Mayan Suburbia
December 21, 2000 11:27 AM   Subscribe

Mayan Suburbia
Did the Mayans follow modern city development patterns 1500 years ago? Maybe, say some archaeologists who recently uncovered ancient suburbs, complete with subdivisions on artificial lakes, big private lawns, and strip malls.
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posted by daveadams (7 comments total)
Some scholars question whether these were pure suburban developments or other smaller towns that eventually were overtaken as the larger city expanded around them. In any case, the parallels to modern city structure are quite intriguing, complete with raised roads from suburban plazas to the central core. Of course, the scale was much smaller as Mayans were required to depend on their own two feet for transportation (no horses in pre-Columbian America!). So the most distant suburbs were only about five miles out. But that's only an hour-and-a-half walk at an good pace. Commute times might not have been all that different for the Mayan middle class!
posted by daveadams at 11:31 AM on December 21, 2000

Well, this isn't as surprising as all that. The word "suburb" comes from Latin suburbium after all (and gained currency in English to describe the outskirts of Elizabethan London). Roman city planning was pretty advanced.
posted by dhartung at 1:13 PM on December 21, 2000

It is surprising when you realize that the Mayan's developed similar patterns to the Romans without even knowing the Romans existed.
posted by Neb at 2:22 PM on December 21, 2000

Aliens. Aliens did it, I say.

Oops, wrong thread. I still don't consider it surprising, only perhaps in terms of scale.
posted by dhartung at 4:04 PM on December 21, 2000

I still find it amazing that architecture in the New World looks so similar to that in the Old World. That is, without ever having seen or been influenced by other cultures the results are so similar. It says something deep about humans and how they go about solving problems.

Equally amazing is that they did it all without wheeled vehicles or beast of burden. The result was that their roads and alleyways were very narrow which caused the Spanish problems when that tried to get their horses and carts into the old Indian cities.
posted by lagado at 4:04 PM on December 21, 2000

Nah, I'd say that it's all just common epiphenomena arising from similar simple rules.

Not really all that suprising. I mean, how many basic ways are there of organizing a city? And how many of them are easy to implement gradually without all that much planning? And how many of them actually *work*?

I mean... this is a problem that has solutions that tend to look remarkably similar, at least in the roughly-grained sense.
posted by beth at 12:03 PM on December 22, 2000

They may appear to be simple rules once you've seen them operate but their a lot of complexity that went into creating that simplicity. Parallel evolution is always surprising to me.
posted by lagado at 10:32 PM on December 22, 2000

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