Friday, June 21, 2013

The Discovery of the Chactun Mayan City

A major Mayan city by the name of Chactun was discovered in Yacatan Mexico. Filled with Mayan architecture and artifacts the cities complex exists on 54 acres. Through thick vegetation and 10 days of chopping at jungle foliage the researchers finally made their way to the large city that contained somewhere around 40,000 people during the Late Mayan Classical Period (600AD to 900AD).

Using aerial photos and then following up on the ancient paths used by loggers and rubber makers the scientists were able to make their way into the jungle. The area was previously unmapped and generally untouched by human hands except for a few small time workers in the area. There was no evidence from other Mayan artifacts that this large city existed.

As of present, the writings and all of the structures have not been identified.  However, the researchers did find alters, temples, ball courts, palaces, and storage facilities. According to Sprajc, “We realized, with big surprise, that the site was even larger than we had expected. What impressed us most were the volumes of the buildings — they are not extremely high, but very massive,”(Discovery, 2013).

It is believed that some later people reused the site and didn’t understand what the symbols really meant. They did understand that the monuments were very important and spiritual. They found ceramics and other offerings indicating that the newer people were trying to give respect to the religious figures. This is one of the first times discoverers have seen the recycling of worship.

The Mayan maintained a rich culture and one of the most developed in the world at the time. Their cultural high existed around 850 A.D. In Europe around this time Germanic peoples caused the fall of the Western Roman Empire and began to colonize England. If Mayan culture was allowed to grow it may have been a unique powerhouse of the region. They developed architecture, art, fully developed writing, astronomy, mathematics, calendars, and administrative developments. They became an urban society supported by an extensive agricultural system. 

Around 900 C.E. the strength of the Mayan culture collapsed. Scientists are unsure as to why this may have happened. Some argue that a drop in water levels led to intense inter-conflict, disease, and eventual collapse of their system. Others argued that they were invaded from a powerful outside source.

The later explanation is least likely as they were by far the dominant civilization from the area. It is also possible that a peasant revolt ended the culture but this again is a weak explanation as it wouldn’t have decimated its population. Regardless, there is much we can learn from Mayan economics and history.  I have always had an interest in developing economic theories as derived from the Mayan system.

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