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VIRTUAL - Rise and Fall of Classic Maya Kings

March 4, 2023 @ 1:00 pm CST

This is an online event.

AIA Society: St. Louis

Lecturer: Lisa Lucero

The Classic Maya (c. 250-900 CE) landscape was a mosaic of cities, farmsteads, forests, seasonally inundated swamps (bajos), and sacred areas largely left untouched.  There were hundreds of cities surrounded by rural farmsteads, each with their own king.  Some kings were more powerful than others, especially those at Tikal and Naranjo in Guatemala, Calakmul in Mexico and Caracol.  Kings attracted subjects through their sponsoring the building and maintenance of massive, urban reservoirs to which farmers came during the annual dry season.  Classic Maya Kings were excellent water managers—as long as the rains came.   Water became increasingly vital, especially in the Late Classic period (c. 600-800 CE) when population peaked.  When several prolonged droughts struck the Maya area beginning c. 800 CE that lasted for over a hundred years, reservoir levels plummeted, crops failed, and famine ensued.  Subjects did not revolt or resort to violence.  They voted with their feet.  Maya farmers/subjects deserted kings and southern lowland cities by 900 CE to find more stable water supplies and take care of their families.  Classic Maya Kings disappeared.  Farmers adapted and moved on.  I conclude with a brief foray into how kings and cities lasted 1,000 years and the implications for urbanism today and our future.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Lucero, Lisa J. 2017  Ancient Maya Water Management, Droughts, and Urban Diaspora: Implications for the Present. In Tropical Forest Conservation: Long-Term Processes of Human Evolution, Cultural Adaptations and Consumption Patterns, edited by Nuria Sanz, Rachel Christina Lewis, Jose Pulido Mata, and Chantal Connaughton, pp. 162-188. UNESCO Mexico.

Joukowsky Lecture

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March 4, 2023
1:00 pm CST
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