2014年10月18日托福阅读真题P3—The Collapse of the Mays

来源:原创作品 | 2019-08-20176


2014年10月18日托福阅读真题P3—The Collapse of the Mays


The Mayan society of Central America (2000 B.C. – A.D. 1500), like other ancient states, was characterized by populations unprecedented both in their size and density.It was not just the number of people that lived in the Mayan city-states but also the relatively small area into which they were concentrated. To support such populations,societies developed various intensive agricultural methods, including large-scale irrigation and hill-slope terracing (the cutting of horizontal ridges into hillsides so they can be farmed). These were designed both to increase yields from a given area and to increase the absolute amount of land under cultivation. These strategies were in essence very successful: hey made it possible to feed larger populations than ever before and supported the growth of cities. But they also placed considerable strains on the environment and rendered it increasingly fragile and vulnerable to unexpected climatic events, and even to short-term fluctuations. Thus, the argument is that because of their size and ever more intensive agriculture, the Mayan and other ancient state societies were fundamentally unsustainable.


Claims about environmental degradation and disaster have figured prominently in discussions of the collapse of the Mayan city-states of the Central American lowlands. When two explorers came upon the Mayan cities in the 1830s, they were struck by the sight of tall pyramids and elaborately carved stones among luxuriant forest growth. Here was the archetypal picture of a great lost civilization: abandoned cities submerged in vegetation. Theories of catastrophic collapse or apocalyptic overthrow came naturally to mind to explain these dramatic scenes.


Recent studies of the Mayan collapse (beginning around A.D. 900) have emphasized the gradual and progressive nature of the process, beginning in earnest in the South and advancing northward. It was not a single, sudden event, as had once been thought.Warfare and social unrest are thought to have played a part, but these may well have arisen through pressure from other causes. The Mayan cities had, after all, flourished for over 500 years and had frequently been at war with each other.


But what about the possibility of food shortages? These could have come about through either natural or humanly induced changes in the environment. Increasingly fierce competition between Mayan cities led to an upsurge of monument construction during the eighth and ninth centuries A.D., which would have placed added strain on agricultural production and expansion. Interstate rivalry may hence have pushed the Maya toward overexploitation of their fragile ecosystem. Deforestation and soil erosion might ultimately have destroyed the capacity of the land to support the high population levels of the Mayan cities, leading to famine, social unrest, and the collapse of the major Mayan centers.


Yet it may be incorrect to lay the blame entirely on human action. Several of the lowland cities, such as Tikal, appear to have depended heavily on the cultivation of raised fields set in the marshy depressions known as bajos, which today flood intermittently in the rainy season but may originally have been permanent lakes. The raised-field system of intensive cultivation (created by digging surrounding canals and using the soil removed to elevate the fields for planting) allows year-round food production through the constant supply of soil nutrients that erode into the drainage ditches dug around the raised fields, nutrients that are then collected and replaced. Stable water levels were essential to this subsistence system, but evidence from Lake Chichancanab in Yucatán shows that between A.D. 800 and A.D. 1000 this region suffered its driest period of climate in several thousand years. We may expect that as a result water levels fell, and the raised fields in many areas became unusable. But the human response must be viewed through the lens of the social, political, and cultural circumstances. These exerted a powerful mediating effect on the way the Maya endeavored to cope with their difficulties. Had population levels been lower, the impact of the drought may not have been catastrophic, as it was, the Maya were already reaching the limits of the available subsistence capacity, and Mayan elites had espoused certain social and political agendas (including expensive warfare and competition with each other). It was against this specific background that a period of drought led quickly to crisis and collapse.

1. According to paragraph 1, ancient societies increased their agricultural output by

A. increasing the percentage of the population that worked as farmers

B. creating large irrigation systems

C. being highly selective of the fields they would farm

D. moving more people into the city to free up farmland



2.Which of the following can be inferred from paragraph 1 about the intensive agricultural methods of the Maya?

