I will be using the theories of Kathryn Yusoff, Deleuze and Guattari, Rosi Braidotti, Beatriz Cortez, and Emanuele Coccia to analyze what a garden is and can be, the strength and resiliency of plants, and the war that is taking place between plants and humans. What will the planet be like after the end of the Anthropocene? The Mayans were master builders and King Pakal was responsible for bringing water to his lands allowing for the development of a thriving population, after some time land clearing and extreme drought forced the Maya to abandon the cities which once thrived, allowing for the plants to reclaim what was once theirs. Community gardens are revolutionary acts allowing for one to battle capitalism and establish community and growth with a different model that directly challenges capitalist systems meant to only extract. After the end of the Anthropocene the plants will once again take over the planet and the time of the Planthropocene will begin.
(Plant the Seed)
What is a garden and what can a garden be? A garden can be a form of sabotage of human intentions, upsetting neoliberalism, dismantling the capitalist system, urbanization, and colonialism. For instance, plants move-in smooth spaces and do not obey striated diagrams that humans impose. Plants are rhizomatous, trans-border, and cross-pollinate, grow and propagate randomly often reclaiming spaces that were taken from them. Plants know and communicate in a myriad of ways with senses on a molecular level. Plants provide connections to the earth that have been lost and allow us to examine smooth and striated spaces. Pakal was an innovator who changed the landscape and harnessed water to feed his people and created a relationship with nature, and after the fall of the Maya, the plants once again took over and reclaimed the jungle. This research is important because as we navigate the 21st century, the importance of food sovereignty is going to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Knowing how to navigate this need to grow food with the need to protect the environment and maintain balance is going to be the most important thing for our survival.
After the age of the Anthropocene is over, the plants will once again take over in the rise of the Planthropocene, we have seen glimpses of this on Maya ruins in the jungles of Mexico and Guatemala that have recently been rediscovered. As a war machine, the takeover of plants will be spontaneous and on a massive scale. I will be examining the stone of Pakal, the king himself, and the advancements he made in the city of Palenque with agriculture and science. I will be using the theories of Kathryn Yusoff, Deleuze and Guattari, Rosi Braidotti, Beatriz Cortez, and Emanuele Coccia to analyze what a garden is and can be, the strength and resiliency of plants, and the war that is taking place between plants and humans. What will the planet be like after the end of the Anthropocene?
Pakal King of the White Lily (Water the Tierra)
K’inich Janaab’ Pakal was born on March 24, 603 and he was one of the longest-ruling leaders of the Maya at the site in Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico. It is said that he died at the age of 80 years old. Pakal’s coming of age was at a time of increased warfare between political factions. Pakal had great admiration for Queen Yohl Iknaal. The queen was betrayed by an allied king who would eventually connect with the kingdom of Calakmul and wage war on Palenque. All of this is important because that betrayal and the subsequent wars would lay the foundation for the ascent of Pakal. When Pakal was 8 years old, the kingdom of Palenque was once again sacked by Calakmul on April 5, 611. This destruction of the city and the fleeing of the elite left a vacuum of power in the empty city of Palenque. Pakal would later return to Palenque with his mother Lady Sak K’uk’ and his father K’an Mo’ Hix. After some political maneuvering and allying, his parents were able to have Pakal ascend the throne of Palenque at the age of 12 years old, and don the title of k’uhul ajaw or the divine king.
"This destruction of the city and the fleeing of the elite left a vacuum of power in the empty city of Palenque. Pakal would later return to Palenque with his mother Lady Sak K’uk’ and his father K’an Mo’ Hix. After some political maneuvering and allying, his parents were able to have Pakal ascend the throne of Palenque at the age of 12 years old, and don the title of k’uhul ajaw or the divine king."
Upon his coronation, Pakal received two crowns from his mother one being a scared headdress that was passed down by his maternal grandfather. This crown was known as the Ux Yop Huun and made Pakal the leader of the sacred Palenque warrior knights. The other crown that was given to him was known as the Sak Huun, this made him the official ruler of Palenque (Watson).
Pakal’s rule was characterized by a large architectural expansion that was continued by his sons after his death (Watson). He was known as a scientist and Pakal invested a lot of time and resources into the building of astronomical observation temples as well as ceremonial structures. The Maya used many of these astronomical buildings to accurately predict the seasons by observing the equinoxes and summer solstices as is evidenced at sites such as Mundo Perdido in Guatemala. Pakal was responsible for the construction of a complex aqueduct system that provided the city with fresh spring water. Agricultural advancements continued to progress during this time and would eventually change from a widely dispersed “home garden” model to a large-scale monoculture.
Astronomy played such an important part in Maya society, Aldana states, “…it appears that the Maya saw the night sky as a reflection of the underworld. When full, the moon took on the character of the jaguar god of the underworld-the ruling celestial body, twin of the Sun. Additionally, the Milky Way was seen as the great starry caiman, a twin reflection of the crocodile forming the earth’s back. Through this cosmic relationship, the Maya gained insight into the activities occurring within the underworld by increasing their understanding of the inhabitants of the night sky-a strong impetus for developing an interest in astronomy.” (Aldana 11) Our ancestors were just as knowledgeable about science as any western scientist is. I must first state that I am merely using words like science and scientist to attempt to explain and simplify as best as I can the ideas and achievements of the Maya. The truth is that “science” as we know it is a western invention and our ancestors have been engaging in analysis, observation, documentation, and classification of nature and the world around them for centuries.
