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This fragile vegetation makes ideal kindling material, subjects such as R. The resident ethnic Sherpa communities are permitted by law to cut these materials for their daily domestic needs but, with the large influx of lone trekkers large trekking and mountaineering parties must carry in their own fuel , the Sherpa "needs" have become exaggerated out of all sustainable proportion.

Consequently the once pristine swathes of vegetation are rapidly being cut at an alarming rate and, if nothing urgent is done to rectify the problem, the whole eco-system will soon be damaged beyond recovery. Tourism is a two-sided sword for, although it may boost some local economies, it also creates grossly inflated prices and corrupts ethnic integrity; indirectly it also destroys the habitat of dwarf rhododendrons and the many other complex biological entities which make up these specialised habitats.

Nepal boasts more than endemics within its estimated 6, species including rhododendrons with extremely limited natural distributions such as R. However, their actual habitats give very real cause for concern, for once these become permanently damaged the "life support system" which maintains the environment necessary for their stability will cease to function. This argument also rings true for other ecological zones such as the cool temperate forests where the large-leaved rhododendron species thrive within the cool protective arboreal canopy.

Once the trees are felled these specialised species usually decline as they generally resent exposure. Just as the tiger is pushed ever closer to extinction by the loss of its natural environment so also will specialised groups such as these be diminished by serious ecological changes. However, Nepal's story is not all negative. Various organizations such as the Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust and the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation are making significant efforts in order to address the problems of this poor and densely populated Himalayan kingdom.

Efforts are being made towards realising sustainable development without further degradation of the environment.

Proper forest management within national and community forests is recognised by the Nepalese government to be the most important issue. Coupled to this must be the encouragement of education programmes, research into alternative energy and the better organisation and control of tourism. One can but hope the enthusiasm of such bodies will prove infectious throughout the entire country and apathy does not take over from the initial verve.

It is all too easy to criticise countries such as Nepal but it is not only the developing nations which should come into the focus of our attention, for others could equally become involved if their present political policies relating to the environment were to lose direction. Hopefully the future of R.

But if the protective canopy of their national protection was to be suddenly torn away the picture could change rapidly. Ironically some rhododendrons have amazing powers of regeneration. Rhododendron decorum readily survives forest fires in China and, if left alone, will break back into growth from the base within a very short space of time, whilst closer to home R. Wales where it has escaped across many miles of hillside and become a serious weed; but these are exceptions rather than the rule.

So, after all this soul searching, what should we believe the true position to be? Are rhododendrons really under threat? The answer is that although many of them are becoming ever more vulnerable through the pressures of Man few at the time of writing are actually on the verge of extinction.

One exception seems to be R. Cox, , is down to approximately 30 plants in three localities in N. Public awareness had come a long way since the first United Nations Environmental Conference was held in Stockholm in During the last 25 years there have been many other conferences of a similar nature, and an international network of specialist agencies had been built up - all dedicated to creating a more environmentally aware world.

If only earnest conversation not to mention report writing could be transformed into effective conservation! It is already seven years since the First Earth Summit was held in Rio where much was said about the state of the natural world, but still one has doubts that the long-term political will for global change is really there.

I recently asked a Chinese colleague what he felt about the subject. Was there a hopeful light at the end of the tunnel? Would mankind learn from past mistakes? His embarrassed reply to my questions were, not surprisingly, in the negative. With his usual wisdom the Dalai Lama of Tibet recently stated, "Ultimately the decision must come from the human heart, so I think the key point is to have a genuine sense of universal responsibility.

This is a fundamental law of nature which we ignore at our peril. To put it in fiscal terms, we cannot continuously overspend without eventually going bust. Only time will tell whether or not our vast but fragile rhododendron world will survive for others to enjoy. If it does not our successors will lay the blame on us for allowing it to disappear, for in this age of environmental awareness we can no longer make the argument that we didn't understand.

If we fail, future generations will probably ask, "Did they really care enough? Hertenrits, construido a partir del d. En los alrededores, hay grupos irregulares y dispersos de campos elevados. Varios canales estrechos e inundados anualmente tienen una Figura 5. Fueron edificados por las co- munidades Marajoara entre el y d. Roosevelt, Desde el pueblo arrancaban radialmente rutas muy anchas hasta los sitios secundarios. Figura 6.

Algunas alcanzan los m de largo, 8 m de ancho y 5 m de profundidad. En uno de los casos, la fosa fue directamente cavada en la roca. Diferentes colinas con fosa de Guayana Francesa dieron fechas entre el inicio de nuestra era y la conquista europea. La base estaba plantada de estacas.

