The Population of Tikal

Book Details

Author  David Webster
Publisher  Archaeopress Access Archaeology
Publication Date   August 31, 2018
ISBN  1784918458
Pages  162

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Description

The Classic Maya (AD 250-900) of central and southern Yucatan were long seen as exceptional in many ways. We now know that they did not invent Mesoamerican writing or calendars, that they were just as warlike as other ancient peoples, that many innovations in art and architecture attributed to them had diverse origins, and that their celebrated “collapse” is not what it seems. One exceptionalist claim stubbornly persists: the Maya were canny tropical ecologists who managed their fragile tropical environments in ways that supported extremely large and dense populations and still guaranteed resilience and sustainability. Archaeologists commonly assert that Maya populations far exceeded those of other ancient civilizations in the Old and New Worlds. The great center of Tikal, Guatemala, has been central to our conceptions of Maya demography since the 1960s. Re-evaluation of Tikal’s original settlement data and its implications, supplemented by much new research there and elsewhere, allows a more modest and realistic demographic evaluation. The peak Classic population probably was on the order of 1,000,000 people. This population scale helps resolve debates about how the Maya made a living, the nature of their sociopolitical systems, how they created an impressive built environment, and places them in plausible comparative context with what we know about other ancient complex societies.

Table of Contents

Introduction

A Short History of Maya Demographic Estimates and their Implications

Comparative Demographic Estimates for Other Civilizations

University of Pennsylvania Tikal Project Population Estimates

The “Managed Forest” Model for the Lowland Maya: Implications for Tikal

Biases and Limitations of the Tikal Research and some Comparisons with Copan

How Many Maya Lived in the Central and Southern Lowlands during Late and Terminal Classic Times?

Discussion and Conclusions

Appendix A: Population Density Calculations

Appendix B: The Big Stuff

Appendix C: Agricultural Intensification

Appendix D: Maya Food Shortfalls and Their Consequences

Appendix E: Agrarian Capital, Land Tenure, Inheritance, Entitlements, and Agency

Appendix F: Classic Maya Political Organization and Institutions

Appendix G: Malthus, Boserup, and the Maya References cited

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