Saturday, June 08, 2013

A low stone wall in a rural Maya area

"The Rural Landscape was home to the majority of the ancient Maya population. In rural areas farmers carved their existence out of the ever-encroaching forest. Extended family groups settled small portions of land to farm and produce household materials. Ruins of house compounds, agricultural terracing, and local stone quarrying are scattered throughout the jungle of the southern lowlands. Most of these remains date to the Late Classic period when populations were at their greatest. Rural areas also represented the boundaries between competing Maya polities. In regions with heavy conflict rural areas may have defensive walls that would have supported perishable fortifications. The wall depicted above may represent one of these features."

"Every facet of Maya culture is deeply intertwined with their terrain, betraying a relationship that extends far beyond mere subsistence..."

"During the Archaic period, between 8,000 and 4,000 years ago, the ancestral Maya established an intimate relationship with an expanding tropical forest. As mobile horticulturalists, they modified the landscape to meet their subsistence needs. The agricultural system that the Maya developed from this archaic system underwrote the civilization. It is called the milpa cycle, a polycultivated, tree-dominated, biodiverse landscape which works in accordance with natural cycles and maximizes the utility of native flora and fauna. The Maya milpa cycle sequences from a closed canopy forest to an open field.  When cleared, it is dominated by annual crops that transform into a managed orchard garden, and then back to a closed canopy forest in a continuous circuit. Contrary to European agricultural systems developed around the same period, these fields are never abandoned, even when they are forested. Thus, it is more accurate to think of the milpa cycle as a rotation of annuals with succeeding stages of forest perennials during which all phases receive careful human management."

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