Aque- Figura 7. Alzadas pro- gresivamente a lo largo de los siglos, las estructuras terminaron alcanzando alturas considerables. Aparte de sus gigantescas proporciones, estos sitios proporcionaron revelaciones sorprendentes sobre los pri- meros habitantes de esas orillas. Roosevelt et al. En dos porciones de la Amazonia litoral, se han identificado igualmente sambaquis. Pocas regiones ofrecen recursos importantes en conchas a lo largo de la costa de Guyana.

Terra preta Sabemos ahora que la Amazonia no es un bosque primario, sino que fue profunda- mente modificado durante milenios por el ser humano. Las experimentaciones recientes han demostrado que la Figura 9. Los conjuntos de terra preta se extienden en general a lo largo de 1 a 5 ha, aunque algunos sobrepasan las Los sitios de terra preta se multiplican y extienden a partir del a.

Figura Se observa una gran diversidad de formas, dimensiones y disposiciones. Estos grabados fueron rea- lizados en rocas a menudo cercanas a los cursos de agua. Las figuras se disputan a menudo la superficie de un soporte. Cuando los Amerindios no grabaron en las rocas, pintaron rara vez las paredes de los abrigos rocosos.

En diversos puntos de las tierras bajas Figura Por lo general su surgimiento aparece alrededor del y el d. Los riesgos comprenden intervenciones activas como los drenajes, labrados, obras inmobiliarias o conversiones en campos de arroz. Tiene una superficie comparable con la de Australia. Si bien la historia precolombina de la Amazonia no fue escrita en los libros, si bien no hubo templos de piedra, los amerindios del bosque tropical inscribieron sin em- bargo muy claramente sus anales en la tierra.

Se vuelve entonces necesario tomar conciencia de este patrimonio original y preservarlo. The culture of Amazonian forests. En: Posey, D. Time and Complexity in Historical Ecology. Nueva York, Columbia University Press. Clement, C. The domestication of Amazonia before European Conquest. Proceedings of Royal Society B, Vol.

Cultivated Landscapes of Native Amazonia and the Andes. Nueva York, Oxford University Press. Erickson, C. Amazonia: the historical ecology of a domesticated landscape. En: Silverman, H. Glaser, B. Heidelberg, Springer. Grenand, P. Heckenberger, M. Culture, place and personhood in the southern Amazon, AD Nueva York, Routlegde.

Iriarte, J. Fire-free land use in pre Amazonian savannas. Jorge, M. Curitiba, Zencrane Livros. Lombardo, U. Pre-Columbian human occupation patterns in the eastern plains of the Llanos de Moxos, Bolivian Amazonia, Journal of Archaeo- logical Science, McEwan, C. Unknown Amazon. Londres, The British Museum Press.

Neves, E. Tesis para optar por el grado de Livre-Docente. Pereira, E. Petry Cabral, M. En: Rostain, S. Roosevelt, A. Nueva York, Academic Press.

Eight millenium pottery from a prehistoric shell midden in the brazilian Amazon. Science, No. Rostain, S.

En: Chaumeil, J. Islands in the rainforest. Landscape management in pre-Columbian Amazo- nia. Walnut Creek, Left Coast Press. En: Catto, N. Schaan, D. Sacred geographies of ancient Amazonia: Historical ecology of social complexity. Steege, H. Hyper-dominance in the Amazonian tree flora. Walker, J. Agricultural Change in the Bolivian Amazon.

Recent Landscape Archaeology in South America. Journal of Archaeolo- gical Research, Vol. They nudged the land through minor manipulations, entwining the forest into houses and settlements and reworking the myriad and inexorable ebbs and flows of water and knitted it all together through human aesthetics and industry.

In the Xingu, dense networks of roads linking towns and villages were hyper-planned and trees were cycled and recycled on a scale seldom ri- valed in the ancient world. In fact, in terms of net- works, connectivity and traffic patterns, they seem almost sublime in the sophistication of their regional planning and how it was designed to work with the forest, to nurture rather than tame it, even in compar- ison to classic urban oases, their historical alter-egos.

Indeed, their alternative variety of pre-modern urbanism, excavated over the course of two decades through participatory work and partner- ships, worked with nature not against it and is a living example of how to deal with Amazon today in terms of biodiversity, sustainability, climate and indigenous heritage. Introduction The meteoric rise of archaeology in Brazil over the past two decades has led to an exponential increase in knowledge about the pre-Columbian in the Amazon.

The cherished imagery of primordial nature and society that guided Western scientists for centuries has given way to views that favour dynamic change in coupled human-natural systems.

The view of the area as a vast natural laboratory, however, lingers on in scientific discussions about the Amazon, as if archaeologists are simply misguided, at least in their reach, and the extrapolation of settled, agricultural life too broadly.

