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? Because they were abandoned and not re-inhabited by later groups. "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? Unpredictable rainy season, dry season, karst of Yucatan provided little surface water, southern Yucatan has a low water table
4. How did the Maya use technology to solve some of those environmental problems? wells, creation of reservoirs by plastering low limestone depressions which collected water.
5. Note the high maize intake. 70%
6. With what sort of farming system did the Maya produce so much maize? Swidden, also known as slash and burn. 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?US farmer produces food for 129 people. Ancient Egyptian farmer fed ~25-30 people. One Mayan farmer could feed ~15 people.
8. How did the low productivity of Maya agriculture influence the social stratification of their society? Such low productivity required 80% of population to farm. Compare to our society's 2%.
9. How did agricultural
productivity influence Maya political organization? Low
productivity kept armies small. Lack of animal powered
transport limited travel to short distances. Mayans were grouped into
numerous small kingdoms
10. Considering that 80% of Mayan
society farmed, why do you think that religious/political leaders were so concerned
with the calendar? The calendar was the responsibility of the leaders.
The calendar dictated the farming cycle and its success. A leader's
success largely depended on how he interpreted the calendar and guided the
11. When was the Classic Maya period? AD 250 - AD 800s
12. Describe Copan's physical geography. Narrow lowland stream valley (tierra caliente), surrounded by steep slopes. The valley included several broad areas. Where would you have wanted to farm? Slope or valley? Why? Valley: flat, fertile land with water for irrigation.
13. When was Copan's peak population? AD 750 - 900 What is the evidence? The number of royal monuments and palaces.
14. What was the sequence of habitats occupied by the Maya of Copan? bottomland - hills - bottomland
15. "What caused that pull back of population from the hills?" Deforestation, erosion of soil and leaching of nutrients made uplands unproductive
16. When did Copan's decline begin? AD 650 What is the evidence? Skeletal evidence of disease and poor nutrition
17. How did the pull back from the hills stress Copan? More population had to live and farm in the limited bottomland pockets.
18. So, how long was Copan occupied before it was abandoned? More than 2200 years. When was it abandoned? AD 1235
19. What does Diamond mean by
"power cycling"? It's important for understanding the
complexities of the so-called collapse. Diamond means that Maya kingdoms
collapsed while others rose, rather than a collapse of every settlement at the
20. How do we know that the Maya were not "gentle and peaceful people"? Archeological findings: fortifications, murals showing warfare, monuments which told of conquests
21. How were the fluctuations in Mayan civilization influenced by climate? A rainy period might have led to the rise of Mayan society. A series of three droughts severely undermined societies. You must remember that climate was so important because agriculture was so important. Prolonged drought meant severe food and water shortages.
22. Which Mayan area was most affected by the collapse? Southern highlands For what two reasons? 1. Densest population; 2. low water table.
23. How did population growth doom the Maya? Increased population degraded soil and forest resources so that they could not feed themselves.
24. Why couldn't Maya leaders foresee the collapse? Slow trends, especially in little understood matters like climate, were difficult to recognize and leaders in the past, similar to leaders today, were focused on immediate issues rather than necessary long-term adaptations.
25. 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.