END OF THE MAYAN EMPIRE
What happened to the Mayans?
The End of the Maya Empire:
In 800 C.E., the Maya Empire consisted of a number of powerful
city-states spreading from southern Mexico to northern Honduras.
These cities were home to vast populations and were ruled by a
dominant elite who could command mighty armies and claimed to
be descended from the stars and planets themselves. Maya culture
was at its peak: mighty temples were lined up in precision with
the night sky, stone carvings were made to celebrate the
accomplishments of great leaders and long-distance trade was
flourishing. Yet a hundred years later, the cities were in ruins,
abandoned and left to the jungle to reclaim. What happened to
Classic Maya Culture:
• The Classic Era Maya civilization was quite advanced. Powerful city-
states wanted power militarily and culturally. Close ties with the
grand city of Teoithuacán, far to the north, helped Maya civilization
reach its peak around 600-800 C.E. The Maya were keen
astronomers, plotting every aspect of the sky and accurately
predicting eclipses and other phenomena. They had a series of
overlapping calendars which were quite accurate. They were
polytheistic which meant they believed in many gods.
The Collapse of Maya Civilization:
The fall of the Maya is one of history’s great
mysteries. One of the mightiest civilizations
in the ancient Americas simply fell into ruin
in a very short time. Mighty cities like Tikal
were abandoned and Maya stonemasons
stopped making temples. There are many
theories as to what happened to the Maya,
but little consensus among experts.
Theory 1 -The Disaster Theory:
Early Maya researchers believed that some catastrophic
event may have doomed the Maya. An earthquake,
volcanic eruption or sudden epidemic disease could have
destroyed cities and killed or displaced tens of
thousands of people, bringing the Maya civilization
crashing down. These theories have been discarded
today, however, largely because of the fact that the
decline of the Maya took about 200 years: some cities
fell while others thrived, at least for a while longer. An
earthquake, disease or other widespread calamity would
have snuffed out the great Maya cities more or less
*STOP AND DO QUESTION! (A)
Theory 2: The Warfare Theory
The Maya were once thought to have been a
peaceful, pacific culture. New discoveries and newly
deciphered stone carvings clearly indicate that the
Maya warred frequently and viciously among
themselves. They fought for land, resources, or
religious reasons within their City-States. War brings
with it economic disaster as well as collateral
damage that could have caused a domino effect in
the Maya cities.
Theory 3: The Famine Theory
Many historians thought that part of why the
Mayan civilization fell apart was that they
could not grow enough food to feed their
-Farming was not easy in some regions they
lived. They lived in thick forests with little
surface water and poor soil.
D) What did the Mayans do to try to solve
-In mountain areas, they built terraces or flat, earth steps into the
hills to create more space for farming.
-In swamps, they constructed canals to drain extra water.
E) They also tried SLASH AND BURN
-This is technique was used to clear land
by purposely cutting and burning
plants/trees. They would then plant their
crops in the cleared land spaces.
-Unfortunately, what they did not know
was that this also took nutrients out of the
-Soil could then only be used 2-4 years
before it no longer could grow crops.