Changing Socioecologies on the Prehispanic Pacific Slope of Guatemala

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 17 March, 2016 - 09:15
, Shawn

Many scholars have proposed a causal relationship between climatic change and significant sociopolitical change among the prehispanic Maya of the Yucatan and Peten regions of Mesoamerica. In contrast, Collins’ (2009) work in watersheds across the piedmont and coast of southern Guatemala shows that sociopolitical change did not correlate with climatic and environmental change. If overt anthropogenic ecological degradation was not the cause of the prehispanic depopulation of the Pacific slope of Guatemala, decreased socioecological diversity may have contributed. Phytolith, pollen, and charcoal evidence from the paleoecological record suggest that as agriculture intensified on the Pacific slope, much of the landscape came under cultivation that increasingly centered on fewer economically useful species, thereby leading to a socioecology that was less resilient to stressors such as social or environmental change.