Applying Adaptive Cycles to the Life History of Ancient Maya Agricultural Systems

Author(s): Scott Macrae; Gyles Iannone

Year: 2015


Archaeologists often struggled with understanding the life-cycles of relic agricultural field systems. By incorporating the multi-variable approach of the adaptive cycle, complex relationship dynamics can be identified and applied to understanding the historical sequences of specific cases studies. Demonstrating this is the intensive terrace systems and settlement within the Contreras Valley and the associated ancient Maya center of Minanha, Belize. The variables identified include the relationships between intensive agricultural terracing, climatic change, social pressures, and populations. Results present a multi-faceted understanding of the development, maintenance, and eventually collapse of the field systems and community. This study follows the trajectory of the Contreras Valley starting with kin-based social groups practicing small-scale, decentralized, agricultural production. The succeeding rise of the Minanha royal court with new social and population pressures which in addition to climatic stresses drove the inhabitants to develop a hierarchically organized social structure with large-scale intensive terrace systems. The consequent collapse of many field systems and the royal court relieved population and social pressure while returning social organization to an emphasis on kinship. Results describe the advantages of using the adaptive cycle for understanding how the dynamic variables interacted to create unique circumstances that initiated changes in the Contreras Valley.

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Cite this Record

Applying Adaptive Cycles to the Life History of Ancient Maya Agricultural Systems. Scott Macrae, Gyles Iannone. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395086)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;