The Maya placed a large emphasis on agriculture and there were a variety of ways that they attempted to control the landscape. These different and varied approaches to land management and agriculture were necessary as the jungle environment and soil composition were so diverse and varied from place to place, according to Stuardo Liendo, “varying hydrological, topographic or soil regimes presented a vast range of situations and challenges to farmers, and hence the way they were addressed by the ancient Maya will no doubt vary according to local and regional economies, political strategies, population levels, and the productivity of local cultivation systems.” (Liendo 2)
Another obstacle and challenge was water management in a place where freshwater was so difficult to come by. The use of Chultuns was important for the storage of water as well as surplus food and grain. The building of irrigation tunnels and makeshift ditches were constructed to try and control the flow of water runoff during the storms to maximize as much as they could (Chase). The Palenque aqueduct was a marvel of construction and engineering and ensured that the city had a constant source of running potable water. Maya sites were not small centers controlled by the elite but quite possibly could have been large urban centers with mixed populations of people.
I found that the challenges each community faced were varied, however, they were able to find ways to tackle the environment at times working in balance and at other times in an exploitative fashion. Most communities on the outskirts of the major cities were thought to engage in a more mixed form of agriculture where their gardens were integrated into their homes and contained a diverse array of products. Liendo states, “Households are located at the center of the most intensive part of the farming system and are surrounded by orchards and fields. The apparent predominance of house gardens gives the Maya settlements their characteristic "garden city" appearance.” According to him, this evidence raises the possibility of privately controlled landholdings. These stone enclosures likely represented "infield gardens" characterized by the tending of perennial trees as well as intensive horticulture that employed intercropping, multi-cropping, and crop rotation sustained by mulching, composting, and fertilization with human and animal wastes.” (Liendo 14) It is thought that a shift into a monoculture society was not only a move designated to help feed the growing population, but also a consolidation of power by the ruling elite. Scholar “Anne Pybum goes even further, arguing that agricultural diversity is not simply a result of environmental diversity but is an economic strategy associated with social complexity.
According to her, the Maya collapse may have been the result of the development of a regional political economy that abandoned agricultural diversity for a strategy of agricultural uniformity aimed to increase both production and bureaucratic control” (Liendo 4) This is a fascinating look at the potential collapse of the Maya being their switch to a monoculture state which had a more profound and accelerated impact on the environmental decay of the region and its ability to no longer sustain large populations of people. This consolidation of political power tied to the control of the people and the environment was unsustainable in the long term. After the abandonment of Palenque, the plants would once again take over and claim the land that was once theirs. Their takeover would be spontaneous and absolute in a mini-isolated “planthropocene”. When the city was rediscovered by explorers it was covered in vines, and trees and the jungle had once again spread and attacked everything in their path. One thing is certain and that is that scientific advancements in agriculture, water management, land management, crop dispersal, and market economies were remarkable. Pakal was in the middle of the classic era where these advancements were arising.
His symbol is the water lily, which grows in bodies of water and is rhizomatous. Through innovations, the Maya were able to thrive in these regions for many generations after the reign of Pakal. Water was so readily available in an area that historically had a shortage, this was due to the complex aqueduct system that Pakal had built in the city. Their change over to a large monoculture society placed too much of a strain on the environment and led to its eventual collapse. The water lily remains a powerful symbol and is seen on his burial stone.
For the rest of the analysis, see the linked document below.
Braidotti, Rosi. The Posthuman. 1st ed., Polity, 2013.
Yusoff, Kathryn. A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (Forerunners: Ideas First). Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2018.
Deleuze, Gilles, et al. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 2nd ed., University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
Coccia, Emanuele. “Plants Know.” Purple Magazine The Brain Issue, no. 33, 2018, p. 1.
Beatriz Cortez. "The Memory of Plants: Genetics, Migration, and the Construction of the Future." in Timescales: Thinking across Ecological Temporalities.
Valle, Gabriel. “Gardens of Sabotage Food, the Speed of Capitalism, and the Value of Work.”
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Robertson, et al. Primera Mesa Redonda De Palenque: a Conference on the Art, Iconography, and Dynastic History of Palenque : Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico, December 14-22, 1973. Robert Louis Stevenson School, Pre-Columbian Art Research, 1974.
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Meyers, Natasha. “Photosynthetic Mattering Rooting into the Planthropocene.” Elements Thinking Panel, 2016, www.academia.edu/28312965/Photosynthetic_Mattering_Rooting_into_the_Planthropos cene_4S_EASST_Talk_Barcelona_Elements_Thinking_Panel.
ALDANA, GERARDO. The Apotheosis of Janaab' Pakal: Science, History, and Religion at Classic Maya Palenque. University Press of Colorado, 2007. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt46ns93. Accessed 8 May 2021.
Watson, Matthew C. “Listening in the Pakal Controversy: A Matter of Care in Ancient Maya Studies.” Social Studies of Science, vol. 44, no. 6, 2014, pp. 930–54. Crossref, doi:10.1177/0306312714543964.
Diane Z. Chase, and Arlen F. Chase. “Caracol, Belize, and Changing Perceptions of Ancient Maya Society.” Journal of Archaeological Research, vol. 25, no. 3, 2017, pp. 185–249.
Estrada-Belli, Francisco. The First Maya Civilization. Routledge, 2011.
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Maya Center. Settlement Patterns in the Palenque Region, Chiapas, Mexico, 1999.
McDonald, J. Andrew. “DECIPHERING THE SYMBOLS AND SYMBOLIC MEANING OF
THE MAYA WORLD TREE.” Ancient Mesoamerica, vol. 27, no. 2, 2016, pp. 333–359.
“A Guerilla Gardener in South Central LA | Ron Finley.” YouTube, uploaded by Ron Finley, 6 Mar. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzZzZ_qpZ4w.
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