To summarize the Classic Maya collapse, we can tentatively identify five strands. I acknowledge, however, that Maya archaeologists still disagree vigorously among themselves in part, because the different strands evidently varied in importance among different parts of the Maya realm; because detailed archaeological studies are available for only some Maya sites; and because it remains puzzling why most of the Maya heartland remained nearly empty of population and failed to recover after the collapse and after re-growth of forests.
With those caveats, it appears to me that one strand consisted of population growth outstripping available resources: a dilemma similar to the one foreseen by Thomas Malthus in 1798 and being played out today in Rwanda, Haiti and elsewhere. As the archaeologist David Webster succinctly puts it, “Too many farmers grew too many crops on too much of landscape.” Compounding that mismatch between population and resources was the second strand: the effects of deforestation and hillside erosion, which caused a decrease in the amount of useable farmland at a time when more rather than less farmland was needed, and possibly exacerbated by an anthropogenic drought resulting from deforestation, by soil nutrient depletion and other soil problems, and by the struggle to prevent bracken ferns from overrunning the fields.
The third strand consisted of increased fighting, as more and more people fought over fewer resources. Maya warfare, already endemic, peaked just before the collapse. That is not surprising when one reflects that at least five million people, perhaps many more, were crammed into an area smaller than the US state of Colorado (104,000 square miles). That warfare would have decreased further the amount of land available for agriculture, by creating no-man’s lands between principalities where it was now unsafe to farm. Bringing matters to a head was the strand of climate change. The drought at the time of the Classic collapse was not the first drought that the Maya had lived through, but it was the most severe. At the time of previous droughts, there were still uninhabited parts of the Maya landscape, and people at a site affected by drought could save themselves by moving to another site. However, by the time of the Classic collapse the landscape was now full, there was no useful unoccupied land in the vicinity on which to begin anew, and the whole population could not be accommodated in the few areas that continued to have reliable water supplies.
As our fifth strand, we have to wonder why the kings and nobles failed to recognize and solve these seemingly obvious problems undermining their society. Their attention was evidently focused on their short-term concerns of enriching themselves, waging wars, erecting monuments, competing with each other, and extracting enough food from the peasants to support all those activities. Like most leaders throughout human history, the Maya kings and nobles did not heed long-term problems, insofar as they perceived them.
Finally, while we still have some other past societies to consider before we switch our attention to the modern world, we must already he struck by some parallels between the Maya and the past societies. As on Mangareva, the Maya environmental and population problems led to increasing warfare and civil strife. Similarly, on Easter Island and at Chaco Canyon, the Maya peak population numbers were followed swiftly by political and social collapse. Paralleling the eventual extension of agriculture from Easter Island’s coastal lowlands to its uplands, and from the Mimbres floodplain to the hills, Copan’s inhabitants alsoexpanded from the floodplain to the more fragile hill slopes, leaving them with a larger population to feed when the agricultural boom in the hills went bust. Like Easter Island chiefs erecting ever larger statues, eventually crowned by pukao, and like Anasazi elite treating themselves to necklaces of 2,000 turquoise beads, Maya kings sought to outdo each other with more and more impressive temples, covered with thicker and thicker plaster — reminiscent in turn of the extravagant conspicuous consumption by modern American CEOs. The passivity of Easter chiefs and Maya kings in the face of the real big threats to their societies completes our list of disquieting parallels.
According to the passage, which of the following best represents the factor that has been cited by the author in the context of Rwanda and Haiti?
By an anthropogenic drought, the author means
According to the passage, the drought at the time of Maya collapse had a different impact compared to the droughts earlier because
According to the author, why is it difficult to explain the reasons for Maya collapse?
Which factor has not been cited as one of the factors causing the collapse of Maya society?
A remarkable aspect of art of the present century is the range of concepts and ideologies which it embodies. It is almost tempting to see a pattern emerging within the art field - or alternatively imposed upon it a posteriori - similar to that which exists under the umbrella of science where the general term covers a whole range of separate, though interconnecting, activities. Any parallelism is however - in this instance at least - misleading. A scientific discipline develops systematically once its bare tenets have been established, named and categorized as conventions. Many of the concepts of modern art, by contrast, have resulted from the almost accidental meetings of groups of talented individuals at certain times and certain places. The ideas generated by these chance meetings had twofold consequences. Firstly, a corpus of work would be produced which, in great part, remains as a concrete record of the events. Secondly, the ideas would themselves be disseminated through many different channels of communication - seeds that often bore fruit in contexts far removed from their generation. Not all movements were exclusively concerned with innovation. Surrealism, for instance, claimed to embody a kind of insight which can be present in the art of any period. This claim has been generally accepted so that a sixteenth century painting by Spranger or a mysterious photograph by Atget can legitimately be discussed in surrealist terms. Briefly, then, the concepts of modern art are of many different (often fundamentally different) kinds and resulted from the exposures of painters, sculptors and thinkers to the more complex phenomena of the twentieth century, including our ever increasing knowledge of the thought and products of earlier centuries. Different groups of artists would collaborate in trying to make sense of a rapidly changing world of visual and spiritual experience. We should hardly be surprised if no one group succeeded completely, but achievements, though relative, have been considerable. Landmarks have been established - concrete statements of position which give a pattern to a situation which could easily have degenerated into total chaos. Beyond this, new language tools have been created for those who follow - semantic systems which can provide a springboard for further explorations.
The codifying of art is often criticized. Certainly one can understand that artists are wary of being pigeonholed since they are apt to think of themselves as individuals - sometimes with good reason. The notion of self-expression, however, no longer carries quite the weight it once did; objectivity has its defenders. There is good reason to accept the ideas codified by artists and critics, over the past sixty years or so, as having attained the status of independent existence - an independence which is not without its own value. The time factor is important here. As an art movement slips into temporal perspective, it ceases to be a living organism - becoming, rather, a fossil. This is not to say that it becomes useless or uninteresting. Just as a scientist can reconstruct the life of a prehistoric environment from the messages codified into the structure of a fossil, so can an artist decipher whole webs of intellectual and creative possibility from the recorded structure of a ‘dead’ art movement. The artist can match the creative patterns crystallized into this structure against the potentials and possibilities of his own time. As T.S. Eliot observed, no one starts anything from scratch; however consciously you may try to live in the present, you are still involved with a nexus of behaviour patterns bequeathed from the past. The original and creative person is not someone who ignores these patterns, but someone who is able to translate and develop them so that they conform more exactly to his - and our - present needs.
Many of the concepts of modern art have been the product of
In the passage, the word ‘fossil’ can be interpreted as
In the passage, which of the following similarities between science and art may lead to erroneous conclusions?
The range of concepts and ideologies embodied in the art of the twentieth century is explained by
The passage uses an observation by T.S. Eliot to imply that