Mayan Collapse Might Have Been Brought On By Shifting Trade Patterns
A recently published study sheds new light on the collapse of inland Mayan cities that occured around 1,000 years ago. The "Mayan Collapse" may have been brought on by shifting trade patterns.
"Our research strongly suggests that changing patterns of trade were instrumental in prompting the 'Maya collapse,'" said Gary Feinman, curator of anthropology at The Field Museum, which collaborated with the University of Illinois at Chicago on the study.
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It was previously though that a climate change or other environmenal factors played the key role in bringing about the collapse of these Mayan cities. This study, however, looked at trade patterns concerning obsidian, or volcanic glass.
The Mayans did not have metal tools, and instead relied on obsidian because of its sharp cutting edges.
Apparently, prior to the collapse of these inland centers, obsidian tended to be traded through the inland river networks. But evidence shows that eventually obsidian began to be traded more amongst the coastal regions, and this may have contribued to the inland centers collapsing.
Obsidian was not the only resource that experienced this shift in trade patterns.
"The implication is that other valuable goods important to these inland centers were also slowly being cut off," said Field Researcher Mark Golitko.
The researchers used a Social Network Analysis (SNA) software which looked at stores of obsidian over four time periods. The SNA then mapped out the likely trade routes that would have resulted in the obsidian being where it was.
"The use of SNA to display and analyze the obsidian data graphically gives us a new perspective on these data, some of which has been present for years," said Feinman.
The study did not examine why these routes might have changed, and only pointed out the possible correlation between these trade routes and the "Mayan Collapse."