The ancient Maya, a flamboyant civilization, became one of the longest lasting Columbian civilizations because of their ability to transform and adapt to challenging and frustrating ecological conditions…
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The classic Maya civilization flourished in the southern low lands of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras between the last four centuries before Christ and AD 900. Despite the conditions of prolonged dry spells caused by draught, constant brushfires that devastated the earth, and erratic rain patterns that wreaked havoc on agriculture, the Maya community’s survival for such a long period of time could be attributed to their farming tactics.
The hot and humid conditions of the low lands, with no possibility for irrigation, posed the primary challenge to the Mayan existence as a farming community, but they seemed to have adapted to these adverse conditions by their innovative tactics. They moved to the dense forest area that mantled the southern lowlands, cleared the primordial forest and utilized it for agriculture. In order to overcome the infertility of their homeland, they adopted the slash-and-burn cultivation by cleaning the brush and trees, and burning them. This helped them to put to use even the barren lands. However, this had a shortcoming that the fertility would last for only about two years or so. The Mayans were again imaginative here by migrating to fresher meadows where they cultivated, and returned after several years to utilize the same land they earlier abandoned. Maintaining this process as a cycle, they were able to use a wider area of land. Thus they were able to circumvent, albeit temporarily, the challenges of nature.
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