A New Theory of the Maya Collapse: It didn’t happen


Mayan collapse? Why did they not take a sit down break? Perhaps the famed collapse of this ancient empire is not what researchers previously believed. Dr. Anne Pyburn certainly thinks so. The research of Mayan Archaeology and Culture has increased greatly over the past decades. With this research comes new or better understanding of how that society worked. And Dr. Pyburn’s point is that the empire did “work”, and our preconceived notions of the collapse are not quite correct. Pull up a chair, pour a glass of spiced coco, and perhaps some maize and hear what this past society may have really been about!


Anne Pyburn  Dr. Anne Pyburn


Dr. Anne Pyburn is a professor in the Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University. She studies ancient Maya cities and the ethics of heritage conservation.

Pyburn has directed major excavations of three ancient Maya cities in Central America, where she discovered a previously unknown style of water conservation and irrigation technology, developed a new perspective on ancient political economy, and has proposed an alternative explanation for the Maya “collapse.” Most recently she has collaborated with colleagues in Central Asia promoting grassroots development of projects for cultural preservation.

Through her work she has inspired students, introduced curricular reforms and promoted the rights of indigenous communities. Pyburn has conducted numerous archaeological field schools in Belize, where she emphasized collaboration with the local community in the context of rigorous scientific research. In Kyrgyzstan, she has worked with archaeologists and citizens’ groups to develop projects for cultural resource management.

Pyburn has taught popular undergraduate courses on the scientific method, the ancient Maya and women in prehistory, as well as seminars on research methods, ethics and gender. She was principal investigator for the National Science Foundation-funded Making Archaeology Teaching Relevant to the XXI Century project, founded the Archaeology in Social Context Ph.D. program at IU and directs the Center for Archaeology in the Public Interest. She has chaired the Ethics Committee of the American Anthropological Association and is vice president-elect of the World Archaeological Congress. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Reed College and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.


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