Thus, the pendulum swung too far to the left, to the humanistic and historical, from the hard-nosed business of natural science. Needless to say, this acutely threatens biodiversity, most particularly the integrity of ecological systems that have built up over millennia. As we learn more about what is hidden under the forest canopy, often visible as the result of the very development that also threatens to destroy these cultural heritage resources, it is clear that, far from timeless, the Amazon was no less dynamic, and its people no less agential or ingenious than anywhere else.

Notably, the Late Holocene saw the development of large, densely settled regional societies, often as hierarchically organized peer polities across the region. The discovery of Amazonian forms of complex and intensive land-use has far-reaching indirect impacts on biodiversity and human population densities, including catastrophic depopulation in early colonial times across the region Clement et al. This view has its critics, but virtually all anthropologists agree that there were some remarkably complex systems, at least those working directly with archaeological evidence, historical archives and ethnographic and linguistic evidence of indigenous history.

Even areas where impact is slight or indirect, humans changed the face of the Amazon through subtle modifications throughout the Late Holocene. This suggests very different pathways of socio-political complexity and economic intensification, land-use and relations between humans and nature than might be expected by Western scholarship and world historical schema. These past complex societies shared many things with the traditional Amazonian today: people ate insects as often as large herbivores, palm fruits and tubers rather than cereal crops, used bows and blowguns, went around naked, painted and feathered, among a host of other things.

Many are still in use or directly remembered by the descendant indigenous groups today. Indeed, the over 80 native species in some state of domestication Clement et al. The majority of managed plants are trees, numerous fruits, including palms, which are also singular as industrial crops in agro-forestry systems. In this world of perishable technologies, it seems everything is woven from forest products, save the rare ceramics, even rarer stone and metals, from the smallest baskets, hammocks, fences, weirs, houses and even whole villages, the ring of houses being like the selvage of a basket.

Certainly, weaving is a better metaphor for the overall architecture, the built environment, rather than the building. Like the Global South and the tropical world, more generally, these forest civilizations need to be considered on their own terms, since their historical development is not easily measured according to a yardstick of pre-existing Western historical experience.

This paper considers one feature still commonly denied: pre- Columbian urbanism and the attendant complex land-use and production systems associated with urbanization. What might Amazonian urbanism look like? What are we looking for? It documents an almost sublime complexity in design, seeming to link everything to everything else, which ultimately worked with the forest, rather than simply cutting it down, by subtly reworking the contours of the land and altering the proportion of useful species and areas.

Over the past two decades, a consensus has emerged among regional specialists that many parts of Amazonia were anthropogenic, substantially modified by long-term human occupations throughout the Holocene and, particularly, the influence of large, settled and regionally organized late pre-Columbian populations in some areas Heckenberger and Neves, A precipitous increase in archaeological research since the mids reveals diverse complex societies and dynamic human-natural systems, including dozens of cases of large pre-Columbian and early historic settlements greater than 50 ha , high regional site densities and substantial human intervention and even engineering of tropical forest natural environments.

This does not imply that all areas were so influenced or even that most of the Amazon forest was strongly influenced by humans. It also suggests that such pronounced human impacts had far-flung indirect and subtle effects on nature, including the fact that cultural choice, socio-political relations and historical factors were potentially as determinant of where relatively untouched forest existed.

However, the polarized and intransigent positions are hard to reconcile due to the lack of comparable datasets and problem-oriented interdisciplinary research, including in- depth field archaeology and palaeobotanical analysis of well-controlled samples. Underlying critiques of historical ecology and an anthropogenic Amazon follow the assumption that forests will be converted to farmland in cases of larger, settled populations, a pattern that can be captured by minimal sampling.

In Amazonia, archaeology and plant studies suggest that systems of human-land- plant management are highly diversified in terms of land-use. Complex built environments are widely known in riverine areas of the southern headwaters.

Xingu Garden Cities: Domesticated Forest of the Southern Amazon71 The southern Amazon transitional forests are an important macro-regional case, since there is a very high degree of alteration in areas of major pre-Columbian occupations, which extend across much of the region.

Like the better known floodplain polities along the Amazon, human interventions transformed the forests of across the southern Amazon transitional forests, a macro- ecological province of tropical forest between the Amazonian broad leaf evergreen forests and xerophytic open woodlands and savanna cerrado of central Brazil. These societies have a common origin in the Arawak-speaking groups spread across the lowlands, which settled into the major river valleys and dominated these large forested areas, in nearly one-to-one correspondence.

This underscores the coupling of cultural and ecological variability and the need to address human and natural factors to understand the composition and functioning of biodiversity, particularly considering the degree to which eco-systemic biodiversity was linked to human interventions.

This in turn influenced plant and animal species and genetic variation and their dynamic changes over the past millennium.

