The conventional wisdom says that the devolution of classic Maya civilization occurred because its population grew too large and dense to be supported by primitive neotropical farming methods, resulting in debilitating famines and internecine struggles. Using research on contemporary Maya farming techniques and important new archaeological research, in The Maya Forest Garden Ford and Nigh refute this Malthusian explanation of events in ancient Central America and posit a radical alternative theory.
The authors of The Maya Forest Garden show that ancient Maya farmers developed ingenious, sustainable woodland techniques to cultivate numerous food plants (including the staple maize) examine both contemporary tropical farming techniques and the archaeological record (particularly regarding climate) to reach their conclusions make the argument that these ancient techniques, still in use today, can support significant populations over long periods of time.
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Anabel Ford is director of the BRASS/El Pilar Program of the MesoAmerican Research Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA. She has done extensive research on patterns of Maya settlement and ecology, and she is recognized for the discovery of the ancient Maya city center of El Pilar, near the border of Belize and Guatemala.
Ronald Nigh is a professor at Centro Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores in Chiapas, Mexico. He is the author of numerous studies and articles on agricultural, ecological, and environmental issues of concern to indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean.