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A Brief Introduction of Mayan Civilization


he Mayans were the Indigenous people of Central America and they Mayan culture was well-established by 1000 BCE. The common characteristics of the Mayans were that they had a common culture and religion. The term ‘Mayan’ originate from the ancient city of Mayapan, which is the last capital of the Mayan kingdom in the post-classic period. The Maya people refer themselves by ethnicity and language bonds such as Quiche or Yucatec. They were the most mysterious tribe discovered in the 1840s by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederuck Catherwood. This essay will look into the origin as well as the sudden decline of the Mayans in the history.

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History of Mayan Civilization


In history, the settlement of Mayan dates back to 2000 BC. They used to live in northern Central America and southern Mexico. They are known for their sophisticated calendar systems and hieroglyphic writing as well as the achievements in agriculture. During 250 A.D, the Classic period of the Maya came and during their period, they built various temples and palaces. By the end of the Classic Period in 900 A.D, all northern lowland cities such as the northern Guatemala and Honduras were abandoned. This form of downfall of the place did not took place immediately. Instead, it occurred over time in the period between 800 to 925 A.D. However, what reasons lead to such collapse is not known and it is still a mystery.




Research scholars have given various reasons for the fall of the Maya civilizations. Some of these reasons are overpopulation, warfare, drought, environmental degradation and shifting trade routes. There is an argument that various complex factors could be the cause behind the collapse. However, it is clear that many of the Mayans did not disappear immediately after the collapse. Some of the regions in the northern lowlands such as the Chichen Itza and later Mayan also came up. Despite the above developments, the Maya civilization still continue to exists in regions like Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala.

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Reason of Mayan Civilization Collapse


The common argument regarding the Maya civilization is that why did they collapsed and should it be called a collapse or not. The ancient Maya did not had one central leader like the common norm and they were not unified together in a single state. Instead, their kingdom was divided into various small states. However, there was no collapse of other Maya cities. In contrast, various Maya cities fell at different times. Many of the Maya states still exist even after their region was ravaged by wars. When discussing about the collapse of the Maya cities, the research scholar have linked it to the existence of political and environmental problems. Based on the analysis of speleothems, the structure in the caves such as the stalagmites show that drought was struck between the year 800 and 930 A.D. The powerful Maya kings also relied on other urban reservoirs for access to clean drinking water and the kings lost their means of power. This decrease in rainfall increases problems for the existing ruler of the time.


Another argument related to the downfall of the Maya is linked to political problems. The problem of persistent droughts resulted in the loss of interest or trust among the rulers. The event of droughts followed by political issues also resulted in other problems such as disrupted agriculture, maintenance of water storage systems and wastage of resources on warfare. The argument by Lucero was that some of Maya region experienced problems such as deforestation and lower water levels too. Lack of rainfall had negative effect on canoe trade as the water level significantly dropped and there was no travelling via canoe. It is also argued that collapse of one area results in a boom of the other area. The area that was depopulated as a consequence of drought was the Cochuah region of the Yucatan Peninsula. Thus, due to drought, most of the occupants were lost. This pattern of collapse of one region and the booming of the other regions continued during those times.


The Last Maya state was conquered and taken over by the Spanish in 1697. The people continued in Maya went on tolerating discrimination and also revolted against Spain and the government.  The three main factors that have been cited by other authors regarding the factors contributing to Maya collapse are warfare between city-states, overpopulation and drought. These issues were found throughout the cities. The concept of warfare was part of the Maya culture for centuries. During the late classic period, war seemed to have the most damaging effects. The conquest of territory became a major priority and it increased the agricultural production and resources required for the task. Large number of arrowhead was found in these cities and it further predicted that life was precarious in those regions.


The other factor is that there might be military threat from other foreign states. Some archaeological findings that give evidence of those factors are at Ceibal. It gives indications about the way Wat ul or a figure is depicted, a figure in the mask of Ehecatl, wind god of Central Mexico and the orange pottery from the Gulf coast. Thirdly, overpopulation resulted in unbearable strain on the organization too. For instance, many Maya cities were found to be heavily populated. In addition, scientific evidence also revealed that there were many Maya lowland that suffered serious droughts between the year 800 and 1050. The issue of drought was associated with other issues such as water shortage, lack of rain and repeated crop failures. However, there is no record for a large population movement. Although some cities were suffering from droughts and there were other lakes and rivers that never dried up.


To conclude, there are combination of various interconnected factors that contributed to the downfall of the Classic Maya empire. The key factors that were considered were warfare, social disorder, over-population and inappropriate climatic condition. These problems came up in varying degrees and various timings. These sequences together contributed to the end of established order of the southern Maya lowlands. 

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