The real job ahead lies in creating well-controlled case studies of what exactly the Amazon was like in pre-Industrial times.

There is an urgent for far more detailed analyses on any part of the Amazon, in order to determine forest cover change and resource management, notably during late pre-Columbian times. What types of land management, including forest conversion, were associated with different socio-economic regimes, such as extensive slash-and-burn or intensive fixed plot agriculture or, as proposed here, complex hybrid systems, which were more focused on forest management than crop production focused on a few staple crops in fixed rotational cycles?

The Upper Xingu, presented here as an exemplary case of southern Amazonian domesticated landscapes, allows the suggestion that the entire forested area within clusters were like big gardens, partitioned off into agricultural zones with their own internal cycles, including many areas that were occasionally denuded small patches of forest in long-term, inter-generational cycles which generally promoted forest cover.

Upper Xingu The Upper Xingu is the easternmost of the six or eight of these large regional cultures in the southern transitional forests. Archaeological research over the past twenty years has documented discrete late pre-Columbian and early historical occupations, as well as a continuous record of habitation by related Xinguano peoples over the past millennium Note 1.

The Xingu entered written history only in , when indigenous populations were already greatly reduced some 3,, people in over 30 autonomous villages.

It was composed of several dozen discrete multi-settlements clusters, organized into tightly integrated polities. Xingu Garden Cities: Domesticated Forest of the Southern Amazon73 Archaeological research in the Xingu region provides some clear evidence of large, densely settled late pre-Columbian populations in the lowland tropical forests for example, Heckenberger, , , ; Heckenberger et al.

Archaeological studies, alongside oral history and historical ethnography and linguistic reconstructions document several major periods of transformational change in the evolving regional system supported by 30 C14 dates : 1 Initial colonization by settled agriculturists, c.

Once located, all sites were positioned with real-time GPS or on satellite images in rare cases where GPS was unavailable. Earthworks included peripheral ditches with berms and low linear berms. These constitute roughly 40 km of continuous archaeological features, including curbed roads between settlements, as well as gate, bridge and weir areas at site margins. Mapping of major earthworks at these sites reveals an elaborate regional plan, including major excavated ditches surrounding the largest settlements up to 15 m wide, 5 m deep, and 2.

Two integrated clusters of walled towns and non-walled villages were identified. Las fechas indican la edad del Horizonte A enterrado turba que se encuentra inmediatamente por debajo de los campos elevados. Dull et al.

Luego de d. En ella, los campos elevados consisten en plataformas elevadas que en promedio tienen de 30 a 40 cm de profundidad, 15 m de ancho y 80 m de largo, aunque pueden llegar hasta los 35 m de ancho y m de largo. Referencias Aalto, R. Nature, No. Altieri, M. Small farms as a planetary ecological asset: five key reasons why we should support the revitalisation of small farms in the global south, Third World Network Penang, Malaysia. Andreae, M. Emission of trace gases and aerosols from bio- mass burning.

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Potential mechanisms for achieving agricultural benefits from biochar application to temperate soils: a re- view. Plant and Soil, No. Balee, W. Cultural Forests of the Amazon. Bozarth, S. En: Woods, W. Nueva York, Springer. Branch, N. Testing the sustainability and sensitivity to climatic change of terrace agricultural systems in the Peruvian Andes: a pilot study. Journal of Archaeological Science, No. Fire, climate change and biodiversity in Amazonia: a Late-Holocene perspective.

Cardoso da Silva, J. Biogeographic patterns and conser- vation in the South American Cerrado: a tropical savanna hotspot. BioScience, No. Between a pristine myth and an impove- rished future. Biotropica, No. Agrobiodiversity in Amazonia and its relationship with dark earths. En: Lehmann, J.

Boston, Kluwer Academic Publisher. Coe, M. The chinampas of Mexico. Scientific American, No. Darch, J. Drained field agriculture in tropical Latin America: Parallels from past to present. Journal of Biogeography, No. Prehistoric agricultural methods as models for sustainabili- ty. Advanced Plant Pathology, Vol. Estimating Amazonian Indian Numbers in Journal of Latin Ame- rican Geography, No. Dezzeo, N. Carbon and nutrient loss in aboveground biomass along a fire induced forest-savanna gradient in the Gran Sabana, southern Vene- zuela.

Forest Ecology and Management, No. Doolittle, W. Feeding a growing population on an increasingly fragile environment. En: Knapp, G. Austin, University of Texas Press. Dull, R. The Columbian Encounter and the Little Ice Age: abrupt land use change, fire, and greenhouse forcing.

