Room 951, Schermerhorn Extension, Columbia University
Lecture delivered by Professor Lisa J. Lucero at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
This event is sponsored by the Columbia Center for Archaeology.
The southern lowland Maya maintained a sustainable relationship with a biodiverse tropical environment for millennia. They co-existed with nature. This relationship endured even when population peaked c. 600–800 CE (Late Classic). This co-existence was possible due to the diverse strategies in how the Maya lived, planted, hunted, foraged, and so on. In fact, Maya gardens and fields mimicked forest biodiversity. They also managed forest resources—culling, promoting some species over others, extracting resources, setting fires, gathering wood, and hunting. The Maya also interwove their lifeways in accordance with their cosmocentric worldview, which situates objects, humans, animals, land, water, everything in an analogous manner where each plays a role in maintaining their place in the world and the world itself. This worldview also impacted forest management via, for example, their treatment of sacred places, many of which lacked permanent settlement and agricultural features. Such uninhabited yet engaged areas promoted conservation because flora and fauna could flourish. This cosmology of conservation, plus the mosaic of built, managed and untouched areas, promoted a sustainable human-environment relationship for millennia. I illustrate this relationship through a discussion of archaeological research in central Belize, Central America.