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The Great Maya Droughts: Water, Life, and Death Paperback – April 1, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0826327741 ISBN-10: 0826327745 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: University of New Mexico Press; Reprint edition (April 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826327745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826327741
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,141,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

." . . the author presents his case in a direct, matter-of-fact way that's accessible even to non-scientists. . . . ["The Great Maya Droughts" is] a benchmark for applying 'hard' science principles to what has been seen as a 'soft science.'"

From the Inside Flap

Proposes a long sought solution to the mystery of the collapse of the Maya civilization: a series of severe droughts during the ninth and tenth centuries which brought famine, thirst, and death to the Maya lowlands.

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Customer Reviews

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Eventually, the drought collapse thesis will be obvious.
John D. Gleissner
Not until the last two chapters of the book, and then mostly in summary form, does the author really discuss the archaeological data.
Atheen
This particular assertion is probably one of the most controversial in the book and is critical to the author's basic thesis.
Steven Zoraster

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Steven Zoraster on August 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book's central thesis is that Classical Maya civilization collapsed as a result of a drought in Mesoamerica extending throughout the 9th century AD. This particular drought was the local manifestation of Northern Hemisphere weather patterns that the author asserts have been repeated frequently over shorter time periods for thousands of years, even into this century, and which nearly always produce drought in Mesoamerica.
Once you accept the author's evidence for Mesoamerican droughts and their regularity, that evidence provides a parsimonious explanation for the end of Classical Maya civilization. After reading this book, I think many people will accept the evidence and the explanation.
More complex hypotheses, including overpopulation, warfare between Mayan city-states, external invasion, disease, over centralization, exhaustion of a stable environment, and peasant revolt are not needed to explain the collapse. This does not mean that such factors, if they existed, did not influence the course of the collapse, just that the collapse would have happened because of the drought whether or not other factors existed.
To support his thesis, which is clearly stated clearly at the beginning of the book, Dr. Gill takes the reader on a tour of a multitude of scientific disciplines. Each discipline studied adds information about the importance, frequency, possible causes and consequences of drought in Mesoamerican and on civilization and population trends throughout the world. Any one of these tours alone is worth the price of the book, since they are extremely well written and provide the foundation for further study on each topic covered.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Atheen on November 4, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although The Great Maya Droughts by Richardson Gill is a very impressive collection of information, it's not quite what I had expected. Given the title I had expected an archaeological account of recent finds and what they tell of the decline of Maya civilization. Instead the bulk of the book, eleven chapters of it, deals with a wide variety of scientific information having to do with a number of fields: physics, oceanography, complexity theory, meteorology, geology, hydrology, paleoclimatology, and volcanology among them. Not until the last two chapters of the book, and then mostly in summary form, does the author really discuss the archaeological data. For the average reader interested in the Maya and/or in general archaeology this might be a thirty dollar disappointment. Some of the material is rather complex, and although one might be able to work ones way through it on just the explanations the author gives of each topic, it would probably appeal more to those who already have at least some background in these areas. This having been said, though, I have to admit that I loved the book.
The author's primary goal is to introduce the theme of what he terms an energy failure as the cause of the Maya demise. To do this he approaches his topic as a physical scientist. Modern archaeology has come a long way since W. M. Flinders Petrie and A. Layard, and there is as much "hard" science involved in this discipline as digging in the sand. In fact with funds for excavations difficult to come by these days, there is probably far less digging in the sand going on now than there was in the past. Gill seems to be a model of the new archeologist/scientist. Steeped in what E. O.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John D. Gleissner on November 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I visited Tikal in 1974 and wondered for years how the Classic Maya civilization fell. I studied how different nations fell, but never came upon an explanation for the Classic Maya Collapse. Finally, Dr. Gill figured it out in convincing fashion. His book makes other academic explanations seem sketchy, incomplete and erroneous by comparison. Trained archeologists have been slow to accept Dr. Gill's findings, but only because they did not figure it out first. Eventually, the drought collapse thesis will be obvious. Wars, revolutions, and disease do not make whole civilizations fall - but a prolonged lack of water will do it every time.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jeff L. Brady on July 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Gill has truly broken new ground with this startling theory on the demise of the Mayan Empire. Why no-one heretofore considered drought as the primary cause of the Mayan disappearance now seems remarkable. His premise debunks the previous and long-held concepts on the mysterious demise of these ancient people and literally re-writes a major chapter in the history of Mexico. Thank you, Dr. Gill for finally shedding light on this dark topic and providing a conclusive answer to what has long been a nebulous and even divisive black hole in the anthropologic annals of North America.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M.D. Sutter on June 17, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book arrived as promised in like new condition. I am very pleased with the delivery and the sale process.
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