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Berling, Springer. Caboclo horticulture and Amazonian dark earths along the mi- ddle Madeira River, Brazil. Human Ecology, No. Convergent adaptations: bitter manioc cultivation systems in fertile an- thropogenic dark earths and floodplain soils in Central Amazonia.

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Gliessman, S. Ecological basis of traditional management of wetlands in tropical Mexico: Learning from agroecosystem models. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Guttmann-Bond, E. Sustainability out of the past: how archaeology can save the planet. World Archaeology, No. Amazonian archaeology. Annu Rev An- thropol, No. Heriarte, M. Herrera, L. The technical trans- formation of an agricultural system in the Colombian Amazon.

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Yanai, Y. Effects of charcoal addition on N2O emissions from soil resulting from rewetting air-dried soil in short-term laboratory experiments. Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, No. Abstract The Classic Maya c. Everything in Maya life, including reservoirs and agriculture, was rainfall dependent. The Maya adapted quite well to the five to seven month seasonal drought in the semitropical southern Maya lowlands in various ways, including constructing the large reservoir systems that increasingly became interlinked with urban layout.

They applied their knowledge of what is now termed the wetland biosphere to keep reservoir water supplies clean throughout the dry season, sustaining tens of thousands of dispersed farmers.

When a series of prolonged droughts struck the Maya area c. The majority of Maya, however, persevered; they achieved this through what I term a cosmology of conservation: maintaining biodiversity through forest management, practicing sustainable agriculture and relying on small-scale water systems. Post-collapse Maya lived in smaller communities or had migrated out of the interior in search of more reliable sources of economic opportunities and water in all directions. The climate is changing, intensifying current vulnerabilities such as environmental degradation, pollution and resource exploitation Fiske et al.

Climate instability interferes with food and water supplies, which in turn impacts public health and worsens conflict Scheffran et al. The international political community is working on mitigating these problems. What is missing, however, from the broader dialogue and its natural scientific focus for example, CO2 emissions, fossil fuels, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and so on is the human element, especially how people can address and adapt to the changing climate.

This is where social sciences and humanities come in. As discussed here, archaeology has the ability to reveal how people in the past adapted to climate instability and allows us to reanalyse past adaptations within the context of current climate change. The past can show us how people have survived external change and how those shifts in practices still have relevance today for example, Cooper and Duncan, As people have adapted to their surroundings since the emergence of modern humans around , years ago, the past provides lessons on how to address current global environmental change in a sustainable manner.

AD � and how they survived in the humid tropics in present day Belize, northern Guatemala and south-eastern Mexico Figure 1. They dealt with seasonal drought by relying on large-scale reservoir systems located in centres � a reliance that ultimately had major repercussions when facing prolonged dry periods in the AD s. Simultaneously, Figure 1. Map of Maya area with sites. Ancient Maya Water Management, Droughts and Urban Diaspora: Implications for the Present Maya people relied on sustainable, rainfall-dependent agriculture and obtained necessities from forests located throughout non-centre or hinterland areas.

The intersection of these two regimes, while seemingly at odds, worked and supported a low-density urban agrarian society. This system integrated water and agricultural systems, centres, hinterland farmsteads and communities and resource extraction for nearly a millennium Fletcher, ; Lucero et al.

Small-scale systems endured while large-scale and political ones transformed; the Maya today continue to practise the former while archaeologists excavate remnants of the latter. How have the Maya survived for millennia? I attempt to answer this question through a discussion of where they lived, their water management systems, droughts, urban diaspora and their worldview, what I term a cosmology of conservation.

This cosmology had a major impact on how they perceived and engaged the landscape and has implications for present struggles with changing climate. AD � are known for their centres with royal temples, palaces and tombs, inscriptions, vibrantly painted ceramics, intricately incised jades and obsidian items and massive reservoir systems. They accomplished such feats without metal tools, beasts of burden, wheeled carts or extensive irrigation and road systems.

There are hundreds of centres of varying sizes, each with their own king; some were more powerful than others, especially those at Tikal and Calakmul. The Maya lived in a semi-tropical setting with limestone hills and ridges, most covered by deciduous hardwood forests Ford and Nigh, Surface water was limited due to the karstic landscape that absorbed much of the seasonal rainfall. Most of the powerful centres in the southern lowlands are found in areas with large plots of fertile soils, but little surface water, including Tikal, Calakmul and Naranjo Lucero et al.

The seven-month dry season from about June through December was followed by seasonal drought. Each season created two completely different landscapes � one waterlogged and the other a green desert Graham, , challenges with which the Maya dealt quite well for millennia. Scheduling was critical; the labour- intensive farming took place during the wet season Atran, Predicting the beginning of the rainy season can vary noticeably depending on the region Gunn et al.

