Crosscultural Archaeology and the Role of the Tropics in Informing the Present

Author(s): Vernon Scarborough

Year: 2015


The ancient Maya and Khmer developed in semitropical environmental settings, both having not dissimilar chronologies. Tropical ecological rhythms dictated their respective dispersed land-use patterning. To cope with seasonal abundant precipitation followed by 4-5 months of drought-like conditions, the Maya accepted cropping designs based on the limitations of extended ground storage while the Khmer located resources to elevated reaches of stilted housing; approaches conditioned by accelerated organic decomposition and pest infestation. To accommodate rapidly grown and harvested food, though subject to the vagaries of regional rainfall, extensive roadways and canoe transport connected groups and polities into elaborate exchange networks coordinated by sizable centers and their calendrical scheduling. The effects of climate, both at the nuanced seasonal level and at more course decadal levels, resulted in environmental adaptations which provide a potential picture of our own. Internet connectivity to resource-specialized communities located in hinterlands away from urban aggregates and physically linked by light-rail would mimic the successes of past tropical socioenvironmental systems. Urban hubs would continue to prosper as coordinating centers for global socioeconomic supply/demand, but rural communities would be prized and elevated in their importance and influence. Community-based cooperatives today would have a global reach not apparent in antiquity.

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Cite this Record

Crosscultural Archaeology and the Role of the Tropics in Informing the Present. Vernon Scarborough. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396551)


Khmer lessons Maya