Mayan civilization existed for more than three thousand years and for 1200 years their civilization dominated the Central American region. The Mayan civilization reached their crest around 900 A.D. as Maya cities were teemed with around 2,000 Mayans living per square mile. Even in the rural Mayan areas, their population used to be between 200-400 people for every square mile. Therefore, it seemed mysterious when the whole civilization disappeared completely soon after their peak. The disappearance of the Mayan civilization has been considered as one of the biggest demographic disasters of human history as a vibrant society went off the map. Several scholars have advanced their own theories for abandonment of Mayans from urban life. There are many possible theories associated with the eradication of the Mayans; among them the most commonly discussed are deforestation and internal revolts (Fash, 1991).
Theory # 1
A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted by researchers from the ASU (Arizona State University) analyzes the archeological data and reached a conclusion that due to environmental conditions the Mayans abandoned the region overtime. During the last decades of their existence, Mayans witnessed extreme reductions in rainfall that was coupled with an increased deforestation rate. The Mayans chopped down and burned more and more regional forests for the purpose of agriculture. In addition, they also needed wood in large amounts for fueling their cooking fires. It took around 20 trees for producing cityscape totaling one square meter in the Mayan civilization (Stromberg, 2012).
Theory # 2
Arthur Demerest proposed his own theory that involved investigation at Dos Pilas. The theory claims that an internal war between the city states within the Mayan civilization was the main reason for the disappearance. With warfare becoming increasingly devastating for the Mayans, people started abandoning their dried-up cities for the safety of the Central American rain forests (Aron, 1997, p. 67-74). This is a common experience for several civilizations as people started moving away when wars lasted too long. Overall, the theory defines that Mayan civilization also failed after the interstate wars revolts that weakened the region in terms of population.
Among all the causes that have been identified, the most obvious choice for the disappearance of the Mayan civilization seems like deforestation. In the 9th and 10th century A.D., the majority of the Mayan population was dependent on agriculture; it became impossible for the Mayans to keep living in the region to increase deforestation rates. The first reason of deforestation was many needing food to eat and firewood to burn and they had to survive in the Central American region without useful soil and resources. Deforestation seems like a valid cause of the disappearance, and it is one of the essential aspects of proving that millions left the civilization when faced with problems.
Aron, P. (1997). Unsolved mysteries of American history: An eye-opening journey through 500 years of discoveries, disappearances, and baffling events. New York, NY: J. Wiley.
Fash, W. L. (1991). Scribes, warriors, and kings: The city of Copán and the ancient Maya. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson.
Stromberg., J. (23 August 2012). Why Did the Mayan Civilization Collapse? A New Study Points to Deforestation and Climate Change. Retrieved 30 January 2016 from, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-did-the-mayan-civilization-collapse-a-new-study-points-to-deforestation-and-climate-change-30863026/#4VVsejXiYeqFMA8c.99