The rainy season often brought flooding, hurricanes, turbid waters, debris-clogged and un-navigable rivers, erosion, mudslides and crop damage. If the rains began later than predicted, planted seeds would rot; if rains started earlier than predicted, seeds would not germinate. There is a positive correlation between the amount and size of plots of fertile soils and structure density Fedick and Ford, The Maya relied on diverse and small-scale extensive and intensive subsistence technologies including terraces, dams, canals and raised fields that were used to grow the staples of maize, beans and squash in house gardens, short-fallow infields, long-fallow outfields and combinations of these techniques Harrison and Turner, ; Killion, ; Lentz et al.

Also at their disposal were diverse flora and fauna in what was likely a managed forest landscape Ford and Nigh, Regardless of Western impacts on the Maya, many still rely on traditional, sustainable subsistence practices; for example, the Yucatec Maya in Chunhuhub, Quintana Roo, Mexico, plant their fields with diverse plants and trees, cover crops for instance, legumes and use compost fertiliser Anderson, , p.

In central Belize, village home gardens also mirror forest biodiversity Lindsay, , Figure 3. People relied on local resources and crops for basic subsistence needs, which meant that the lack of major transportation systems was not an issue Scarborough and Lucero, The planting of fertile soils left less of an imprint than if farmers used poor soils because the latter required more land clearing Ford and Clarke, By focusing their efforts in areas with better soils, they could plant more crops per year and consequently did not need to clear as much forest; they thus fed more people on less land.

Despite this strategy, at the end of the Late Classic Period after c. AD , deforestation did occur in some areas Dunning et al. Not only did deforestation cause erosion, it also played a role in decreasing rainfall and increasing Figure 2. Lucero, PI project research area with dispersed soil types.

Class I: fertile, well-drained alluvium; Class II: fertile well- drained uplands soils; Class III: ag- ricultural limitations due to steep slopes or poor drainage; Class III: suitable for swidden cultivation, especially with modification for example, terraces ; Class IV: gen- erally poorly drained soils; Class V: very poorly suited for agriculture Lucero et al.

Choc family home and garden, Valley of Peace Village, Belize showing di- versity of plants, bushes and trees adapt- ed from Lindsay, , Figure Numbers represent different species see Lindsay, Appendix I.

In parts of the interior southern Lowlands, soil erosion and sedimentation exacerbated by drying conditions tainted some of the seasonal wetlands and other water sources Dunning et al. Interlinking the centripetal pull of centres and centrifugal demands of dispersed land and resources and fertile soils was water, specifically, water management and needs. Centres also attracted people via large-scale public events for example, ballgames, ceremonies, etc.

In contrast, the centrifugal pull of subsistence requirements resulted in a dispersed populace that challenged the political elite to integrate them, especially during the labour-intensive agricultural period in the rainy season. The populace supplied staples, local goods, labour and services for instance, maintaining transportation routes via tribute and exchange, effectively funding the political economy. People became beholden to a centralized political elite for access to water via central reservoirs during annual drought.

In the agricultural rainy season, farmers worked their fields throughout the non-urban landscape. Lucero et al. Water was vital, a fact displayed in iconography, inscriptions and how the Maya engaged the landscape Finamore and Houston, Too much or not enough water was something the Maya dealt with each season � tropical storms, hurricanes, seasonal droughts and so on Lucero et al.

Water quality was also critical for daily drinking needs, a fact that became particularly crucial as the dry season wore on and water supplies and quality decreased. The Maya also needed water to manufacture ceramics and plaster, for cooking the staples of maize and beans and for other quotidian needs.

The Maya adapted quite well to the five to seven month annual drought in various ways, including constructing large reservoir systems that increasingly became interlinked with urban layout; for example, ceremonial roads sacbeob also served as dams and walkways Scarborough et al. Figure 4. Note how the sacbe causeway in the forefront also served as a dam. Ancient Maya Water Management, Droughts and Urban Diaspora: Implications for the Present During the rainy season in areas without surface water people likely stored water in jars and other containers that were replenished daily.

They relied on small aguadas or rain fed natural depressions for instance, Scarborough, , p. While there are rivers and lakes, we do not see the high settlement density and large centres to the extent that we do in interior areas without permanent surface water. Consequently, during the dry season most farmers would have needed water, which they found at royal reservoirs.

Another source of water was cenotes, which are steep sided sinkholes fed by groundwater. There are much fewer cenotes in the southern lowlands due to its higher elevations and less accessible water table. Limited dry season water supplies meant that many people had little choice but to rely on reservoirs at centres in the southern lowlands. The Maya relied on still-water systems including reservoirs, raised fields and seasonal wetlands Scarborough, , pp.

