Lost Civilizations: Societies that Vanished in Mystery

Some very advanced for their time flourishing civilizations, suddenly vanished from the face of the earth,  its inhabitants were gone and its architecture abandoned:  Conspiracy theories have advanced manner of interesting and wacky reasons like alien kidnappings, but in the case of these societies, the causes were likely more commonplace such as natural disasters, climate change, invasions and economic worthlessness. Still, no one knows and probably never will exactly what happened to bring about the end of the Khmer Empire of Cambodia, the Minoan society of Crete and some other ancient civilizations. The Maya are the best example of a civilization that completely disappeared, its great monuments, cities, and roads swallowed up by the Central American jungles, and its peoples scattered to small villages.

Languages And Civilization

Though the languages and civilization of the Maya are still evident even now, the civilization was at its highest point was during the first millennium AD, when their greatest architectural marvels and gigantic agricultural projects covered a very large area in the Yucatán which stretched from Mexico to Guatemala and Belize. One of the largest Mesoamerican civilizations, the Maya was very proficient in writing, math, boasted an elaborate calendar and sophisticated engineering with which they constructed their pyramids and terraced farms. Though it’s often said that the Maya civilization began a mysterious decline in roughly the year 900, a lot of evidence points to climate change in the Yucatán combined with fighting among themselves, which cumulated in famine and desertion of the city centers.

Researcher, intellectuals, and historians have suggested countless theories which could account for the disintegration ranging from the believable to overhunting, foreign invasion, peasant revolt etc to the absurd such as alien incursion and paranormal entities.  Some writers have put forth a different sort of theory—that a long-drawn-out period of dry weather and no rain, made worse by ill-advised deforestation, forced Mayan populations to abandon their cities. That hypothesis has finally been put to the test with archeological evidence and environmental data and the results published in a pair of studies.

Published Studies

In published studies, researchers analyzed archaeological data from across the Yucatan for a better understanding of the environmental conditions as to why and when the area was deserted In the studies they found, severe reductions in rainfall were coupled with a rapid rate of deforestation, as the Mayans burned and chopped down more and more forest to clear land for agriculture. In a time of extensive population growth, such factors proved disastrous. Crops failed, especially because the droughts occurred excessively during the summer growing season. Coincidentally, trade shifted from overland routes, which crossed the heart of the lowland, to sea-based voyages, moving around the perimeter of the peninsula.

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