Current Central American agricultural practices are environmentally and economically unsustainable, yet the ancient Maya who lived in the same region thrived for thousands of years. Archaeologists have attempted to understand the factors enabling the prolonged success and ultimate collapse of the Maya societies. Some have proposed that the karst seasonal wetlands, called bajos, that border many Maya sites in the region were an influential factor in the Maya's ability to flourish. For the past decade, researchers have used carbon isotope analyses to identify areas of ancient maize agriculture at Maya archaeological sites. In this study, we collected soil samples from bajos and upland areas at Tikal, one of the most prominent Maya sites, located in northern Guatemala, and analyzed the samples for evidence of past C4 vegetation. Our results confirm that bajos were utilized by the ancient Maya for long-term maize cultivation. Additionally, they suggest that modern agricultural methods in Guatemala that strategically utilize bajos may improve productivity and sustainability.
College and Department
Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Parker, Adam Calvin, "Evidence of Ancient Maya Agriculture in the Bajos Surrounding Tikal, Guatemala" (2015). Theses and Dissertations. 5784.
sustainability, milpa, corn, Guatemala, maize, stable carbon isotope, wetlands