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9433Ma: Drought and the Maya Collapse

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  • David R. Hixson
    Jan 22, 2003
      >Jerry Ek wrote:
      >"The population expansion that is very well documented in the
      >archaeological data from the Puuc region contradicts any model of
      >migrations for the purpose of accessing ground water aquifers.
      >The Puuc region is a series of hills located high above the water
      >table, making the use of underground water sources (for any
      >purpose, much less irrigation), impossible."

      I must agree with Jerry Ek and Jeff Baker on this one. The puuc
      zone sits hundreds of feet above the Yucatan aquifer, and relied
      almost exclusively upon man-made rainwater collection features.
      To explain the (well documented) population expansion as being
      caused by folks fleeing a drought would not fit the current data
      (see the excellent research by Nick Dunning). The migration
      scenario would also fail to explain the contemporaneous
      depopulation of other northern Maya areas with excellent access
      to ground water.

      Martin Peach wrote:
      >--I suggest that a general crisis of confidence slowly set in
      >after the almanacs which had previously been able to predict the
      >weather with better than chance accuracy (due to their empirically
      >determined 52 year cycle) had obviously stopped working, resulting
      >in a decline of the authority of the elite and descent into tribal
      >warfare, accompanied by a retreat into hill forts for security,
      >which then gives rise to the illusion af a population increase,

      The biggest problem with this scenario is that, even though some
      Puuc sites exhibit defensive features (such as perimeter walls),
      they are clearly not laid out as hilltop forts (e.g. see the
      Valley of Oaxaca). Those that do exhibit defensive features were
      likely responses to an increase in inter-polity warfare, possibly
      associated with Chichen's expansion, not due to a crisis in the
      calendar caused by drought.

      Just my $0.02


      David R. Hixson
      Tulane University
      Department of Anthropology

      Email: dhixson@...
      Mesoamerican Photo Archives Project:

      Copyright � AZTLAN <AZTLAN@...> 2002.
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