.
  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.
    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
         These in turn caused malnutrition and disease, which were clear from
          the anemia shown in the skulls—even 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
    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.

   Anomaly, because it
    continued beyond
    the Classic period.
   Lamanai, or
    crocodile," began
    around 1500 B.C.

    Lamanai, con’d
   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
   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.

Lamanai New River Lagoon
Reconstructed Main Temple
Main Temple Under Construction
Lamanai ball court
Lamanai temple with mask
Lamanai Mask
Lamanai Stela 9
Lamanai Crocodile
Goodbye Lamanai
So, why did the Classic Maya

   Does one reason fit all?
   Do several reasons fit all?
   Different reasons for different sites?

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