The Fall of the Ancient Maya

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

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This title provides the most satisfying and convincing analysis yet produced of the downfall of the New Worlds greatest ancient more

Product details

  • Hardback | 368 pages
  • 164 x 234 x 44mm | 898.11g
  • Thames & Hudson Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0500051135
  • 9780500051139
  • 853,646

Review quote

'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 more

Review Text

The Mayan ruins of the Central American forests rank alongside the Pyramids of Ancient Egypt as history's most spectacular architectural triumphs. Archaeological research shows us that the engineering and design achievements of this mysterious people were mirrored in their complex and sophisticated societies. Their civilization flourished for more than a thousand years in the southern Lowlands... and then suffered a catastrophic collapse. Palaces and monuments became ruined and were abandoned to the jungle, and whole settlements either died out or migrated. Despite the best efforts of historians and archaeologists the world over, no one has quite managed to pinpoint the reason for the Mayan decline and fall. There are, as one might imagine, parallels with the fall of Rome, but because of the paucity of contemporary accounts, analysis has proved much more difficult. The study of this courtly and well-organized society has also been somewhat overshadowed by the many myths that have sprung up about it, particularly among lay people. Webster, for example, cites a casual acquaintance who was horrified to discover that the Maya built fortifications and weapons and waged battles; for some reason, there has evolved a popular belief that, unlike the Aztecs, the Maya were primarily an artistic and pacifist race. Webster is fascinated by his subject, yet keen to dispel any ideas of glamour that might adhere to it. He makes the point that the decline of the Maya was not, in fact, as decisive a happening as the folklore would have us believe. Even as late as the 16th century, Spanish explorers still encountered viable Mayan settlements, to the extent of bemoaning the need to transport dozens of different interpreters with them. Rather unromantically, the author finally comes to the conclusion that it was a combination of internecine warfare, royal rivalries and the consequences of feeding an expanding population with unsustainable slash-and-burn agricultural techniques that precipitated gradual disaster. (Kirkus UK)show more

About David Webster

David Webster is Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University and the author of several books on the Maya world. He has carried out many excavations at Maya centres, including Copan, Becan and Pledras more