The Fall of the Ancient Maya: Solving the Mystery of the Maya Collapse by David L. Webster, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
The Fall of the Ancient Maya: Solving the Mystery of the Maya Collapse

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

by David L. Webster
     
 

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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

Overview

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 a.d. 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 Copán, Tikal, Dos Pilas, and Piedras Negras to reveal the subtle complexity and variety of the collapse across the Maya world. Enhanced by illuminating cross-cultural comparisons, and written in a personal, engaging style, this is the most satisfyingand convincing analysis yet produced of the downfall of the New World's greatest ancient civilization. 90 b/w illustrations.

Author Biography: David Webster is Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University and the author of several books on the Maya world.

Editorial Reviews

Archaeology
Webster inserts people and color into a discussion of the evolution of Maya political organization.
Library Journal
The mystique of the ancient Maya dates from the early 19th century, when explorers in Central America rediscovered temple and palace complexes, astronomical observatories, and monuments with hieroglyphic inscriptions. The image of a lost civilization absorbed by jungle has fueled the popular imagination, leading to much speculation about how and why the classic Maya culture collapsed. Webster (anthropology, Pennsylvania State Univ.) here outlines what is known about that culture and discusses the meaning of civilization as applied to the ancient Maya. He notes that the Maya represented not a united empire but a group of kingdoms sharing an elite culture that did not survive the collapse, though descendants of the ancient Maya still live in the same geographical areas. Webster also reviews evidence from archaeology, paleography, and historical writings and discusses theories of the collapse, concluding that it was not sudden but gradual and that its causes vary with location and may be attributed to overpopulation, environmental degradation, warfare, and the decline of kingship ideology. This excellent overview of classic Maya culture and history will be of interest to both the specialist and the general reader. For all libraries. Lucille M. Boone, San Jose P.L., CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780500051139
Publisher:
Thames & Hudson
Publication date:
05/01/2002
Series:
Most Beautiful Villages Series
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.64(w) x 9.52(h) x 1.67(d)

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