The Fall of the Ancient Maya: Solving the Mystery of the Maya Collapse

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9780500051139: The Fall of the Ancient Maya: Solving the Mystery of the Maya Collapse
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The most satisfying and convincing analysis yet produced of the downfall of the New World’s greatest ancient civilization.

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Review:

'At last a well-informed, excitingly written, and thoroughly convincing solution to an age-old mystery: what caused the downfall of Classic Maya culture? Webster had drawn on his extensive and deep knowledge of world civilizations to throw light on one of history's greatest demographic tragedies' - Michael D. Coe, author of Breaking the Maya Code and Reading the Maya Glyphs. 'Eloquent, closely argued and authoritative, this is a comprehensive and up-to-date survey of one of archaeology's great mysteries. Everyone interested in the ancient Maya and in the volatility of pre-industrial civilizations should read this timely book' - Brian M. Fagan, author of The Great Journey and Floods, Famines and Emperors. 'Brilliantly evokes a period that is the mirror of our age... Webster draws on decades of fieldwork and a longstanding interest in social conflict to sketch a subtle and rich account that could not have been written even ten years ago' - Stephen Houston, author of Reading the Past: Maya Glyphs and Royal Courts of the Ancient Maya.

Synopsis:

Ancient Maya civilization thrived in the tropics of Central America for more than a thousand years and produced some of the world's finest architecture and art. Then it mysteriously vanished, leaving a landscape of ruins smothered by forests. The Classic Maya collapse is one of the great puzzles of history, ranking alongside the Fall of Rome as an enigma that has intrigued scholars for generations. Drawing upon recent archaeological research and hieroglyphic decipherments, David Webster evaluates the theories and dispels the myths surrounding this contentious topic. Contrary to popular belief, not all Maya centers were abandoned, and Spanish explorers of the sixteenth century encountered still-vigorous Maya polities. Yet the Maya of the southern lowlands did suffer a calamitous decline beginning in the late eighth century AD. Monuments were no longer carved, royal buildings ceased to be constructed or maintained, and whole populations dwindled or simply moved away. What brought about this collapse? Webster paints a picture of a brittle Late Classic world.

Ambitious kings, scheming nobles, and courtly extravagance are set against a backdrop of ever-more destructive wars and an exploding population that led to unsustainable stress on cultivatable land. Without the means to intensify agricultural production, the system simply failed. Professor Webster makes full use of his own and his colleagues' latest discoveries at sites such as Cop n, Tikal, Dos Pilas, and Piedras Negras to reveal the subtle complexity and variety of the collapse across the Maya world.

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