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UC Professors Present Research at Society for American Archaeology Meeting

Vernon Scarborough and Kenneth Tankersley presented their research uncovering the environmental influences on ancient Maya civilization.

Date: 5/9/2014 12:00:00 AM
By: Courtney Danser
Phone: (513) 556-8577

UC ingot  
McMicken College of Arts and Sciences professors Vernon Scarborough and Kenneth Tankersley recently presented their research at the Society for American Archaeology meeting in Austin, Texas. 

Maya Civilization and Social Change
Scarborough’s research — “A Complex World at another Scale: Maya Heterarchy and Social Change” — demonstrates how the ancient Mayan civilization can be used to tell us about our own societal behaviors today. 

During a pre-conference meeting sponsored by University of Texas, researchers from seven countries and their respective institutions gathered for workshop dialogue. Nicholas Dunning, David Lentz and Ken Tankersley were the UC faculty participants in this meeting.

The team of about 20 other scholars chose to research ancient Maya civilization because it is one of the best-studied locations that can be used as an indicator of the impact of climate change on present-day society. 

Although Maya societies existed without the technological prominence in the world today, they were structurally and institutionally organized in a way that is comparable to modern world culture.

“Our collective work is to assess the archaeological remains by way of understanding past adaptation of a low-tech society to best present forgotten systems that may well have been more sustainable than our own; as well as evaluate the causes of their demise in an attempt to prevent our own,” says Scarborough. 

This research is part of IHOPE (Integrated History and Future of the People of the Earth) which aims to:
examine regional climatic influence on the environment independently of human action or reaction
draw upon [their] work in identifying the controlled temporal development of the engineered landscape and 
access the actual impact of climate on social change
For more information visit

Catastrophic Volcanism in the Maya Lowlands
Tankersley presented research titled “Catastrophic Volcanism, Climate Change, and Ancient Urbanism in the Maya Lowlands,” which showed that, in the case of the Mayans, catastrophic volcanism is not necessarily a bad thing.

“[Through this research] we demonstrate that catastrophic volcanism was a critical factor in the development and maintenance of Maya urban centers because it helped sustain the region's agricultural system by helping renew regional soils,” says Tankersley.

For this project Tankersley worked alongside UC professors Scarborough, Dunning, Lentz, Warren Huff, Barry Maynard and Tammie Gerke. 

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