Updated 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The real end of the Mayas

Archaeologists have long been unaware of what caused what is known as the "Classic Mayan collapse," that is, the abandonment of many cities of ancient civilization during the 9th century AD. C. Now, researchers have verified that the Maya also experienced an earlier collapse in the 2nd century BC. Known as the "Preclassic collapse", which is much more unknown.

In this regard, University of Arizona archaeologist Takeshi Inomata suggests along with his colleagues in a new article to be published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States that both collapses followed similar paths. These occurred among multiple waves of social instability; Wars and political crises that led to the rapid fall of some of the major urban centers.

These conclusions are based on a very refined chronology developed from radiocarbon, and in an unprecedented way, has been used to date the archaeological site of El Ceibal, in Guatemala, where the team has been working for more than a decade.

While more general chronologies suggest that Mayan collapses occurred gradually, this new, more precise dating suggests more complex patterns in which political crises and later recoveries inevitably led to collapses.

"What we found is that the two periods of collapse - the Classic and the Preclassic - follow similar patterns," explains Inomata, lead author of the study and professor at the University of Arizona School of Anthropology. "It is not just a simple collapse, but there are several waves of collapse. First, there are smaller oscillations, linked to war and some political instability, and then there is the greater collapse, in which many urban centers were abandoned. Afterwards, it seems that there was a certain recovery in certain places, after which there was a new collapse. "
Based on data obtained by radiocarbon dating, ceramic remains and highly controlled archaeological excavations, researchers were able to establish a fairly accurate chronology of population fluctuations, and how building construction increased and decreased in the area.

While the findings may not solve the mystery of exactly why Mayan collapses occurred, they are an important step toward a better understanding of how they developed.


Melissa Burham, a graduate student in anthropology at the University of Arizona and co-author of the article says that "it is very interesting that these collapses seem so similar, but nevertheless they have occurred in very different time periods. Understanding of the chronology of the process, which can potentially serve as a template to look for similar patterns in other sites. "

Inomata is optimistic about the future: "Radiocarbon dating has been used for a long time, but now we are reaching an interesting time, because the estimates are becoming more accurate." He adds: "we are getting to the point where we can come to understand certain social patterns."