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Title: Spatial, ethnographic and epigraphic approaches to the relationship between Maya communities and environmental stress
Author: Jobbova, E.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 0986
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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Both the perceived successes and failures of the Maya are often linked to their relationship with the local environment, and their response to episodes of climate change over a period of nearly 2000 years. However, our understanding of human responses to environmental stress has been mostly shaped by narrow focus on drought as a cause for societal collapse, even in relatively well-watered tropical regions. We still know little about the choices humans make in response to extreme variability in rainfall in different environmental conditions and on multiple timescales. This project responds to recent debates and new analytical opportunities in Maya archaeology provided by developments such as increased amounts of paleoclimatic data, the growing field of settlement archaeology and advances in Maya epigraphy, and by combining a range of evidence seeks to explore the relationship between Maya society and the local environment on multiple spatial and temporal scales, while also taking into account socio-cultural agencies. In addition, results from ethnographic fieldwork among contemporary Maya communities provide insights into the impact of stress-inducing climatic events on people’s lives and their coping strategies. These serve as a guide when looking for similar patterns in archaeological and textual evidence. The results demonstrate that drought is a real phenomenon in the Maya neo-tropics, with potential to affect peoples’ lives, despite a widespread assumption that water supplies are abundant and unproblematic in such environments at least by people from temperate climates. Evidence both for episodes of environmental stress and for effective ways that ancient (and modern) Maya used to cope with these episodes is visible in different ways, such as via changes in settlements, subsistence strategies, water management and ritual activity. In fact, I argue that drought-related ritual activities that can still be identified in contemporary Maya communities today can be traced back to the Classic Maya period, and I suggest that two specific rituals appearing in the Terminal Classic texts are very likely planting and rain-beckoning rituals, and potentially linked with episodes of environmental stress. In addition, results from an exploration of human-environment relationship in different regions emphasise the variability present in Maya perceptions of and responses to adverse conditions depending on both environmental and cultural factors.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available