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Unformatted text preview: southern Maya populations deal with the resulting water problem? It initially surprises us that many of their cities were not built next to the rivers but instead on high terrain in rolling uplands. The explanation is that the Maya excavated depressions, or modified natural depressions, and then plugged up leaks in the karst by plastering the bottoms of the depressions in order to create reservoirs, which collected rain from large plastered catchment basins and stored it for use in the dry season.For example, reservoirs at the Maya city of Tikal held enough water to meet the drinking water needs of about 10,000 people for a period of 18 months. At the city of Coba the Maya built dikes around a lake in order to raise its level and make their water supply more reliable. But the inhabitants of Tikal and other cities dependent on reservoirs for drinking water would still have been in deep trouble if 18 months passed without rain in a prolonged drought. A shorter drought in which they exhausted their stored food supplies might already have gotten them in deep trouble, because growing crops required rain rather than reservoirs.
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Paragraph 1: To understand the ancient Mayan people who lived in the area that is today southern Mexico and Central America and the ecological difficulties they faced, one must first consider their environment, which we think of as “jungle" or 'tropical rainforest." This view is inaccurate, and the reason proves to be important. Properly speaking, tropical rainforests grow in highrainfall equatorial areas that remain wet or humid all year round. But the Maya homeland lies more than sixteen hundred kilometers from the equator, at latitudes 17 to 22 degrees north, in a habitat termed a “seasonal tropical forest." That is, while there does tend to be a rainy season from May to October, there is also a dry season from January through April. If one focuses on the wet months, one calls the Maya homeland a "seasonal tropical forest"; if one focuses on the dry months, one could instead describe it as a " seasonal desert.”
1. Why does the author call the Mayan homeland both a “seasonal tropical forest” and "seasonal desert”?
○To illustrate how the climate of the Mayan homeland varied from region to region
○To explain how the climate of the Mayan homeland is similar to that of a jungle or tropical rainforest
○To emphasize the vast size of the area that comprised the Mayan homeland in ancient times
○To make the point that the Mayan homeland is climatically more complex than is generally assumed
Paragraph 2: From north to south in the Yucatan Peninsula, where the Maya lived, rainfall ranges from 18 to 100 inches (457 to 2,540 millimeters) per year, and the soils become thicker, so that the southern peninsula was agriculturally more productive and...
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- Fall '13