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Tikal: Paleoecology of an Ancient Maya City

  • Addresses key questions about Maya sustainability and agriculture in the Late Classic period
  • QR codes throughout provide links to external resources
  • Research includes a video showing a 3-D representation of the development of Tikal from a small village during the Pre-Classic period to a city during the Late Classic period

By: David L Lentz(Editor), Nicholas P Dunning(Editor), Vernon L Scarborough(Editor)

370 pages, 57 b/w illustrations, 15 maps

Cambridge University Press

Hardback | Apr 2015 | #215328 | ISBN-13: 9781107027930
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £66.99 $87/€75 approx

About this book

The primary theoretical question addressed in Tikal: Paleoecology of an Ancient Maya City focuses on the lingering concern of how the ancient Maya in the northern Peten Basin were able to sustain large populations in the midst of a tropical forest environment during the Late Classic period. Tikal: Paleoecology of an Ancient Maya City asks how agricultural intensification was achieved and how essential resources, such as water and forest products, were managed in both upland areas and seasonal wetlands, or bajos. All of these activities were essential components of an initially sustainable land use strategy that eventually failed to meet the demands of an escalating population. This spiraling disconnect with sound ecological principles undoubtedly contributed to the Maya collapse. The book's findings provide insights that broaden the understanding of the rise of social complexity – the expansion of the political economy, specifically – and, in general terms, the trajectory of cultural evolution of the ancient Maya civilization.


1. Tikal land, water, and forest: an introduction Nicholas P. Dunning, David L. Lentz and Vernon L. Scarborough
2. The evolution of an ancient waterworks system at Tikal Vernon L. Scarborough and Liwy Grazioso Sierra
3. At the core of Tikal: terrestrial sediment sampling and water management Brian Lane, Vernon L. Scarborough and Nicholas P. Dunning
4. Bringing the University of Pennsylvania maps of Tikal into the era of electronic GIS Christopher Carr, Eric Weaver, Nicholas P. Dunning and Vernon L. Scarborough
5. Examining landscape modifications for water management at Tikal using three-dimensional modeling with Arcgis .91 Eric Weaver, Christopher Carr, Nicholas P. Dunning, Lee Florea and Vernon L. Scarborough
6. Life on the edge: Tikal in a bajo landscape Nicholas P. Dunning, Robert E. Griffin, John G. Jones, Richard E. Terry, Zachary Larsen and Christopher Carr
7. Connecting contemporary ecology and ethnobotany to ancient plant use practices of the Maya at Tikal Kim Thompson, Angela Hood, Dana Cavaller and David L. Lentz
8. Agroforestry and agricultural practices of the ancient Maya at Tikal David L. Lentz, Kevin Magee, Eric Weaver, John G. Jones, Kenneth B. Tankersley, Angela Hood, Gerald Islebe, Carmen Ramos and Nicholas P. Dunning
9. Fire and water: the archaeological significance of Tikal's Quaternary sediments Kenneth Tankersley, Nicholas P. Dunning, Vernon L. Scarborough, John Jones, Christopher Carr and David L. Lentz
10. Fractious farmers at Tikal David Webster and Timothy Murtha
11. The material culture of Tikal Palma Buttles, Carmen Ramos and Fred Valdez, Jr.
12. A neighborly view: water and environmental history of the El Zotz region Timothy Beach, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, Jonathan Flood, Stephen Houston, Thomas Garrison, Edwin Roman, Steve Bozarth and James Doyle
13. Defining the constructed niche of Tikal: a summary view David L. Lentz, Nicholas P. Dunnin and Vernon L. Scarborough

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David L. Lentz is Professor of Biological Sciences and Executive Director of the Center for Field Studies at the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of more than ninety publications that have appeared as journal articles, book chapters, and three books, including this volume. He is the editor of Imperfect Balance: Landscape Transformations in the Precolumbian Americas (2000) and the coauthor of Seeds of Central America and Southern Mexico (2005, with Ruth Dickau). A Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and a former Fulbright Scholar, he has received support for his ancient landscape studies and paleoethnobotanical research from the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Geographic Society, the Heinz Family Foundation, and the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies.

Nicholas P. Dunning is Professor of Geography at the University of Cincinnati. He is a geoarchaeologist and cultural ecologist specializing in the neotropics. He has published several books and more than ninety articles and book chapters, including those in this volume.

Vernon L. Scarborough is Distinguished University Research Professor and Charles Phelps Taft Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Cincinnati. His work emphasizes sustainability and global water systems through an examination of past engineered landscapes, using comparative ecological and transdisciplinary perspectives. In addition to editing Water and Humanity: A Historical Overview for UNESCO, he is a steering committee member of the Integrated History and Future of People on Earth (IHOPE) network, whose main office is located at Uppsala University, and an active organizer of the subgroup IHOPE-Maya. He is a senior editor for the journal WIREs Water and a series editor for Cambridge University Press's New Directions in Sustainability and Society series. He has published ten books – eight of them edited, including this volume – and authored more than ninety book chapters or journal articles.

- Nicholas P. Dunning
- David L. Lentz
- Vernon L. Scarborough
- Liwy Grazioso Sierra
- Brian Lane
- Christopher Carr
- Eric Weaver
- Lee Florea
- Robert E. Griffin
- John G. Jones
- Richard E. Terry
- Zachary Larsen
- Kim Thompson
- Angela Hood
- Dana Cavallero
- Kevin Magee
- Kenneth B. Tankersley
- Gerald Islebe
- Carmen Ramos
- David Webster
- Timothy Murtha
- Palma Buttles
- Fred Valdez, Jr.
- Timothy Beach
- Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach
- Jonathan Flood
- Stephen Houston
- Thomas Garrison
- Edwin Román
- Steve Bozarth
- James Doyle

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