Once the mightiest civilization in the America’s, the ancient Mayan Civilization declined and fell during a space of a few hundred years. Leaving behind mysterious temples, a calendar that foretold the 26.000 year cosmic alignment in 2012, and a legacy of its surviving descendants being victimized since the civilization collapsed. What is the message this ancient civilization has left us?
All civilizations end, the ancient Mayan astronomers knew this, and throughout history empires have come and gone. Some short-lived, others simply declined and fell like the Roman Empire did- through a much longer period of natural decline.
We still do not really know that much about the Maya, as much of its remaining culture was either destroyed or stolen by Spanish invaders, after Columbus rediscovered the Americas. But experts are beginning to agree that there were several root causes to the eventual collapse of this empire.
What were the causes of the collapse of the Mayan Civilization after the 9th Century?
The Maya Civilization simply overextended itself, as its success attracted other tribes and the empire grew. This created a need to supply food, shelter and the same level of wealth for all the empires citizens-overextending the empires food supply, and depleting other key resources.
The Maya civilization was a decentralized empire, with differing feudal states being part of the empire, rather like the United States today. The decentralized state worked until certain events like prolonged drought, and possibly city feuds turned the states of the empire against each other.
3. Natural and Man-Made Disasters
Although the Maya were advanced agriculturists, land was still limited. Maya Cities had running water, and had an advanced irrigated agricultural system. Something happened between the 7th and 9th Centuries that created water shortages and prolonged drought. Many City states must of starved as drought created food shortages.
Although the Maya were master agriculturist, the forest around the great cities had to be used as building materials to create the cities we see today. Deforestation depletes the land, eventually turning it into desert, as each harvest effectively worsens with lower water levels. Cities in the later stages of the collapse may have been abandoned- as food became scarcer, and water none existent.
5. Tribal Rivalries
Success breeds jealousy and want. More warlike civilizations like the Aztecs, could of created tribal divisions within the empire as things started to go wrong. Rivalries within’ the civilization, may of created more warrior type leaders- who fought for the resources the civilization needed to survive.
6. Religious Decline
The Roman Empire compounded its decline when it converted to Christianity, the Maya Civilization may of declined because as natural disasters like the great droughts, as people stopped believing in their religious leaders. Even blaming them for the terrible events of possible mass-starvations, invasions, and prolonged drought- once this belief was questioned, they may of lost faith in their own societies.
7. Mass Migration
From a civilization of Nine Million people, the Maya empire had declined to an estimated Two million, by the 9th Century. Many experts ask the question, What happened to these people?. No one really knows, but in theory they either died from famine and wars or simply migrated- Still this is one of the great mysteries of the Maya Civilization.
This cultural collapse of ancient astronomers, gifted agriculturalists, architects, artists, engineers and mathematicians remains a mystery today. But the message it has left us is clear; look after the environment around us, cooperate instead of fight, and recognize even the greatest empires or civilizations do naturally end- one way or another.