The purpose of this study was to use soil physical and chemical analyses to better understand the ancient agricultural landscape around the ancient Maya cities of Rio Amarillo and Piedras Negras, two tributary sites to Copan, Honduras. Our primary objective was to determine whether a mass erosion event around 800 A.D. occurred which could have caused crop failure and famine or if stable soil conditions persisted during the collapse of these city-states. Stable carbon isotope analysis of the humin fraction of the soils showed that much of this valley was used anciently for agriculture, including hillslopes and hilltops; however, there is no evidence of mass erosion in the soil profiles. Soil horizon development and texture is consistent with stable soil conditions in this area. The demise of these city-states was likely caused by a variety of factors including warfare and political unrest, and not solely by environmental degradation as postulated in previous studies of the valley.
College and Department
Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Brown, Bryce Matthew, "Ancient Maya Agricultural Resources in the Rio Amarillo Valley near Copán, Honduras" (2016). All Theses and Dissertations. 6121.
stable carbon isotopes, soil analysis, ancient agriculture, Maya agriculture, geochemistry