Nancy Gonlin, and David Webster uses a technique called obsidian hydration. The technique allowed them to map the spread and growth of settlements in the Copán Valley and estimate their populations. Between 400 and 450 AD, the population was estimated at around six-hundred people. This rose to a peak of twenty-eight thousand between 750 and 800 AD - larger than London or Paris at the time. HP Compaq 408545-741 Battery
Population then began steady decline. By 900 AD, the population had fallen to fifteen thousand, and by 1200 AD the population was again less than 1000 in Copán.
Some 88 different theories or variations of theories attempting to explain the Classic Maya Collapse have been identified. HP Compaq 408545-761 Battery
From climate change to deforestation to lack of action by Mayan kings, there is no universally accepted collapse theory, although drought is gaining momentum as the leading explanation.
The archaeological evidence of the Toltec intrusion into Yucatán in Seibal, Peten suggests to some the theory of foreign invasion. HP Compaq 409357-001 Battery
The latest hypothesis states that the southern lowlands were invaded by a non-Maya group whose homelands were probably in the gulf coast lowlands. This invasion began in 9th century and set off, within 100 years, a group of events that destroyed the Classic Maya. It is believed that this invasion was somehow influenced by the Toltec people of central Mexico. HP Compaq 409357-002 Battery
However, most Mayanists do not believe that foreign invasion was the main cause of the Classic Maya Collapse; they postulate that no military defeat can explain or be the cause of the protracted and complex Classic Collapse process. Teotihuacan influence across the Maya region may have involved some form of military invasion, HP Compaq 412779-001 Battery
however it is generally noted that significant Teotihuacan-Maya interactions date from at least the Early Classic period, well before the episodes of Late Classic collapse.
Dr Michel Peissel believes that the well documented conquest of Yucatán in the 9th century by the Chichen Itza polity, HP Compaq 415306-001 Battery
led to the rerouting along coastal sea routes of most of the (cacao) trade that used to transit through (and enrich) the major inland cities, which were ruined overnight, as were those of the silk road when Portuguese traders began to transfer silk by ship to Europe from China and Japan. HP Compaq 418867-001 Battery
Peissel's theory, validated by several scholars, explains why the collapse was not general and also why at the time of the collapse of lowland cities other towns flourished - most of them along the new routes opened up by the Chichen Itza maritime traders. To prove the feasibility of this transfer from overland trade routes to the sea, HP Compaq 418871-001 Battery
Dr Peissel with three Mexican archeologists and ten companions travelled 650 kilometers in 1988 on a sea-going Maya dugout from Chunyache in Quintana Roo (Mexico) to the upper reaches of the Mojo River in Belize.
Archaeological evidence indicates that Maya building and expansion projects were at their peak from c. HP Compaq 441675-001 Battery
730 to 790 (specifically during the k'atun), with constant enlargement and building and without any machines or beneficial tools to assist them. During this same time period, signs foreshadowing the collapse of Maya civilizations were beginning to appear. The majority of the burden was placed on peasant workers in the cities, like Tikal and Copan, with a seemingly endless construction, making ball courts and other buildings bigger. HP Compaq 443884-001 Battery
One theory, supported by J. Eric S. Thompson, attributes the collapse of the classic Maya to a hypothesized revolution among these lower Maya social classes. As life became more burdensome, work began to "undermine the religious development and collective enterprise of ordinary people", according to this line of thinking. HP Compaq 443885-001 Battery
The increased burden of work may have caused people to abandon their values and revolt against the elite of society, specifically the priest-rulers, since the Maya were believed to be theocratic and thus ruled by the priests. This might help explain the abrupt collapse of elite functions, as well as unfinished buildings and ceremonial centers. HP Compaq 446398-001 Battery
Since the collapse of various civilizations occurred at various times, it is believed that the revolts of individual groups were a part of a unplanned and impulsive series. In the civilization of Piedras Negras, for example, there seemed to be some sort of violence during this time period that was displayed through various palace buildings being set on fire and a throne being destroyed. HP Compaq 446399-001 Battery
While this seems to be a revolt between the peasants and the priests, the model being called the "priest-peasant" model, it was later discovered that kings ruled during the Pre Classic and Classic period within the Maya social classes rather than priests.
