The conventional wisdom says that the devolution of Classic Maya civilization occurred because its population grew too large and dense to be supported by primitive neotropical farming methods, resulting in debilitating famines and internecine struggles. Using research on contemporary Maya farming techniques and important new archaeological research, Ford and Nigh refute this Malthusian explanation of events in ancient Central America and posit a radical alternative theory. The authors-show that ancient Maya farmers developed ingenious, sustainable woodland techniques to cultivate numerous food plants (including the staple maize);-examine both contemporary tropical farming techniques and the archaeological record (particularly regarding climate) to reach their conclusions;-make the argument that these ancient techniques, still in use today, can support significant populations over long periods of time.
"Ford and Nigh bring decades of field research to this book and draw on ethnography, agroecology, ethno- and paleobotany, archaeology, historical climate data, and ethnohistory. Even today, Maya forest gardeners cultivate sustainably but are threatened by Euro-informed models of agriculture that view tropical lowlands as suitable mainly for destructive pasturing. Scholars interested in tropical swiddeners and Mesoamericans in particular should read this discussion. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
- A. E. Adams, Central Connecticut State University, CHOICE
"The book is a timely multidisciplinary exploration of not only the rich historical ecology of the Maya forest garden, but also of Maya culture, history and knowledge – and the risk of loosing all of it. The value of explorations like the one offered by this study need to be — for the future of any form of sustainable humanity and in my modest opinion — continued."
- Alessandro Questa, Anthropology Book Forun (American Anthropological Association)
"An excellent contribution to the world literature on sustainable, indigenous land management. After rigorous paleo-botanical, archaeological and ecological research and on the ground consultation with existing practitioners, the authors conclude that the widely assumed cause of the collapse of the Mayan civilization due to deforestation and environmental degradation is not true… I’d recommend Ford and Nigh’s book to anyone interested in permaculture and forest gardens."
- Michael Pilarski, Friends Of The Trees Society
"A groundbreaking new book co-authored by a UC Santa Barbara researcher… asserts the Maya not only survived their presumed apocalypse, they thrive today using farming techniques that are thousands of years old. The Maya Forest Garden: Eight Millennia of Sustainable Cultivation of the Tropical Woodlands by UCSB’s Anabel Ford and Ronald Nigh demonstrates that the Maya milpa system is sustainable, sophisticated and highly productive."
- Jim Logan, The UCSB Current
"Ford’s book, The Maya Forest Garden: Eight Millennia of Sustainable Cultivation of the Tropical Woodlands, co-authored with Ronald Nigh, a professor at the Centro Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social in Chiapas, Mexico, published in June, is the result of 44 years of excavation and research into El Pilar’s domestic architecture, gardens and traditional forest crops."
- Joan Koerper, Inlandia Literary Journeys
"We have been reading The Maya Forest Garden by Anabel Ford and Ronald Nigh. It tells the tale of a civilization that weathered many climate changes, foreign conquests and failed attempts at cultural genocide. That civilization is still there today, after 8,000 years."
- Albert Bates, Resilience
"For years, archaeologist Anabel Ford has been arguing the case that the ancient Maya knew well how to manage their tropical forest environment to their advantage, eventually sustaining large populations even beyond the time when many archaeologists suggest the Maya declined and abandoned their iconic Classic period pyramidal and temple constructions and monumental inscriptions during the 8th and 9th centuries CE. She challenges the popular theories long held by many scholars that the Maya declined because of overpopulation and deforestation from increased agricultural production, perhaps aggravated by draught and climate change."
- Popular Archaeology
"In 2001, I traveled to the Belize-Guatemala border to report on UCSB archaeologist Anabel Ford’s many discoveries at El Pilar, the Maya monument complex she uncovered in 1983. That’s where she developed revolutionary theories that threatened to rock the academic world, namely that the Maya did not “disappear” due to an overpopulation cataclysm, but merely dwindled with time."
- Matt Kettmann, Santa Barbara Independent