The rise and fall of the ancient Maya
The ancient Maya are famed for their monumental architecture, beautiful jade and obsidian artifacts, and intricate calendar. The Maya civilization emerged in 2000 BCE (Before the Common Era). At its peak between 250 and 900 CE (Common Era), it was among the most densely populated, socially complex societies in the world. The largest and most complex polities were located in the southern lowlands in areas dependent on rainfall for water. Lisa Lucero proposed that ritual and physical control of drinkable water in these regions helped Maya elites demand tribute from their farmer clients. Climate change may have rendered ancient Maya waterworks inviable, bankrupting elites of their social capital, and leading to the decline of Maya polities.
Dr. Lucero presented a paper on the water control hypothesis at the 2009 Society for American Archaeology meetings . In the same session, I presented a paper on the utility of economic bargaining theory to the study of social evolution, using Dr. Lucero's water control hypothesis as an example. Mesoamerican archaeologist David Carballo asked us to co-author a chapter synthesizing our ideas in a book he is editing on the cultural evolutionary dynamics of cooperation in archaeological contexts. We happily obliged.
The book is titled Cultural and Evolutionary Dynamics of Cooperation: Archaeological Perspectives, and is slated for publication in 2012 by University Press of Colorado, Boulder.