Coffee Hour: The Mayacene: Wetlands and Ecological Change in Maya History

Friday, January 31, 2014 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
3:30 p.m. Refreshments are offered in the E. Willard Miller seminar room, 319 Walker Building 4:00 p.m. The lecture begins in the John J. Cahir Auditorium, 112 Walker Building

The Mayacene: Wetlands and Ecological Change in Maya History


About the talk

Indigenous Americans managed and cultivated wetlands over eighty degrees of latitude from North to South America over the last four millennia.  These wetland changes represent some of the largest impacts on the Pre-Columbian landscape and imply a tremendous investment in landesque capital.  This presentation will first synthesize this research on three geographic scales: the Americas, Mesoamerica, and the Maya Lowlands. Second, the presentation considers the formation, timing, crops, and water management of a group of wetland fields in the Maya Lowlands, which we have studied for two decades.  Last, we consider the relevance of Maya wetland fields in terms of human resilience to environmental change, cultural heritage conservation, and sustainable development


Suggested reading

• Pre-Columbian People and the Wetlands in Central and South America PDF

• Wetland fields as mirrors of drought and the Maya abandonment PDF


About the speaker

Tim BeachTim Beach holds the Cinco Hermanos Chair in Environment and International Affairs and is professor of geography and geoscience at Georgetown University. He is the Director of Georgetown’s program in Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) and former head of its Center for the Environment. He has conducted field research with over one hundred of his students on geomorphology, paleoecology, and geoarchaeology in the Corn Belt of the United States, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Syria, Turkey, Iceland, and Germany funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, USAID, and Georgetown University.  These sixty plus field seasons have been the bases for numerous peer-reviewed publications and presentations around the world.  His research focuses on soil and agricultural systems, geomorphology, water, environmental change, and geoarchaeology.  He was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and awarded Guggenheim and Dumbarton Oaks Fellowships, the G.K. Gilbert Award in Geomorphology in 2010 (along with his co-author), and Georgetown University’s only Distinguished Research Award in 2010.  Dr. Beach has taught twenty-three different courses in environmental and earth science (climatology, hydrology, geomorphology, soil and agricultural systems, and environmental management) and how these relate to international management and policy.  In 2014 he will move to the University of Texas at Austin as a Centennial Professor in Geography and Environment. (Angela Rogers)