chapter  5
The ancient maya
Sustainability and collapse?
ByB. L. Turner
Pages 12

Arguably no civilization collapse has received more attention, either in the public or scholarly literature, than that of the Classic Period lowland Maya. House sites, both rural and peri-urban, maintained orchard-gardens, leading to at least one assessment crediting the sustainability of Maya cities to this land use. The heartlands reside in a seasonal tropical environment that entertains an extended winter dry season increasing in length and intensity from south to north. The amount of Maya deforestation in the lowlands has long been debated and surely varied by location and history of occupation. The greater Maya lowlands witnessed a prolonged period of decreasing precipitation from about 2500 to 1000 bce, a period of Maya development in the lowlands, reducing overall forest cover. Assessments of the sustainability of the ancient lowland Maya must begin with the recognition that the civilization flourished for 3000 years through innovative environmental engineering and resource management.