James Woods

How Complex Civilizations Collapse

A Case Study of the Ancient Maya with Implications for Modern America Archaeologists have learned that the “collapse” of the Classic Maya civilization was due to interplay of environmental and cultural events. Drought, insect infestations, deforestation, spread of disease, collapse of traditional farming systems, overpopulation, loss of trust in the ruling elite, and increase in the civil unrest all contributed to this event. Though no one factor was sufficient to trigger the collapse, the simultaneous occurrence of several of them was enough to end one of America’s greatest cultures. This slide presentation shows how the story of the Maya is pertinent to modern society, where many similar events are being played out today. This presentation introduces the natural world of the Maya and includes slides from personal research at one of the oldest and largest stone ruins in Guatemala. Massive stucco masks of strange deities adorn the fronts of pyramids built before the time of Christ and provide tantalizing clues about the rise and fall of these resourceful people.