Lack of Access to Water Decimated the Mayans


The major city of Chichen Itza, along the coast of the peninsula, thrived for about a century after 1000AD, almost certainly taking in Mayans who arrived from the arid south to build a revised iteration of Mayan culture in the north. Then, the Blue Hole research shows, a second period of droughts drained the peninsula, coinciding with the estimated time that Chichen Itza also quickly declined. Mayans did however continue to live there, albeit in smaller numbers, surviving the fall of their civilization, the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and the changes of the centuries until the present day.

Great Blue Hole off Belize yields new clues to fall of Mayan civilisation

The historical tragedy provides some really interesting fodder for thinking about non-European models of fantasy world building. The Mayans had a civilization build completely around gathered water in sinkholes and cisterns (rather than waterways) and it creates a completely different way of relating oneself to water. A river is always flowing, always coming from somewhere else, a fundamentally positive relationship with life (unless someone builds a dam upstream).

A sinkhole drains down into nothing, and you can watch that process in real time. The cisterns go dry one by one. The sinkholes no longer produce water. What a horrifying thing.

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2 Responses to Lack of Access to Water Decimated the Mayans

  1. Amsel says:

    Watching the water drain might be more fatalistic for your fantasy people, but equally might provide a greater sense of control over one’s destiny? The water in a river may come from elsewhere but the floods and droughts do too. Somewhere else that can ruin as well as sustain.

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