Questions to Consider


1. You can skim the first 9 paragraphs.  Diamond uses them to contextualize his discussion of the Maya collapse.


2. Why are so many Maya ruins considered "pure" archaeological sites?  "cowered" is supposed to be "covered".  Think about this question in the context of Denevan's "Pristine Myth", but remember that the Maya did not collapse because of the introduction of European diseases.


3. What were the "environmental challenges" for Mayan farmers?


4. How did the Maya use technology to solve some of those environmental problems?


5. Note the high maize intake.


6. With what sort of farming system did the Maya produce so much maize?  You learned about this system in the reading by West.


7. Compare the productivity of US, Egyptian and Mayan farmers according to Diamond's measure of productivity?  How people could each farmer feed?


8. How did the low productivity of Maya agriculture influence the social stratification of their society? 


9. How did agricultural productivity influence Maya political organization?


10. Considering that 80% of Mayan society farmed, why do you think that religious/polital leaders were so concerned with the calendar?


11. When was the Classic Maya period?


12. Describe Copan's physical geography.  Where you have wanted to farm?  Slope or valley?  Why?


13. When was Copan's peak?  What is the evidence?


14. What was the sequence of habitats occupied by the Maya of Copan?


15. "What caused that pull back of population from the hills?"


16. When did Copan's decline begin?  what is the evidence?


17. How did the pull back from the hills stress Copan?


18. So, how long was Copan occupied before it was abandoned?  When was it abandoned?


19. What does Diamond by "power cycling"?  It's important for understanding the complexities of the so called collapse.


20. How do we know that the Maya were not "gentle and peaceful people"?


21. How were the fluctuations in Mayan civilization influenced by climate?


22. Which Mayan area was most affected by the collapse?  For what two reasons?


23. How did population growth doom the Maya?


24.  Why couldn't Maya leaders foresee the collapse?


24. You can skim the rest of the article.  However, similar to the first 9 paragraphs, I think you will find it interesting.  Diamond strongly believes that our civilization must learn the lessons of the Maya collapse.