By Thaleia Sfaelou  (A Class)


With their ingenious architectural techniques and sophisticated concepts of astronomy and mathematics, the Maya were among the greatest of all ancient civilizations. At their peak, around A.D. 800, the Maya totaled 15 million people ranging from present-day Mexico to Honduras. Then, suddenly, their society collapsed, leaving cities deserted and immense pyramids in ruins. What caused the collapse of the Maya civilization?

Researchers now suspect that climate change is the answer. According to one study, a long period of dry climate, with three intense droughts, led to the Maya’s end. These droughts matched downturns in the Maya culture, such as abandonment of cities and decreased stone carving and building activity. According to this thesis, the Maya were particularly at risk because 95 percent of their population depended wholly on lakes, ponds and rivers that provided just 18 months’ supply of water for drinking and agriculture.

Nevertheless, this drought theory is still controversial. Some archaeologists believe the Maya’s fall can only be understood in the context of the social and political conditions prevalent at the time. A weak economic base and a period of political instability, they, argue, made the Maya’s collapse more likely.