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David Lentz Tikal Project Overview

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (BCS-0810118)

The land management strategies that supported the development of complex societies in southern Mesoamerica are poorly understood. This study, conducted by a multi-university team, is designed to provide a comprehensive, but nuanced, view of human-environmental interactions from the Maya past. The primary theoretical questions being addressed focus on how agricultural intensification was achieved and how other essential resources, such as water and forest products, were managed, especially in light of climatic variables. All of these activities were essential components of an initially sustainable land use strategy that eventually failed to meet the demands of an escalating population. What appears to have been a spiraling disconnect with sound ecological principles undoubtedly contributed to the Maya "collapse." This study is providing insights that broaden our understanding of the interplay between the tropical environment and human agency, the rise of social complexity and the expansion of the Maya political economy. In more general terms, our research results will contribute to a refined model of human-environmental interactions in ancient societies with a focus on how these interactions were modified in response to climatic changes. Click here for a list of peer-review pubications and their pdf files.

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Tikal team photo

Tikal team photo, 2010 (participants from the University of Cincinnati, University of Texas, Austin; University of Hawaii; University of San Carlos, Guatemala)

Vegetation survey led by Ph.D. student Kim Thompson (left) in modern forests that now cover the ancient city of Tikal.

Vegetation survey led by Ph.D. student Kim Thompson (left) in modern forests that now cover the ancient city of Tikal.

Coring operation led by PhD. student Brian Lane in Corriental Reservoir.

Coring operation led by PhD. student Brian Lane in Corriental Reservoir.

Three investigators of the Tikal project: David Lentz (center), Vern Scarborough (left) and Nick Dunning (right), all from the University of Cincinnati.

Three investigators of the Tikal project: David Lentz (center), Vern Scarborough (left) and Nick Dunning (right), all from the University of Cincinnati.