Environmental degradation has long been a chief suspect in the collapse of the Classic Maya civilization and abandonment of many of the large cities of Mesoamerica. The popular and scholarly presses are replete with references to this and often specifically that the collapse involved deforestation brought on by lime-burning for construction cement. The scenario painted is one in which the oft-acclaimed great Maya builders and architectural craftsmen continued to utilize a horrifically wasteful technology until it helps destroy their civilization. While the hypothesis is seductively plausible, it fits neither the portrait we have painstakingly constructed of intelligent, innovative craftsmen nor indeed much of the material evidence. It is much more likely that the Maya were skilled craftsmen with a sophisticated understanding of their construction materials, production, and use. In this paper the archaeological evidence and materials science will be contrasted with the traditional view of Maya lime-burning and used to argue that construction was not the destructive activity that has been assumed.
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