Mayan civilization collapsed because of resource depletion, not disease or warfare

June 3rd, 2009 - 2:36 pm ICT by ANI  

London, June 3 (ANI): New evidence, in the form of inferior wood in ancient temples, has emerged for the theory that the Mayan civilization collapsed because they ran out of resources, rather than, say, disease or warfare.

According to a report in New Scientist, the evidence was found by researchers led by David Lentz, a palaeoethnobotanist at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, US, in wooden beams and lintels from all six major temples and two palaces within the ancient city of Tikal in Guatemala.

The builders of the ancient Mayan temples at Tikal in Guatemala switched to inferior wood a few decades before they suddenly abandoned the city in the 9th century AD.

The shift is the strongest evidence yet that Mayan civilization collapsed because they ran out of resources, rather than disease or warfare.

The first three temples, built before AD 741, used only large, straight logs of the sapodilla tree - a particularly strong wood that is nevertheless easy to carve with ceremonial inscriptions.

But after that date, large sapodilla logs were almost entirely replaced in temple construction by logwood, a smaller, gnarly tree that is almost impossible to carve.

“It’s definitely an inferior material,” said Lentz, who reasons that the temple-builders would only have accepted logwood if they had run out of suitable sapodilla trees to harvest.

Earlier, studies of pollen deposits have suggested that deforestation and soil erosion were increasing in the region as Mayan civilisation neared its collapse.

But, the temple timbers of Tikal are the first to show that ecological overexploitation directly affected Mayan culture. (ANI)

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