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Environmental and Archaeological Research in the Peten, GuatemalaThe Peten, Northern Guatemala, was once inhabited by a population of several million Maya before their collapse in the 9th century A.D.. The seventh and eight centuries were a time of crowning glory four millions of Maya; by 930 A.D. only a few scattered houses remained, testifying to the greatest disaster in human history. What is known is that at the time of their collapse the Maya had cut down most of their trees. After centuries of regeneration the Peten now represent the largest remaining tropical forest in Central America but is experiencing rapid deforestation in the wake of an invasion of settlers. The successful adaptive techniques of the indigenous population are being abandoned in favor of the destructive techniques of monoculture and cattle raising. Remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis are being used to address issues in Maya archeology as well as monitor the effects of increasing deforestation in the area today. One thousand years ago the forests of the Peten were nearly destroyed by the ancient Maya who after centuries of successful adaptation finally overused their resources. Current inhabitants are threatening to do the same thing today in a shorter time period with a lesser population. Through the use of remote sensing/GIS analysis we are attempting to answer questions about the past in order to protect the resources of the future.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Sever, Thomas L. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1999
Subject Category
Earth Resources and Remote Sensing
Distribution Limits