Learning from the Ancient Maya: Conservation of the Culture and Nature of the Maya Forest

  • Anabel FordEmail author
  • Cynthia Ellis Topsey
Part of the One World Archaeology book series (WORLDARCH)


The Maya forest is a garden, so say the economic botanists. This is the legacy of the ancient Maya who co-created this landscape over millennia. This heritage knowledge attests to the understanding of the Maya civilization as well as our appreciation of the tradition Milpa-forest garden cycle. Indeed, traditional Maya home-gardens are hailed as the most diverse in the world, yet this legacy is practiced in ever fewer numbers. Wise Maya farmers, whose heritage links to the ancient Maya landscape, use the forest as a garden and build utility in their agricultural landscape thought the practice of the Milpa cycle. They have few followers and they know this is the case. Inspired by the development of the El Pilar Archaeological Reserve for Maya Flora and Fauna, a group of Maya farmers joined together as the El Pilar Maya Forest Garden Network developed to promote a school garden in their community, the village Santa Familia Belize. For 10 years, they offer to educate their children and visitors in the strategies and practices of forest gardening, a living art handed down through the ages.


Maya forest Farming legacy Forest gardeners El Pilar 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ISBER/MesoAmerican Research Center, University of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.The Duke of Edinburgh’s International AwardBelizeUSA

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