The Size of Mayan Civilization Compared to the Size of Los Angeles, CA

The mapping of around 60,000 buildings in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve of Guatemala has revealed a civilization much larger than previously estimated, at an estimated 10 million people. See how this compares to Los Angeles County, an area with 10 million people.


Mayans Los Angeles
Area 21,602 km² 12,305 km²
Population 10 Million Estimated 10.14 Million
Age 250 – 900 (650) 1850 – 2018 (168)
Homeless Population ??? 57,794 (in 2017)
Prices Cost of this first survey: $500,000 Median price of a house in LA: $590,400 (2017)


The area under study is approximately twice as large as Los Angeles, but had a similar estimated population.  The Mayan Biosphere Reserve is approximately the size of the state of Vermont, which has a population of approximately 624,000 people. Near the Reserve, UNESCO reports that there is a population of approximately 500,000 creating some pressure on the region.  So to compare, the current situation, while not like Vermont, is at a similar area and population.  The old civilization operated at a scale and density closer to the current Los Angeles.

Environmentalists often clucked our tongues and mused about how the great Mayan civilization collapsed due to environmental failure. I feel we should be more humble. We achieved the old Mayan level of population density only after 1950.

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