Ecology and Society Ecology and Society
E&S Home > Vol. 22, Iss. 1 > Art. 20 > Abstract Open Access Publishing 
A distribution analysis of the central Maya lowlands ecoinformation network: its rises, falls, and changes

Joel D. Gunn, University of North Carolina Greensboro
Vernon L. Scarborough, Department of Anthropology, University of Cincinnati
William J. Folan, Centro de Investigaciones Historicas y Sociales, Universidad Autonoma de Campeche
Christian Isendahl, Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg
Arlen F. Chase, Department of Anthropology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Jeremy A. Sabloff, Santa Fe Institute
Beniamino Volta, Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego


Full Text: HTML   
Download Citation


We report a study of central Maya lowland dynastic information networks, i.e., six cities’ external elite ceramic influences, and how they reflect the decision-making practices of Maya elites over 3000 years. Forest cover, i.e., Moraceae family pollen, was added to the network analysis to provide ecological boundary conditions, thus ecologically moderated information networks. Principal components analysis revealed three dominant patterns. First, the networking of interior cities into powerful polities in the Late Preclassic and Classic periods (400 BCE-800 CE). In a second pattern, coastal cities emerged as key entrepôts based on marine navigation (Terminal and Postclassic periods, 800-1500 CE). Climate dynamics and sustainability considerations facilitated the transition. Forest cover, a measure of ecosystem health, shows interior forests diminished as interior cities networked but rebounded as their networks declined. By contrast, coastal forests flourished with networks implying that the marine-based economy was sustainable. Third, in the Classic, the network-dominant coast, west or east, changed with interior polities’ political struggles, the critical transition occurring after 695 CE as Tikal gained dominance over the Calakmul-Caracol alliance. Beginning with the Late Preclassic about 2000 years ago, it is possible to assign names to the decision makers by referencing the growing literature on written Maya records. Although the detectable decision sequence evident in this analysis is very basic, we believe it does open possible avenues to much deeper understanding as the study proceeds into the future. The Integrated History and Future of People on Earth–Maya working group that sponsored the analysis anticipates that it will provide actionable social science intelligence for future decision making at the global scale.

Key words

central Maya lowlands; ceramics; complex-adaptive systems; distribution analysis; forest cover; principal components analysis

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087