To put water into perspective, it is this god-given necessity, the juice of heaven which fertilises the earth and gives birth to other necessities for all of humanity. It is special. In fact, so special that ancient cultures invented gods who managed such an important element which still brings life to the world.
Anthropologically speaking, whatever the ancients could not explain, they deified. Natural occurrences like fire, thunder, the sun, lightning all had gods overseeing them. Think about it, not too long ago the earth was “flat”. As much as we may have some difficulty in accepting that logic it would be by no surprise that we would have problems accepting the many gods the ancients celebrated as they couldn’t explain the phenomenons occurring around them.
Never-the-less, while water was so important to the ancient Maya it is especially interesting to note that the nearest consistent water supply to the great City of Caracol in Belize was approximately 12 miles away! Interestingly enough, another grand site in Guatemala, Tikal, a city like Caracol with over 140,000 people was built approximately 17 miles from a constant water supply which exists as the second largest lake in Guatemala – Lago Peten Itza. So why would they have done something like that? What was the inspiration?
The answer is – agriculture!
Satellite imagery has shown that on the Northern and Southern ends (and parts of the East and Western sides too) of both cities swamps dominated. This offered the best soils with enriched nourishment to feed their great populations of farmers, merchants, artisans, mathematicians, astronomers, priests and kings…
Food and its demands on a grown population, was creating a cyst in the brain of this civilisation that the predominant slash and burn agricultural system was not designed for and could not sustain or much less curve to a benign state. Then, because of the flawed agricultural practices, the rain stopped! There is archaeological and geological evidence that the Maya area suffered at least two 50 year droughts. This was the devastating blow, the tipping point that plunged this great civilisation into upheaval; the domino which threw the great engine of civilisation into a tailspin it will never recover from. You see, the average rainfall of Belize is roughly 125 inches per year. Its always green here. It’s easy for us today to dismiss rain as an unwanted element. You see, the majority of us are not all farmers hence rain is certainly at least a problem as far as driving to go to work, for example. Inversely, the ancient Maya squirmed as agriculturalists when it did not rain – at least not in the amounts they expected every year through the offerings of blood from their Kings. One day the rain stopped and it created the beginning of an end; one that destroyed the entire structure of this great civilisation and later condemned their beautiful cities to anchors of a vast humid rainforest.