They built water systems before they constructed monumental architecture; water symbolism soon followed Scarborough, Evidence suggests that some water management systems failed as a result of silt build-up Hansen et al. AD In response to growing populations in the Early Classic c.

AD � , centre elites started to construct increasingly larger and more sophisticated reservoirs, a trend that continued into the Late Classic period c. AD � Population size and political power reached their pinnacle, resulting in the use of sophisticated reservoir systems epitomized by elevated convex macro-watershed systems where reservoirs, dams and channels were designed to capture and store water for example, Tikal, Caracol Scarborough et al.

In tandem with increasingly complex and interlinked water and political systems was growing dependency, vulnerability and inflexibility for everyone, especially kings. Kings served as water managers, organizing the expansion and maintenance of water systems and supplicating gods and royal ancestors on behalf of their subjects Lucero, ; Scarborough, This relationship is reflected in the inscriptions and iconography Lucero, ; Fash, ; Hellmuth, ; Puleston, ; Rands, A major symbol of royalty is the water lily and other watery elements associated with reservoirs for instance, water lily pads, fish and so on.

In the tropics, with high rainfall, lush forest, sweltering heat and diverse and complex ecosystems, water quality is an issue McAnany, Relatively warm temperatures throughout the year create an environment where pests can survive year-round. Today the Maya treat waterborne intestinal parasites by drinking the boiled bark of the copal tree Protium copal or leaves of the Jackass Bitter tree Neurolaena lobata or by drinking the juice of the Mexican Wormseed fruit Chenopodium ambrosioides Argivo, , pp.

Land clearing increased in the Classic period as population grew, providing additional areas where stagnant water collected, extending the reach of tainted waters.

Because monumental constructions were built next to reservoirs, the large numbers of people consuming water not only would have impacted its supply, but possibly the quality because of the potential for human waste to pollute waters Pielou, , p. Though with time natural purification processes could ameliorate some pollution resulting from human waste Horne, , the karstic topography alone would not have effectively purified water Siemens, , p.

The Maya met the challenge of keeping water clean by applying their intimate knowledge of their surroundings, sustaining tens of thousands of subjects throughout the dry season. They applied basic principles of the wetland biosphere which included maintaining a balance of hydrophytic and macrophytic plants and other organisms that together purified the water see Hammer and Kadlec, ; Nelson et al. The presence of water lilies Nymphaea ampla on reservoir surfaces indicate clean water since they are sensitive hydrophytic plants that can only flourish in still, clean, shallow 1 m to 3 m water that is not too acidic and does not have too much algae or calcium Conrad, , p.

Also, if the bottom sediment where roots attach contains too much decomposing organic matter, the gases released such as methane, ethylene and phenols can be toxic. Most Nymphaea species prefer water that is more neutral and slightly alkaline Swindels, By lining reservoirs with clay, the Maya could counter calcium seepage and stabilize pH levels. Any bases or hydroxides soluble in water, such as potash or soda ash, can also neutralize acid.

The Maya also used filtration techniques such as sand and gravel, from the household level for instance, colanders to massive reservoirs for example, Scarborough et al. Reservoirs also had other uses; fish eat insects and their faeces and other bottom debris can be used as fertiliser Puleston, Fish, as well as snails and shellfish, are excellent sources of protein Fash and Davis-Salazar, Edible and medicinal plants grow in aquatic environments and the Maya perhaps used reeds that grew at reservoir edges for baskets and mats.

Maya kings and royal reservoirs lasted nearly a millennium. Kings lost the support of their subjects when a series of prolonged droughts struck in the Terminal Classic period from c. AD to Douglas et al. Reservoir systems failed and an urban diaspora from the interior southern lowlands in all directions ensued Lucero, , pp. While each of the hundreds of Maya centres had its own king, suite of resources, circumstances and histories, in each case consequences were dire.

The Terminal Classic collapse and subsequent diaspora were permanent. People who lived in areas without water management systems persisted until immediately prior to the Spanish conquest in Figure 5. Map showing the diaspora from the interior area red to riverine and coastal areas black adapted from Luce- ro et al.

Figure 5. For example, minor centres such as Saturday Creek and Barton Ramie along the Belize River had fertile alluvium and year-round water via the river and aquifers; kings did not emerge because there was nothing they could provide that farmers and local elites could not provide themselves.

Consequently, droughts did not have as much of an impact in these areas as they did at large centres with large reservoirs Lucero, Post-collapse Maya either lived in smaller communities in the interior or emigrated in search of new economic opportunities and water sources, which they found near coastal areas and along major rivers where market towns and trade flourished Graham, ; Masson and Freidel, ; Sabloff, Figure 5. A new type of political system emerged as well, one that relied on shared or joint rulership.

