Understanding the links between the Mayans and their environment: a key to the future?

DiscovHER Lydie Dussol, L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science 2015 French Fellow and doctorate researcher in the Laboratoire Archéologie des Amériques at Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

Since the rediscovery of the ruins of Mayan cities in the 19th century, the mysteries of Mayan civilisation have remained intact. What were the Mayan’s subsistence strategies, their forest management strategies? In the Laboratoire Archéologie des Amériques, at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Lydie Dussol, doctorate researcher, decided to study archaeological charcoal (fuel type, collecting, microscope observation…) in order to define the relationships between Mayan societies and their forest environment during the Classic Period (1st millennium AD) on the Naachtun site in Guatemala. “I have always loved wood. And my research also covers my other interests: history, archaeology, anthropology, biology, ethno-ecology, botany”, Lydie Dussol explains. If her study is conclusive, she will be able to devise a model for other sites. Reconstructing these management methods is proving to be even more beneficial at the current time, since tropical areas are a very important economic and ecological challenge for the future of humanity.

History would have it that the Mayans disappeared because they destroyed their environment. But, contrary to these hypotheses, my research shows that the Mayans did not carry out wholesale deforestation of their land. It is obvious that the site where I am working, which has been inhabited for 800 years, has been so well-looked after that it is now in excellent health. But how did the Mayans manage this at a time when they had to adapt to climatic change? My work is to understand the strategies they implemented and then to extract ideas that might provide solutions to our current ecological problems. 


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