Top of page

Film, Video Avoiding the Fate of the Mayans

Event video

Transcript: TEXT

About this Item


  • Avoiding the Fate of the Mayans


  • The Maya civilization, at its peak, was one of the most densely populated and culturally dynamic societies in the world. But after flourishing for a thousand years, it abruptly disappeared. Thanks to Landsat satellite data and climate models, NASA archaeologist Tom Sever has gained insights into the event known as the Maya Collapse. His findings can inform our lives today. The presentation, the second in a series of five programs in 2008, is presented through a partnership between the Library's Science, Technology and Business Division and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The Maya civilization flourished in Mesoamerica , in the Peten Region of northern Guatemala. The civilization's demise, in the 8th and 9th centuries, is considered to be one of the worst demographic disasters in human history. Using satellite and airborne imagery, Sever has found evidence that widespread deforestation contributed to the extinction of the 1,000-year-old Maya civilization. Sever's story sheds light on the dynamics of human adaptation and effects upon tropical forest landscapes, and the role of natural and human-induced past and present changes to climate variability. Sever has studied the reasons the Maya were so successful in the first place. He believes that effective water management was the key. Excavations and satellite images reveal networks of canals that Sever suspects the Maya used to redirect and reuse rainwater. The subsequent increase in farming inevitably led to overpopulation and deforestation and, ultimately, to the end.


  • Library of Congress
  • Library of Congress. Science, Technology, and Business Division, sponsoring body

Created / Published

  • Washington, D.C. : Library of Congress, 2008-05-06.


  • -  Architecture, Landscape
  • -  Cities, Towns
  • -  Environment, Conservation
  • -  Technology, Industry
  • -  Biography, History
  • -  Education
  • -  Science, Technology


  • -  Classification: Education.
  • -  Classification: Geography, Anthropology, Recreation.
  • -  Classification: Science.
  • -  Classification: Technology.
  • -  Tom Sever.
  • -  Recorded on 2008-05-06.
  • -  Kids, Families.
  • -  Researchers.


  • 1 online resource

Digital Id

Library of Congress Control Number

  • 2021687960

Online Format

  • video
  • image
  • online text

Additional Metadata Formats

Rights & Access

While the Library of Congress created most of the videos in this collection, they include copyrighted materials that the Library has permission from rightsholders to present.  Rights assessment is your responsibility.  The written permission of the copyright owners in materials not in the public domain is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. There may also be content that is protected under the copyright or neighboring-rights laws of other nations.  Permissions may additionally be required from holders of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights). Whenever possible, we provide information that we have about copyright owners and related matters in the catalog records, finding aids and other texts that accompany collections. However, the information we have may not be accurate or complete.

More about Copyright and other Restrictions

For guidance about compiling full citations consult Citing Primary Sources.

Credit Line: Library of Congress

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Library Of Congress, and Technology Library Of Congress. Science. Avoiding the Fate of the Mayans. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, -05-06, 2008. Video.

APA citation style:

Library Of Congress & Library Of Congress. Science, T. (2008) Avoiding the Fate of the Mayans. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, -05-06. [Video] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Library Of Congress, and Technology Library Of Congress. Science. Avoiding the Fate of the Mayans. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, -05-06, 2008. Video. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.