The Classic Maya Collapse: The Importance of Ecological Prosperity


  • Katrina Armstrong MacEwan University



Conservation, Sustainability, Climate Change


The relationship between humans and their environment is a heavily debated, multi-disciplinary discussion that has raised awareness about urgent issues, such as climate change. Earth’s booming population encourages globalization, greed, and over-consumption and has changed the basic composition of the planet, causing humans to continually possess a distorted view of their relationship to nature. This idea can be applied to the Classic Maya, as their success as a thriving civilization rested on their access to the resources around them. Around 900 CE, many of the heavily populated Maya cities were abandoned suddenly and the reason for this collapse is still heavily disputed to this day. The theory that has gained the most momentum in this debate is the drought theory. The Maya suffered a series of droughts during the Classic Maya era and the most significant was a megadrought that lasted from 800CE to 1000 CE. This particular drought had a catastrophic impact on the political stability, economic success, and societal prosperity of many of the great Maya cities. Through lake core sediment analysis, Curtis, Hodell, and Brenner observed that drought periods coincided with periods of Maya recession; a drought period at 862 ± 50 cal, yr. corresponded with the Classic Maya collapse and a drought period at 585 CE occurred during the Maya Hiatus. Both of these drought periods were times of monument decline, city abandonment, and social cataclysm (Curtis, 1996, p. 45). The megadrought that the Maya were faced with produced complete social upheaval, resulting in their eventual fall. As with any diminishing civilization, all aspects of society were under threat; the political nature of many Maya cities was ominous, economic stability disintegrated, health, happiness, and personal faith were dejected, and social contentment vanished completely. The megadrought and its fatal impact had been the driving force behind the Classic Maya collapse.


Author Biography

Katrina Armstrong, MacEwan University

Katrina is currently in her third year of studies at MacEwan University. She is pursuing an Education degree with a major in Social Studies.




How to Cite

Armstrong, K. (2014). The Classic Maya Collapse: The Importance of Ecological Prosperity. Earth Common Journal, 4(1).