VICTORIA HOUSE

AMBERGRIS CAYE, BELIZE

The resort offers accommodations ranging in size and style from charming Palapa roof casitas, colonial style Plantation rooms and suites to three individual beachfront villas. At the heart of the resort is a fabulous swimming pool set among tall swaying palm trees overlooking the white sand beaches and Caribbean. CLICK HERE
San Pedro Daily Monday,
  April 9, 2012

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AMBERGRIS PARTS LTD.
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For Sale- Large parcel
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  • Located 1/2 mi. south of San Pedro Town
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  • 264 feet street frontage
  • Depth of 154 ft
  • Last commercial block on main thoroughfare
  • Email to boardsd@hotmail.com

Say, whatever happened to
those Maya anyway?
Dr. Herman Smith
"Dig It"
Probably the most frequently asked question about the ancient Maya is: "Why did that great civilization collapse?" According to the latest literature, academics no longer condone the use of the term "collapse". We now speak of a period of "realignment" or "restructuring". It seems that "collapse" is now politically incorrect. God, I love academia.
Call it what you will, the evidence points to a serious shift in Maya life around 900 A.D. The great cities and ceremonial centers were abandoned and the jungle quickly overgrew the formidable structures and the roadways that connected them. Maya life, based on the centuries-old tradition of rule by an elite class came to a rather abrupt and inglorious end. Gone forever were the kings and priests and the elaborate ceremonies and rituals that had been the mainstay of Maya life for hundreds of years.
In seeking the cause for the rapid (probably less than fifty years) decline of the Maya world, scholars have considered numerous possibilities:
1. The Maya were abducted by aliens in UFO's. (Actually this explanation's more popular with the National Inquirer crowd and is generally given short shrift by the academics.)
2. The Maya were wiped out by a huge hurricane or some other natural disaster. With Maya numbering in the millions all over Central America- Well, I don't think so.
3. Everybody died of disease or warfare. No archeological evidence to support either of these theories.
4. There was some sort of peasant revolt or revolution against the ruling class that caused the system to break down. This explanation has a lot of appeal to our twentieth century mind-set because recent history is full of revolutions, but a thousand years ago any notion of individual rights and freedoms usually died with the person that thought them up.
Remember Spartacus?
Well, if none of the conventional explanations fills the bill, what does the archeological evidence have to say about the relatively sudden demise of the most advanced civilization in the New World?
First of all it is important to note that no totally satisfactory explanation for the Maya collapse- OOPS! (make that restructuring) exists. No one absolutely knows for sure what happened, but it's fair to say that there is a growing consensus among archeologists that the root cause was something we all see from day to day and never expect it to catch up with us.
Let's set the stage in the Maya world around 900 A.D. Firstly, the population was enormous by today's standards. Ambergris Caye must have had between ten and twenty thousand residents. The island, in fact, is one large archeological site. Belize probably supported around two million people if current estimates are anywhere near correct. Given the amount of arable land and the relatively inefficient slash and burn agricultural methods employed by the Maya, just feeding everybody must have been a monumental effort. Since there were no draft animals available to the Maya, plowing and row-crop dry farming was out of the question. Hence the reliance on slash and burn, wherein the jungle was cut down and burned, returning important nutrients to the soil which would then support the growth of corn, beans, squash, etc., for two or three crops after which the soil would be exhausted and the farmer would be forced to move on to a new jungle plot while allowing the previous plot to return to secondary growth. After a few years the original plot could be re-burned, but by that time there were more children- more mouths to feed. With unrestricted population growth and a finite supply of land for farming purposes with inefficient farming methods, it's easy to see how a human population could slowly slip behind the curve- and face the inevitable disaster.
What Happened to the Maya? Part Two
Anyone who has studied the ancient Maya for more than, let's say, fifteen minutes has had to come to grips with the question of how such a remarkable civilization came to a rapid and inglorious end. The archeological evidence tells us that around 800 to 900 A.D. the Maya world came apart at the seams. The great ceremonial centers and urban settlements were abandoned and the system that had served the Maya for so many centuries was quite suddenly trashed in favor of a wholesale return to the jungle and subsistence farming. The Maya did not leave the planet. They are still out there in the rural areas of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize; about four million of them. Moreover they don't particularly enjoy full scale participation in the dominant culture where they live. Most don't speak Spanish and could care less about time national politics. They deal with the outside world through a few men who as intermediaries to arrange for the marketing of Maya craft production in local economies.
The central question becomes one of why the Maya system, based on highly successful elite ruling class that dominated Maya life for centuries through a complex system of dynastic rule came to a rapid end. The archeological evidence suggests a number of important clues that may provide some answers to the thousand-year old riddle.
Many scholars believe that the Maya were exceeding the carrying capacity of the ecosystem; simply too many mouths to feed and inefficient farm production trying to keep up with demands from an expanding population. By 800 A.D. or so the Maya are beginning to feel the pressure as they are pushed into a marginal situation where survival is just a few meals away. Excavated graves of the common people of the period reveal skeletons that are actually getting smaller from poor nutrition. There is evidence for vitamin deficiency, disease and premature death. The bones extracted from the tombs of the elite ruling class, however, are robust and healthy, suggesting something of a disparity in food distribution both in terms of quality and quantity. The Maya had practiced irrigation farming for centuries, but as the door began to close on the glory days, labor intensive agriculture became more important. Swamps were networked with irrigation canals and the canals themselves now became fish hatcheries. Food resources that had previously been ignored or under-exploited now became important elements in the diet. Excavations at Lamanai carried out by the author in 1995-96 revealed a residential area occupied during the last years of the Maya struggle for survival. Garbage dumps (we call them "middens") show that the local residents began to eat fresh-water snails when things started to get a little tight around 800 A.D. At first the snails are quite large; only mature snails were taken. As time passed the snails got smaller and smaller until finally the resources seemed to have been exhausted. Bones of game animals also became smaller through time The deepest part of the midden contained bones of mature deer, peccary, turkey and even manatee. Through time the bones became smaller, finally indicating the inhabitants were taking pretty much anything they could lay their, hands on. The bones from the latter period included those of deer fawns, tiny turtles only a few inches in diameter, fish no bigger than sardines and a large number of bones from small rodents and snakes. These are not people with lots of options for lunch. As a matter of fact it appears that they were desperate for the next meal, whatever that might be. Certainly the evidence points to a population unconcerned with conservation. The middens seem to say to us that the Maya had the attitude "Let's eat what we can today and worry about tomorrow later."
Finally, there is yet another piece of evidence that suggests things went downhill rather abruptly, and the common people were not in a particularly good mood as they left town. Many of the huge carved stone monuments erected to commemorate important events in the lives of the kings and princes were systematically defaced and destroyed as the common people abandoned the cities. It sort of reminds me of what recently took place in eastern Europe. The Communist System failed the common people, and while there was no open revolt to amount to much, the symbols of the failed system were defaced and destroyed. Statues of Lenin, Marx and Stalin were toppled into the streets because the system had failed. Perhaps we are getting closer to the truth about the decline of the ancient Maya. It is entirely possible that they fell victim to the same human frailty that threatens so much of the planet today ... too many people, not enough food.
ambergriscaye.com

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