Ancient Mayans were nature lovers, not destroyers

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Washington, December 12 (ANI): In a new research, a team of archaeologists has disputed claims made by experts that the ancient Mayans' agricultural practices led to their eventual collapse, and that the forest gardens cultivated by the Maya demonstrate their great appreciation for the environment.

Many archaeologists, anthropologists, and other scholars are of the opinion that the Mayan civilization's slash-and-burn approach to farming caused such widespread environmental devastation that the land simply could not sustain them.

But, research conducted by Anabel Ford, an archaeologist at UC Santa Barbara and director of the university's MesoAmerican Research Center, suggests the contrary may be true -- that the forest gardens cultivated by the Maya demonstrate their great appreciation for the environment.

A forest garden is an unplowed, tree-dominated plot that sustains biodiversity and animal habitat while producing plants for food, shelter, and medicine.

Tailored to the local geography, the Maya cultivated the forest as a garden for thousands of years.

Today, the Maya forest is dominated by these useful plants, nurtured by traditional farmers of the region who grow a wide array of food, medicine, and spices as well as materials for construction, tools, and utensils.

Their forest gardens provide nourishment for their families, maintain soil fertility, secure water, and clean the air.

"We conclude that the vegetation changes that took place between 4,500 and 3,000 years ago were largely a consequence of unstable climatic conditions," said Ford.

"This climatic chaos forced the Maya to adapt from a society of mobile horticulturists to one of agriculture in a single location," she added.

The result was the Maya Forest Garden, a highly productive and sustainable form of resource management that was the foundation of the Maya civilization from 3,000 to 1,000 years ago.

According to the researchers, "Shifts in the paleoecological record, previously interpreted as evidence of the Maya denuding the forest, can be reinterpreted as evidence of forest management in the form of the Maya Forest garden."

"Climate change played a significant role in landscape transformations, and the Maya's adaptation to climatic changes was to intensify the forest management system developed during the preceding millennia, a system that is still in place today," they added. (ANI)

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