By Mica Rosenberg
Guatemala City - Ancient Mayan rulers devastated big game in Central America and Mexico by gorging themselves on deer meat and flaunting jaguar fur in an early example of poor resource management, new research shows.
The Maya built soaring pyramids and elaborate palaces in Central America and southern Mexico before mysteriously abandoning their cities around 900 AD.
A population explosion in the elite class just as the Mayan culture began to decline increased the demand for big game meat, especially white-tailed deer seen as a status symbol for nobles, said Kitty Emery, a curator at Florida Museum of Natural History.
"The elite class was growing disproportionately and they had to prove their power by acquiring more high status food," Emery said.
"They are making more demands on the environment and just like in the modern world there are limited resources," said Emery, whose study appeared in the October 31 issue of the Journal for Nature Conservation.
The collapse of the Maya, who dominated the region for 2 000 years as accomplished scientists and urban builders, is one of the great mysteries of archaeology.
Scholars have blamed the demise on everything from disease to over-farming, incessant warfare or climate change that led to prolonged drought.
Massive deforestation caused by the Maya building great cities and ceremonial complexes as well as a two-century drought shrank the habitat for animals like deer, jaguars and wild boars, said Emery.
Their extravagance nearly wiped out many large game species before the arrival of Spanish colonists around 1500 AD, said Emery, who examined close to 80, 000 samples of animal bones discarded in ancient garbage dumps around excavated ruins in Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and Belize.
Emery found very few remains of large game toward the end of Mayan rule in proportion to smaller game, pointing to over-hunting of the favoured animals.
The populations of deer and jaguar slightly recovered during early Spanish colonisation, she says, but today jaguars are an endangered species again, pushed out of their habitat by land invaders and illegal poachers.
Jaguars, the largest cat in the Americas and known as the king of the beasts in Mayan spirituality, were highly valued for their spotted hides and made into mittens, booties, headdresses and even pillow covers for royalty, said Emery.
But as the elites "dressed for success" to prove their power in a collapsing political system, the population was going hungry.
The lower classes would give the best cuts of white-tailed deer meat to the rich as a form of taxes, themselves eating small game like rabbits and squirrels, she said.
But rank and file Maya had their limit.
"The people probably said, 'I don't care how many jaguar booties you are wearing, I don't have any corn on my table, I'm not bringing you any more deer,'" says Emery. "That's the point where people just walk away from the cities."
- ► 2010 (62)
- ► 2009 (261)
- ► 2008 (219)
- Inmate cut penis off with razor
- Krist Novoselic on Punk Rock; Brian Miller on Bari...
- Road kill teddies
- 'Punk Is Dead': Turcotte shines light of lesser-kn...
- Happy B-DAY C!!!
- Ekin Cheng Talks About Drama 'The Legend of Huo Yu...
- Hole-in-heart linked to migraine
- 'Nincompoop' tops poll
- Star-studded Drama 'Lan Qiu Huo' Starts Shooting
- SKA-PUNK PIONEERS STILL GOING AFTER 25 YEARS LIVE ...
- Beijing calling
- Don’t Ask, Don’t Wank
- Ancient samurai clan embroiled in bitter legal spa...
- S.J. cops must cover tattoos
- Royal cat burglar
- Shun Oguri to Star in Drama 'Binbou Danshi'
- Collector killed by his own hoard
- Chocolate willy causes offence
- Matsuyama Kenichi to Play Vocalist in 'Detroit Met...
- Seo Tai-ji Fans Celebrate His 15 Years in Showbiz
- Sex Scandal Hits Atlanta-Area Megachurch
- Cannabis compound 'halts cancer'
- Iggy Pop Only One Allowed In Grocery Store Shirtle...
- Priest Admits Having Sex With Inmates
- Only Gay Bar in Jerusalem Shuts Its Doors
- Saudi gang-rape victim is jailed
- Tips on how better to exploit the working poor
- Why does the American way fail in Japan and India?...
- Wu Chun vs Jerry Yan
- Chocolate Origins Traced to Beer Makers 3,000 Year...
- Sex Diseases Still Rising; Chlamydia Is Leader
- Cat's daily routine baffles owner
- Evidence found might contradict conclusions about ...
- Ancient Mayan rulers loved furs and feasts
- Gays should be hanged, says Iranian minister
- Sex for the disabled
- GOP Legislator Guilty of Soliciting Bathroom Sex
- What WE Did at Work Yesterday
- Insurer Gave Bonuses For Dropped Policies?
- The 16th century book that shows how vicars abused...
- David Bowie: Mug Shot Oddity
- Abstinence Programs Proving Inneffective
- Not all butt plugs should glow in the dark
- Punk's still alive and kicking
- SHOCK VID: Hotel Room Glasses Go Unwashed, Doused ...
- Automatic Dog Washing Machine
- Crows: Episode 0
- Who's Who: Time Lords Tennant and Davison go head-...
- UK chooses 'most ludicrous laws'
- This Week in Porn Hysteria, Part Umptymillion
- The 'mystery sage'
- Syphilis for Christmas?
- The Ever-Expanding Terrorist Watch List
- Hogging the Road
- In Jello Biafra we trust
- Snyder can seize Westboro property
- ▼ November (59)