A. They helped the Maya overcome short-term fluctuations in the climate.

B. They could not supply all of the food required for the growth of Mayan cities.

C. They strained the environment more than the Maya’s previous farming techniques did.

D. They were invented by the Maya to help them grow new kinds of crops.


3.The word "elaborately" in the passage is closest in meaning to

A. with great detail 

B. artistically

C. mysteriously

D. gently hand-made



4.The word "abandoned" in the passage is closest in meaning to

A. carefully hidden 

B. destroyed

C. enormous

D. no longer occupied



5.In paragraph 2, the author implies which of the following about the collapse of the Mayan city-states?

A. The fact that vegetation had grown over the ruins of Mayan buildings indicates that environmental degradation did not contribute to the Mayan collapse.

B. Early explorers supposed that there was a catastrophic collapse of the Mayan city states largely because this view fit their preconceived ideas about lost civilizations.

C. The condition of the tall pyramids and carved stones discovered by early explorers proves that Mayan city-states were violently overthrown.

D. The Mayan cities were abandoned because they became submerged in vegetation.



6. Why does the author include the information that Mayan cities had flourished for over 500 years and had frequently been at war with each other‖?

A. To identify a possible reason for the eventual collapse of Mayan society

B. To make the point that war and social unrest alone do not account for the Mayan collapse

C. To explain why recent studies argue that human actions were responsible for the Mayan collapse

D. To provide evidence that frequent wars weakened Mayan society only very gradually



7. According to paragraph 3, recent studies claim which of the following about the Mayan collapse?

A. It was caused primarily by frequent wars between rival city-states.

B. It was caused by a single, sudden event.

C. It was preceded by social unrest in northern city-states.

D. It began in southern city-states and spread to others.



8. All of the following are mentioned in paragraph 4 as possible direct or indirect causes of food shortages EXCEPT

A. increased monument construction

B. rivalries between states

C. deforestation and erosion

D. introduction of new crops



9.The word "entirely" in the passage is closest in meaning to

A. generally 

B. clearly

C. completely 

D. specifically



10.The word "intermittently" in the passage is closest in meaning to

A. constantly 

B. periodically 

C. usually

D. especially



11.According to paragraph 5, why did the raised fields in many areas become unusable? 

A. The marshy depressions around the fields flooded in the rainy season.

B. Intensive cultivation of the fields drained the soil of nutrients.

C. The area where the fields were located experienced a drop in water levels.

D. Unstable design caused the failure of the drainage ditches.



12.According to paragraph 5, all of the following made it more difficult for theMaya

to cope with the effects of the drought EXCEPT

A. failure to properly cultivate the fields

B. high population levels

C. competition between Mayan groups

D. warfare



13.Look at the four squares [■] that indicate where the following sentence can be added to the passage.

Nature apparently also contributed to the food shortages.

Where would the sentence best fit?



14.Directions: An introductory sentence for a brief summary of the passage is provided below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some answer choices do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not presented in the passage or are minor ideas in the passage. This question is worth 2 points.Drag your choices to the spaces where they belong. To review the passage, click on View Text.Since the discovery of the Mayan ruins in the 1830s, researchers have tried to explain the collapse of Mayan civilizations.

Answer Choices

A. The Mayan attempt to develop intensive agricultural methods to support large populations in relatively small areas probably was unsuccessful and could have caused the Mayan collapse.

B. The discovery of intact pyramids submerged in vegetation among the Mayan ruins led researchers to believe that Mayan cities were simply overgrown rather than catastrophically destroyed.

C. Warfare and rivalry between Mayan states may have caused food shortages that contributed to the eventual collapse of Mayan civilization.

D. Early theories that the Mayan collapse was a sudden, catastrophic event were followed by views that treated the collapse as a gradual process.

E. The continuing warfare and social unrest that started in the North and spread to the South provided researchers with evidence that the Mayan collapse took hundreds of years to occur.

F. Drought between A.D. 800 and A.D. 1000 likely caused the Mayan systems of intensive irrigated agriculture to fall, which could have brought about a rapid collapse of the Mayan states.



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