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