A cosmology of conservation in the ancient Maya world

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The Classic Maya of the southern lowlands were one with world rather than one with nature, a view that promoted the conservation of their world for millennia, what I term a cosmology of conservation. I explore how their cosmocentric worldview fostered biodiversity and conservation by discussing the ceremonial circuit and pilgrimage destination of Cara Blanca, Belize. Here the Maya left a minimal footprint in the form of ceremonial buildings from which they performed ceremonies, doing their part to maintain the world at several of the 25 water bodies/portals to the underworld. The Maya intensified their visits when several prolonged droughts struck between 800 and 900 ce; it was to no avail, and many Maya emigrated and have successfully renegotiated their relationship in the world to the present day. Their history of engagement serves as a lesson for present society, one that cannot be ignored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-359
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Anthropological Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • Conservation
  • Cosmocentric worldview
  • Cosmology
  • Maya
  • Pilgrimage
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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