New paper from the IHOPE-Maya working group

Ecology and Society has published an article from the IHOPE-Maya working group. It is available online at:

Gunn, J. D., V. L. Scarborough, W. J. Folan, C. Isendahl, A. F. Chase, J. A. Sabloff and B. Volta. 2017. A distribution analysis of the central Maya lowlands ecoinformation network: its rises, falls, and changes. Ecology and Society 22 (1):20.

For the last eight years scholars from University of North Carolina Greensboro, Arizona State University, Autonomous University of Campeche, Mexico, University of Nevada Las Vegas, the Santa Fe Institute, Gothenburg University Sweden, University of Cincinnati, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), Santa Barbara CA, and several other institutions (see acknowledgements in the article) have been cooperating on studies of the Maya Lowlands Classic and Postclassic periods (approximately from 300 BC to AD 1500). The focus was on understanding what transpires when a great civilization encounters a great disaster, and transforms itself through a massive social and spatial reorganization. The most recent product of these studies is an article in Ecology and Society that experiments with using factor analysis to understand what is necessary to reorganize a society from a highly sophisticated, overland communications and transportation system to a sustainable, maritime-based system. All of this was pivotal on a number of extended droughts in the AD 800s, but also on long term social and technological changes in Maya society. Dr. Joel D. Gunn oversaw this aspect of the IHOPE-Maya study that required the cooperation of scientists from anthropology, geography, complex systems science, plant biology, archaeology, and geomorphology. The next steps in the program involve applying the lessons learned from the Maya civilization to the current world economic system that faces major changes in climate, energy, and food resources.

Figure 1: IHOPE-Maya project members deliberating strategy in an annual meeting at NCEAS, 2010.

Figure 2: Simulation of Calakmul, a key city in the Maya civilization from about AD 400-700, after which it was abandoned as a center of government in favor of coastal cities such as Acalan and Chakan-Putun.