Gladis Y. Romero
Prof. Lowell Larry Pullen, Ph.D.
HUM111 – World Cultures I
May 4, 2013
Maya Civilizations was truly remarkable. There is so much to learn from this Ancient society. Due to advance research, new clues have aroused about the disappearance of this magnificent empire. We now know they suffered a calamity, the mighty Maya; timekeepers of the universe, together with their centers of learning were vanished. Their incredible achievements and legacy in astronomy, mathematics, Maya pottery and other Pre-Columbian art as well as monumental constructions in stone were obliterated. All was reclaimed by nature. Even their writing was forgotten in time. Until very recent, the glyphs in stone and four surviving Maya manuscripts were considered a mystery. It is only recently with some scientific advancement that we are starting to decode what words were written and truly comprehend the excellence of their achievements, their great fall and disappearance. The Disaster and Warfare Theory are discussed, believing the Warfare Theory is the most plausible one.
No one can say for certain what happened to the Mayan people, but theories abound and include varied possible alternatives to explain the abrupt and mysterious disappearance of the Mayan civilization. Minster’s (2013) Article explains the following:
In 800 A.D., 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 dominant elite who could command mighty armies and claimed to be descended from the stars and planets themselves… Yet a hundred years later, the cities were in ruins, abandoned and left to the jungle to reclaim. What happened to the Maya? One day something really mysterious happened that the Maya civilization vanished from the face of the earth. By the end of the 9th century one by one, the classic cities in the southern lowlands were abandoned, and by 900 A.D, Maya civilization had collapsed. The reason for this unfathomable decline is unknown, though scholars, historians and theologians have developed several competing theories (History.com). One of the possible theories is called “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 simultaneously (About.com).” The second theory is called “The Warfare Theory”. “City-states such as Dos Pilas, Tikal, Copán and Quirigua went to war with one another quite often: Dos Pilas was invaded and destroyed in 760 A.D. Did they war with one another enough to cause the collapse of their civilization? It’s quite possible: war brings with it economic disaster as well as collateral damage that could have caused a domino effect in the Maya cities (About.com).” After reviewing both theories, the one that seems more plausible for me is the so called “Warfare Theory”. Now days like ancient times is the same. Wars are very devastating and catastrophic. There is a lot of bloodshed and like those times I believe this is what happened. Indigenous tribes fought against the Mayas and defeated them to the extent of extinguishing their entire civilization. Minster’s “The Ancient Maya: War and Warfare” (2013) Article explains the following: Historical anthropologists used to believe the Maya were a peaceful people … Recent advances in the interpretation of stonework at Maya sites has changed that, however, and the Maya are now considered a very violent, warmongering society. Wars and warfare were important to the Maya for a variety of reasons, including subjugation of neighboring city-states, prestige and capture of prisoners for slaves and sacrifices.
Medina-Elizalde, M. & Rohling, E. J. (2012). Collapse of Classic Maya Civilization Related to
Modest Reduction in Precipitation. Science 24 February 2012, Vol. 335 no. 6071 pp. 956-959. DOI:10.1126/science.1216629
Minster, Christopher (2013). The Ancient Maya War and Warfare. About.com. Retrieved from http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/Maya/p/The-Ancient-Maya-War-And-Warfare.htm
Minster, Christopher (2013). What Happened to Ancient Maya? About.com. Retrieved from
Sayre, Henry M. (2011). The Humanities: Culture, Continuity and Change. (Vol 1, 2nd Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
The Rise and Fall of the Mayas. History.com. Retrieved from