Resilience and Regime Shift at the Ancient Maya City of Tikal


Over the time span of nearly a millennium, the ancient Maya polity of Tikal went through periods of growth, reorganization and adaptive cycles of various connected scales. Recent data show that following the reorganization of the Late Preclassic period, Tikal experienced an extended period of technological innovation and population growth that stretched the carrying capacity of the available landscape. A hydraulic system was constructed that provided water for the community during the dry seasons: a powerful development in an area without a permanent water source. Agriculture was intensified using a combination of root crop agriculture, irrigated fields, arboriculture, household gardens, short fallow cropping systems and bajo margin cultivation. The net product of these diverse production activities undoubtedly helped to underwrite an enormous amassing of economic and political capital during the Late Classic period. Ultimately, in the mid 9th century AD, expansive growth combined with multiple system disturbances led to a collapse of the city’s social structure followed by abandonment of the site. The application of resilience theory as a conceptual framework has been useful in helping to interpret the complex web of the underlying social and ecological domains that contributed to Tikal’s demise.

Cite this Record

Resilience and Regime Shift at the Ancient Maya City of Tikal. David L. Lentz, Nicholas Dunning, Vernon Scarborough. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429803)


Agriculture Maya Tikal

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14910