Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Alissya from , . Alissya Wonders, “how did the mayans dissapear” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Alissya !
When you think of the great cultures of the ancient world, what peoples come to mind? The Greeks and Romans probably spring to mind instantly. You might also think of the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians.
The Maya Empire originated and thrived in the tropical area that we now call Guatemala. Over time, their empire expanded northward into the Yucatan Peninsula in modern-day Mexico. As a culture, the Maya were experts at many things: agriculture, language, mathematics, art, architecture, and even astronomy.
The Maya reached their height of influence and power during the sixth century A.D. Mysteriously, only a few hundred years later, they were gone. By around 900 A.D., nearly all of their large stone cities had been abandoned. What happened to this great society?
The disappearance of the Maya has intrigued scholars for hundreds of years. Recently, new scientific theories have emerged that might explain the demise of the Maya. Some scientists now believe the Maya probably contributed significantly to their own downfall.
For hundreds of years, the Maya dominated southern Mexico and Central America. They were so successful as a culture that their population grew to be quite large. At their peak, the density of the Maya population was similar to modern-day Los Angeles with over 2,000 people per square mile.
How did the Maya support such a large and growing population? They were excellent farmers who excelled at growing corn. To grow enough crops, the Maya had to cut down large areas of forest to make room for more fields. They also used trees for building materials and as fuel for limestone kilns that produced the lime plaster they used to build the buildings and temples that remain to this day.
Scientists believe the mass-scale deforestation that the Maya were responsible for ultimately led to their demise. The deforestation likely led to climate change in the form of rising temperatures and reduced rainfall.
These factors combined to create conditions that led to a severe drought that lasted nearly a century. The effects of the drought, plus unsustainable farming practices, meant that the Maya no longer had the food and water they needed to survive. Large cities were eventually abandoned as people moved away to search for the resources they needed to survive.
Today, scientists continue to study the Maya to learn important lessons that can still be applied in modern times. Discovering how the Maya contributed to their own demise can help modern scientists and farmers develop sustainable farming practices that will prevent large-scale disasters in the future.