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Book: Mediterranean Resilience

Chapter: Collapses and Renascences: What the Maya and the Old World Have in Common

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.41509


The Classic Maya Collapse of AD 800 is a subject of great speculation as well as research. What is not widely appreciated is that this was but one of several cyclical collapses and cultural rebirths that took place in the rainforests of Mexico and Central America over a 2,600-year time span. Following Bárta's "laws," I argue that dramatic collapses—which are triggered very rapidly (perhaps by climate instability) and seem like punctuated events—are the result of long-term cultural processes. Moreover, the cyclical nature of growth, stability, and collapse appear to be inherent to ancient civilizations, and perhaps to our own.

Chapter Contributors

  • Geoffrey Braswell ([email protected] - gbraswell) 'University of California, San Diego'