End of Mayan Civilization

What happened to the civilization of the ancient Maya?

The truth is, no one knows for sure. It is a mystery, but there are some theories about what may have caused Mayan civilization to collapse.

One theory is that the Maya were conquered or seriously reduced in power by another tribe in Central America. Another is that a natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, or plague caused the decline of the Mayas. Perhaps the most plausible explanation has to do with what made it possible for Mayan civilization to begin in the first place – food.

The Maya were able to build a civilization of great cities, laws, writing, and math and science because they were able to produce a surplus of food. If food is no longer available in surplus, the civilization cannot survive.

Several things could have caused the system of food production to collapse. One, the Mayan farmers may have revolted. If the large labor force required to produce food for the entire civilization leaves the farms, that is all she wrote.

Two, the cities may have outgrown the ability of farmers to produce surplus food given the farming technologies of the day. The Mayas used slash and burn agriculture, and this tends to deplete soil fairly quickly.

Three, a particularly long drought or series of droughts could have made it impossible to grow enough food to support the Mayan cities. This theory, at least with regard to the collapse of the cities in the Yucatan, was examined in a recent National Geographic program – “Quest for the Lost Maya .” The episode examines new findings in the northern area of the Maya and what they suggest about the civilization’s demise, among other interesting insights and conclusions.

Whatever happened to Mayan civilization, its collapse is just another reminder that all civilizations eventually come to an end.