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The Mayan Civilization History Essay

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Updated: Sep 8th, 2021

In the 17th century, the kingdom dubbed the Mayan society comprised of influential cities that covered both north of Honduras and south of Mexico. The states housed several inhabitants governed by powerful leaders who controlled the mighty militaries. The influential leaders proclaimed to have come from the heavenly bodies such as the planets and stars (Holm, 2012).

The beliefs of the Mayan society reached its apex in 800 AD before finally collapsing and disappearing. The apex was marked by successful long-distance trade, the celebration of influential leaders’ achievements through making stone curves and lining up of huge temples. Besides, given that the Mayan emerged from Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula’s rainforest, the civilization was densely populated and proved to be a sophisticated society in that era (Fash, 2014).

According to Peterson and Haug (2005), in 950 AD, the society was reported to have mysteriously disappeared. The famous states appeared to be ruined and were reclaimed by the rainforests. The abrupt disappearance of this civilization remains a mystery, but most scholars have constructed theories to explain what could have occurred to the once flourishing Mayan society.

Theories explaining the Mayan disappearance

The starvation theory

The Mayan society comprised of agriculturalists who produced food to feed the population (Peterson & Haug, 2005). The agricultural land was made ready for cultivation via a technique called cut and burn. Through this technique, the agriculturalists had to bring down the vegetation and trees in the region as well as burn down everything that remained.

After that, crops such as squash, beans, and cornflakes were planted while simple fishing took place in the lakes and coastlines. Since the land in the rainforests hardly had any nutrients, the technique used by farmers just produced crops that could sustain the population for only five years. The cultivated areas were depleted and eroded due to continuous cultivation thus resulting in less annual food production. In the end, the Mayan farmers could hardly generate sufficient crops to feed the entire civilization.

The weather change concept

The ancient Mayan society was bound to be affected by changes in the climatic conditions. For instance, scholars in their studies show that the drought, which affected the production capacity of farmers, could have resulted from the farming technique (cut and burn) used. The technique led to the cutting down of more trees (deforestation) and the consequent rise in land temperature.

The effect was global warming and prolonged droughts that made farming difficult. However, efficient water management strategies were used by the Mayan to reduce food and water scarcities, but the prolonged droughts could hardly allow farmers to grow crops enough to feed the inhabitants (Simonian, 2010).

Plausible theory

Scholars researching on the abrupt disappearance of the Mayan did not offer sufficient evidence, specifically stating how this society collapsed. However, research studies indicate that the Mayan society collapsed due to a blend of factors explained in the theories (Scholl, 2009). Despite coming up with different theories explaining the end of the Mayan society, the weather change concept explains the events that led to the downfall of this civilization.

First, human activities such as the cutting down of rainforests (deforestation) to clear land for cultivating crops triggered the variation in weather conditions. For instance, logging reduced the number of water catchment areas and exposed the agricultural lands to erosion given that there were no vegetation covers. Hence, direct raindrops could cause floods that washed away vegetation and droughts that eventually reduced the supply of foodstuffs.

Second, deforestation reduced the level of water evaporation given that the uncovered lands hardly permitted cosmological emission. The effect was less precipitation and rising levels of seawaters that caused the Mayan seaside residents to move to the central areas. As a result, the Mayan society exhausted the available resources and lost foodstuffs accruing from fishing and seaside farming.


Fash, W. (2014). Changing perspectives on Maya civilization. Annual Review Anthropology, 23(4): 181-208.

Holm, K. (2012). Everyday life in the Maya civilization. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group.

Peterson, L. & Haug, G. (2005). Climate and the collapse of the Mayan civilization. American Scientists, 93(14): 322-329.

Scholl, E. (2009). The Mayan civilization. Newark, US: Mitchell Lane Publishers, Incorporated.

Simonian, J. (2010). Defending the land of the jaguar: A history of conservation in Mexico. USA: University of Texas Press.

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