The First Art Newspaper on the Net Established in 1996 United States Thursday, November 27, 2014


Researchers from Brigham Young University unlock ancient Maya secrets with modern soil science
Daniel Bair and Chris Balzotti auger soil samples at Ceibal, Guatemala.
PROVO, UT.- After emerging sometime before 1000 BC, the Maya rose to become the most advanced Pre-Columbian society in the Americas, thriving in jungle cities of tens of thousands of people, such as the one in Guatemala's Tikal National Park. But after reaching its peak between 250 and 900 AD, the Maya civilization began to wane and exactly why has been an enduring mystery to scientists.

Writing in the Nov.-Dec. issue of the Soil Science of America Journal (SSSA-J), an interdisciplinary team led by Richard Terry, a Brigham Young University soil scientist, now describes its analysis of maize agriculture in the soils of Tikal. Not surprisingly, the study uncovered evidence for major maize production in lowland areas, where erosion is less likely and agriculture was presumably more sustainable for this community of an estimated 60,000 people.

But the team also discovered evidence of erosion in upslope soils, suggesting that farming did spread to steeper, less suitable soils over time. And if Maya agriculture did cause substantial erosion, the soil loss could eventually have undercut the Maya's ability to grow food, say the researchers.

The findings are just the latest example of how invisible artifacts in soil -- something archeologists literally used to brush aside -- can inform studies of past civilizations. That's because artwork and buildings can crumble over time and jungles will eventually conceal ancient farm fields, but "the soil chemistry is still there," Terry says.

He explains, for example, that most forest vegetation native to Tikal uses a photosynthetic pathway called C3, while maize uses a pathway called C4. The soil organic matter derived from these two pathways also differs, allowing researchers to make conclusions about the types of plants that were growing in the soils they test.

Thus, by analyzing soils in different areas of Tikal as well as looking at the layers that had formed in the soils, Terry and his collaborators were able to map the areas where ancient maize production occurred, including lowland "bajo" areas and possibly steeper slopes, as more food was needed.

Questions like this about past farming practices have always interested archeologists, Terry notes. But the tools of modern soil science are now enabling these scientists to ask increasingly sophisticated questions about how ancient peoples tried to sustain themselves -- and whether their treatment of the land was a factor in cases where they failed.

"[These tools] open us up to thinking about the world in ways that we haven't before," Terry says. "We have changed the paradigm amongst the archaeologists."

The research appearing in SSSA-J was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and Brigham Young University.





Today's News

November 22, 2012

Bibliothèque nationale de France examines the life of the Rothschilds in the 19th century

Argentine experts from the Natural Sciences Museum of La Plata find giant penguin fossils in Antarctica

Study delivers new insights into Rembrandt's etching techniques, many printed after his death

Former secretary to Imelda Marcos charged in New York with art conspiracy

"John Bellany: A Passion for Life" retrospective opens at the Scottish National Gallery

Chinese Abstract painter Zao Wou-ki's twilight clouded by family feud over works

Researchers from Brigham Young University unlock ancient Maya secrets with modern soil science

Brooklyn Museum acquires Neoclassical portrait by Colonial Puerto Rican master José Campeche

Auction of rare books at Ketterer Kunst in Hamburg yields 540,000% return on Die Brücke artist catalog

Local collectors donate work by acclaimed sculptor David Smith to Columbus Museum of Art

Lincoln document on sale in Philly for $900,000

Rare Beatles autographs given during a late night card game to be sold at Campbells in December

German Santa car leads the parade of highlights at Bertoia's $2.1M Toybox Treasures auction

India Art Fair announces its 5th Edition

Jonathan Prince installs major sculpture at new Broad Art Museum

Captain Speedy goes to Ethiopia: Travel and Photography Sale at Bonhams includes rare images of empire

New sequence of Adam Silverman's highly acclaimed pots on view at Edward Cella Art + Architecture

Ayyam Gallery to expand into London and Jeddah

Government Auction brings out the luxury goods for Black Friday

El Anatsui sculptural tapestry hung in Bloch Lobby at Nelson-Atkins Museum

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- Greece holds breath as skeleton found in Alexander the Great-era tomb at Amphipolis

2.- Spain mourns the death of art collector Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, Duchess of Alba

3.- Meet the ancestors: Exhibition at Bordeaux gallery reveals faces of prehistoric humans

4.- Getty Foundation and partners launch free of charge online art collection catalogues

5.- Historic photos of dead Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara resurface in small Spanish town

6.- Exhibition showcases the first two 'Poesie' created by Titian following their restoration

7.- O'Keeffe painting sells for more than three times the previous world auction record for any female artist

8.- Crystal Bridges announces the departure of museum President Don Bacigalupi

9.- artnet Auctions offers a later example of Yayoi Kusama's important Infinity-Nets series

10.- 'Degenerate art' should go back to museums: German advisor Jutta Limbach



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 

Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez - Marketing: Carla Gutiérrez
Special Contributor: Liz Gangemi - Special Advisor: Carlos Amador
Contributing Editor: Carolina Farias

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org theavemaria.org juncodelavega.org facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site