The Maya abandoned southern lowland centres for good � perhaps due to a long recovery time for the interior forest landscape 80 to years Mueller et al. Terminal Classic history is complex because of the several interlinking factors and varied local circumstances. After all, there is evidence for several droughts throughout Maya history Medina-Elizalde et al. The answer involves niche inheritance, path dependency and rigidity Chase and Chase, ; Webster, Niche inheritance relates to how population size, density and distribution at specific times impact landscape, while the latter two relate to intensifying vulnerability as the Maya progressively relied on intricate technologies that left little leeway to rely on other options.

In earlier time periods, lower population size and less resource overuse allowed the Maya more options and better chances for recovery. They, especially the political elite, were not yet on the path to complete dependency because reservoir systems were less intricate and less interwoven into their daily existence. Over time, however, increasing dependence, along with labour demands and vulnerability, became the norm and set the stage for political collapse and urban diaspora.

Kings seemed to have forgotten the main tenets of traditional ecological knowledge; most Maya did not. In each case, the latter was more successful and enduring. The majority of Maya persevered and continue to do so McAnany and Yoffee, ; they achieved this in part through a cosmology of conservation that involved maintaining biodiversity through forest management and practising small-scale, sustainable subsistence practices.

Changing our viewpoint to a non-anthropocentric one is a means by which to do so. The Maya had a cosmocentric worldview, which is the opposite of an anthropocentric one because it situates objects, humans, animals, land, water, everything in an analogistic manner, where each plays a role in maintaining their place in the world and the world itself Descola, Maya cosmology is different from a Western, Cartesian, dichotomous and linear worldview and thus requires us to go beyond thinking about sacred versus secular, supernatural versus natural, culture versus nature and other such dichotomies.

Western societies attempt to keep nature out � or control it or tame it. In other words, we keep it separate from what we create around us � culture. Ingold visualizes this concept as similar to a rhizome � a complicated mess of roots that are all directly or indirectly connected; I think of it as a stringed instrument that when played has reverberations throughout.

The Maya lived in an animated, cyclical world of which they comprised only one of many parts. Each part had duties and responsibilities. It is not so much that they were one with nature as much as they were one with world.

This worldview meant that they both made use of and maintained the world, as well as relationships with other parts � sky, soil, forests, animals, aquatic life, water, other resources and so on. This relationship required acknowledgement and engagement via ceremonies: how they built houses and temples, how they manufactured ceramics and stone tools, how they hunted and other interactions.

This is not to say that this relationship was perfect � the overuse of resources and deforestation happened. For example, in the Mirador Basin of Guatemala the Maya abandoned some of their earliest efforts at monumental building and reservoir systems by AD due to several factors, including droughts Douglas et al. The Maya adjusted and renegotiated this relationship, a strategy that served them well since they did not abandon southern lowland centres for another years.

The fact that over seven million Maya today live in Guatemala, Belize and south-eastern Mexico and have been doing so since before the advent of agriculture several millennia ago, speaks to their sustainable way of life. The Maya world is a multidimensional one with which they engaged and interacted to ensure their cyclical existence. The Earth floated on a primordial sea, often represented as the back of a crocodile or turtle.

People inhabited the middle world. The different levels were connected through openings in the Earth such as caves and cenotes, to which the Maya had access via ceremonies and offerings. The Maya also divided their world along horizontal planes with a quincunx arrangement demarcated by the cardinal directions and a centre. Each direction had its own suite of associated birds, trees, colours and deities Houston et al. Everything was connected.

Dualistic aspects apply to the landscape as well. Most of the Western world perceives geographic features, while the Maya perceived and experienced something different, an animated place with its own life history, with which their cyclical existence interwove. They respect trees and animals; they respect the soil and have a reverence for the madre tierra, Mother Earth.

To avoid blemishing their world, the Maya cosmologically brought into line the things they had built or manufactured. The Maya performed dedication rites to animate manufactured things, from portable items to monumental constructions Lucero, , , bringing them back into the fold of the existing landscape.

The point was not to materially change things, but to transform the material world, which was then absorbed by the surrounding, animated landscape. Some features on the landscape had particular qualities the Maya engaged for specific purposes, especially openings in the Earth. Openings in the Earth such as caves and water bodies are portals to the underworld and a place through which Maya communicated with gods, such as Chahk the rain god, and ancestors to propitiate them for rain, bountiful crops and health Bassie- Ancient Maya Water Management, Droughts and Urban Diaspora: Implications for the Present Figure 6.

Top map shows location of Cara Blanca pools; bottom map shows settlement clustering blue dots near lakes on Class II soils Pools 7, 8 and 9 and less noticeable settlement near ce- notes even when Class II soils are near- by for example, Pools 1, 2, 14, 15, etc. Kinkella, Sweet,

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