Even though these theories seemed to be a good explanation of the sudden collapse of the Maya civilizations, it still contains problems. HP Compaq 451085-121 Battery
First of all, Thompson's theory does not answer the question of where all the inhabitants went. David Webster believed that the population should have increased, instead of decreasing because of the lack of elite power. Second, it is not understood why the governmental institutions were not remade following the revolts, which actually happened under similar circumstances in places like China. HP Compaq 451085-141 Battery
Third, after a study was done by Elliot Abrams, he came to the conclusion that buildings, specifically in Copan, did not actually need the extensive amount of time and workers to complete the constructions. However, when Thompson had developed this theory, it was during a time period in which the archaeological evidence showed that there were fewer Maya people then as are now HP Compaq 451085-661 Battery
known. Revolutions, peasant revolts, and social turmoil change things, and often are followed by foreign wars, but they run their course. There are no documented revolutions that caused wholesale abandonment of entire regions.It has been hypothesized that the decline of the Maya is related to the collapse of their intricate trade systems, especially those connected to the central Mexican city of Teotihuacán. HP Compaq 451086-001 Battery
Preceding improved knowledge of the chronology of Mesoamerica, Teotihuacan was believed to have fallen during AD 700–750, forcing the "restructuring of economic relations throughout highland Mesoamerica and the Gulf Coast". This remaking of relationships between civilizations would have then given the collapse of the Classic Maya a slightly later date. HP Compaq 451086-121 Battery
However, after knowing more about the events and the time periods that they occurred, it is now believed that the strongest Teotihuacan influence was during the 4th and 5th centuries. In addition, the civilization of Teotihuacan started to lose its power, and maybe even abandoned the city, during AD 600–650. HP Compaq 451086-161 Battery
This differs greatly from the previous belief that Teotihuacano power decreased during AD 700–750. But since the new decline date of AD 600–650 has been accepted, the Maya civilizations are now thought to have lived on, and also prospered “for another century and more” than what was previously believed. Rather than the decline of Teotihuacan directly preceding the collapse of the Maya, their decline is now seen as contributing “to the 6th century ‘hiatus’”. HP Compaq 451086-621 Battery
The disease theory is also a contender as a factor in the Classic Maya Collapse. Widespread disease could explain some rapid depopulation, both directly through the spread of infection itself and indirectly as an inhibition to recovery over the long run. According to Dunn (1968) and Shimkin (1973), infectious diseases spread by parasites are common in tropical rainforest regions, such as the Maya lowlands. HP Compaq 451086-661 Battery
Shimkin specifically suggests that the Maya may have encountered endemic infections related to American trypanosomiasis, Ascaris, and some enteropathogens that cause acute diarrheal illness. Furthermore, some experts believe that, through development of their civilization (that is, development of agriculture and settlements), HP Compaq 451568-001 Battery
the Maya could have created a "disturbed environment," in which parasitic and pathogen-carrying insects often thrive. Among the pathogens listed above, it is thought that those that cause the acute diarrheal illnesses would have been the most devastating to the Maya population. HP Compaq 456864-001 Battery
This is because such illness would have struck a victim at an early age, thereby hampering nutritional health and the natural growth and development of a child. This would have made them more susceptible to other diseases later in life. Such ideas as this could explain the role of disease as at least a possible partial reason for the Classic Maya Collapse. HP Compaq 456865-001 Battery
Mega-droughts hit the Yucatán Peninsula and Petén Basin areas with particular ferocity, for several reasons:
- Thin tropical soils, which decline in fertility and become unworkable when deprived of forest cover;
Regular seasonal drought, drying up M+D surface water; HP Compaq 458640-542 Battery
The colonial Spanish officials accurately documented cycles of drought, famine, disease, and war, providing a reliable historical record of the basic drought pattern in the Maya region.
Climatic factors were first implicated in the Collapse as early as 1931 by Mayanists Thomas Gann and J.E.S. Thompson. HP Compaq 464119-142 Battery
In The Great Maya Droughts, Richardson Gill gathers and analyzes an array of climatic, historical, hydrologic, tree ring, volcanic, geologic, lake bed, and archeological research, and demonstrates that a prolonged series of droughts most likely caused the Classic Maya Collapse. The drought theory provides a comprehensive explanation, HP Compaq 464119-143 Battery
because non-environmental and cultural factors (excessive warfare, foreign invasion, peasant revolt, less trade, etc.) can all be explained by the effects of prolonged drought on Classic Maya civilization.
Climatic changes are, with increasing frequency, found to be major drivers in the rise and fall of civilizations all over the world. HP Compaq 464119-162 Battery
Professors Harvey Weiss of Yale University and Raymond S. Bradley of the University of Massachusetts have written: "Many lines of evidence now point to climate forcing as the primary agent in repeated social collapse." In a separate publication, Weiss illustrates an emerging understanding of scientists: HP Compaq 464119-361 Battery
"Within the past five years new tools and new data for archaeologists, climatologists, and historians have brought us to the edge of a new era in the study of global and hemispheric climate change and its cultural impacts. The climate of the Holocene, previously assumed static, now displays a surprising dynamism, which has affected the agricultural bases of pre-industrial societies. HP Compaq 464119-362 Battery
The list of Holocene climate alterations and their socio-economic effects has rapidly become too complex for brief summary."
The drought theory holds that rapid climate change in the form of severe drought brought about the Classic Maya collapse. According to the particular version put forward by Gill in The Great Maya Droughts, HP Compaq 464119-363 Battery
"[Studies of] Yucatecan lake sediment cores ... provide unambiguous evidence for a severe 200-year drought from AD 800 to 1000 ... the most severe in the last 7,000 years ... precisely at the time of the Maya Collapse."
Climatic modeling, tree ring data, and historical climate data show that cold weather in the Northern Hemisphere is associated with drought in Mesoamerica. HP Compaq 482962-001 Battery
Northern Europe suffered extremely low temperatures around the same time as the Maya droughts. The same connection between drought in the Maya areas and extreme cold in northern Europe was found again at the beginning of the 20th century. Volcanic activity, within and outside Mesoamerica, is also correlated with colder weather and resulting drought, as the effects of the Tambora volcano eruption in 1815 indicate. HP Compaq 484786-001 Battery
Mesoamerican civilization provides a remarkable exception: civilization prospering in the tropical swampland. The Maya are often conceived as having lived in a rainforest, but technically, they lived in a seasonal desert without access to stable sources of drinking water. The exceptional accomplishments of the Maya are all the more remarkable because of their engineered response to the fundamental environmental difficulty of relying upon rainwater rather than permanent sources of water. HP Compaq 484787-001 Battery
“The Maya succeeded in creating a civilization in a seasonal desert by creating a system of water storage and management which was totally dependent on consistent rainfall.” The constant need for water kept the Maya on the edge of survival. “Given this precarious balance of wet and dry conditions, even a slight shift in the distribution of annual precipitation can have serious consequences.” HP Compaq 490306-001 Battery