Why Did the Mayan Civilization Collapse? Essay

2255 Words Nov 25th, 2012 10 Pages
To gaze upon the majestic ruins of the Mayan civilisation which collapsed over a thousand years ago, one is often stirred with wonder and a deep sense of curiosity (Diamond, 2005, p157-8). What happened to this great empire and what brought about its demise? The tremendous task of erecting such elaborate and colossal structures was clearly performed by the hands of a well-organized and adept group of humans (Crist and Paganini, 1980, pg24). Their empire occupied a vast area of roughly 325000 square kilometres in what is now southern Mexico and northern Central America (Fash, 1994, p182). This report will explore the causes that set in motion the collapse of the Mayan civilisation in the 10th century. I will examine particular elements …show more content…
The natural depressions and sloping of the land were often utilized and modified accordingly (Davis-Salazar, 2003). With an unpredictable rainy season and dry months that could seemingly transform the landscape into a desert, the Mayans had a strong dependency on harvesting rain water through artificial reservoirs to see them through the dry season (Diamond, 2005) (McNeill & McNeill, 2003) . Many adaptions to the landscape were made to increase yield such as creating and sealing depressions to create low-land catchment areas and collecting surface run off through gravity-fed systems into reservoirs (Scarborough et al, 1993, pg136) (Davis-Salazar, 2003). This required a substantial amount of labour and the control of such a critical resource enabled Mayan rulers to employ power relationships over a large population by regulating the water distribution (Lucero, 2002, p815).
Banding together large volumes of water was of a vital nature as it centralized power and assisted in regulating water quality and distribution. The reservoirs in Tikal had a capacity large enough to meet the needs of 10000 people for a period of up to 18 months (Diamond, 2003, p46). Each region within the empire faced different topographic challenges and made adaptions based upon the terrain.
It is evident through archeological findings that the Mayans made

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