jueves, 3 de febrero de 2011

The Ancient Maya and their Forest: A Co-Creative Landscape by Dr. Anabel Ford

Hope you have the oportunity to attend to this colloquium where Dr. Anabel Ford will present an alternative solution of the Maya forest landscape.

The Mayanist.

Rethinking Collapse

In this colloquium presentation, Dr. Anabel Ford of ISBER/MesoAmerican Research Center, University of California, Santa Barbara will present a new model consisting of an alternative explanation of the origins of the Maya forest landscape.
Popular views of the Classic Maya Collapse present a tableau of an environment destroyed for the avarice of the culture itself.  Too many demands on the populace, unchecked population growth, overuse of the landscape, this is a convenient view; it reflects our own disastrous relationship to our environment in general and our treatment of the tropics in specific. Our Western view of the tropics as challenging and difficult, even inclement, colors our interpretations. How could the Maya civilization arise in this setting?  The collapse seems inevitable.
We know that the agrarian Maya emerged in the southern Maya lowlands and thrived as a growing civilization for some 2,000 years. By the Classic Period (AD 250-900), they were recording important events in carved stone, on decorated pottery vessels, and inside bark books. The Maya documented regal facets of life, -- challenges to power, alliances and visits, as well as celebratory proceedings-- recorded from the earliest times through the Spanish conquest.
Throughout this demonstration of vitality and prosperity, the landscape was populated by farmers whose production fueled the growth and development of the Maya. The success of these farming strategies sustained this remarkable growth before the period of the collapse.  It is difficult to imagine that these strategies were the source of the abandonment of the civic infrastructure of the Maya.  What could have gone wrong?

Scholars have accepted without question the environmental thesis that the Maya destroyed their landscape. We can see that today’s large populations and unsustainable land use practices lead quickly to environmental destruction. This is the received wisdom for the Maya and then they disappeared. Certainly this must explain the ancient Maya case.  Or does it?

The leading evidence that the Maya destroyed their environment is derived from paleoclimatic reconstructions based on cores of lake sediments deposited in the past.  Yet these early studies operated under the premise that the ancient Maya were the principal agents of environmental change.  This position assumes that there was no occupation before the rise of the Maya civilization. Further, the pollen data emphasize wind borne pollen, while more than 90% of the plants are invisible in lake core records. 

Finally, the timing of the environmental events that are the harbinger of destruction initiates before the appearance of the Maya settlements on the landscape and persist across the growth and development of the Maya.

Friday, February 4th, 2011 • 4:00 PM - 5:15 PM • GRG 102

ISBER/Mesoamerican Research Center UCSB


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