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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 562)...

    A book was recently written by an author named Richardson B. Gill that is being hailed in the anthropological community as the last word in explaining the collapse of Mayan civilization. In short, Gill attributes the collapse to factors almost solely related to drought caused by global weather pattern fluctuations involving active volcanism in the region and a related shift of the mid-Atlantic high pressure region over the Yucatan peninsula in the ninth and tenth centuries A.D. He has come up with tough-to- dispute geological and meteorological evidence for the presence of these climate fluctuations and it is due to the nature of this evidence that he is being continually lauded in academia as the man who finally solved the Mayan mystery. I know you have stated that droughts are not sufficient cause for the end of a civilization, but he's talking about unheard of die-out-rates of over ninety percent for both the Mayan and hunter-gatherer populations in that geographic region. This seems to me to be precedent for the end of a civilization by means of almost pure physical deprivation. If they indeed "walked away", I think it was more due to an interpretation of the Gods' perceived condemnation of the Maya's previous way of life. In essence, "look what it brought on its people", hence the vandalism. Basically, when people can't get water, they die. How does this affect your own personal thesis on the Mayan collapse?

    ...and the response:

    If Gill's book is in fact "being hailed as the last word in explaining the collapse of Mayan civilization," then why, I wonder, is it out of print? In matters of this kind, one thing you can count on absolutely is that there is no such thing as a "last word." Gill has proposed a theory, which, without fail, will be disputed by others. Even if this were not the case, however, and miraculously every single scientist concurred in his theory, the fact would remain that no drought lasts forever, and if the Maya had believed (as we do) that this is the way people were meant to live, they would have rebuilt their civilization. In other words, having been forced to walk away from it by drought, they would have willingly walked back to it when the drought ended--as we have done repeatedly throughout our history. But in fact they didn't. They walked away and STAYED away, and so my personal convictions remain unchanged.


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