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Interactives
Collapse: Why do civilizations fall?

Introduction
The Maya
Mesopotamia
Chaco Canyon
Mali and Songhai
Touching the Past
Related Resources


Hundreds of years ago in what is now modern Honduras, Copán was a thriving civilization, a center of the cultural life of the Maya. Tens of thousands of people made their home in the Copán Valley. Yet despite its importance, Copán went into decline. Across the vast territory of the ancient Maya, other important sites were sharing a similar fate. Classic Maya civilization was collapsing.

Why did this great civilization fall? The history of humankind has been marked by patterns of growth and decline. Some declines have been gradual, occurring over centuries. Others have been rapid, occurring over the course of a few years. War, drought, natural disaster, disease, overpopulation, economic disruption: any of these or a combination of these events can bring about the collapse of a civilization. Internal causes (such as political struggles or overfarming) Try a hands-on activity whenever you see this icon. can combine with external causes (such as war or natural disaster) to bring about a collapse. What does this mean for modern civilizations? What can we learn from the past?

Join us as we explore the collapse of four ancient civilizations. You'll learn what happens when a society collapses and how archaeologists find and interpret evidence. You can visit the Maya city of Copán and search for clues to its collapse. You can also try your hand at "garbage-ology" and study what trash can tell us about a society.

Ready to get started?

 

"Collapse" is inspired by programs from Out of the Past,
a video series from Annenberg Media.




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