In 2003 the Kiuic project hosted the traditional 4th of July party for gringo archaeologists working in the northern Yucatan peninsula. This was my first season with the CRAS project and instead of joining the party and visit the site I spent the weekend in Merida with my wife. Anyway, in USA TODAY there is an article on the interesting finds at this Puuc site.
In short, the site had roughly 4,000 inhabitants when it was rapidly abandoned around 880. The evidence for the abandonment being rapid consists of walls lying flat on the ground waiting to be erected on top of a palace, a half-finished plaza and pots and metates (grinding stones) left in some buildings. One of the elite compounds with metates in the buildings is located on top of a hill overseeing the site. It is called Stairway to Heaven.
Why was the site abandoned then? There are no traces of hastily created fortifications like at Aguateca, Dos Pilas or Chunchucmil. Some spear points have been found in the central plaza but it is not enough to support warfare as direct cause. A mega-drought à la Richardson Gill then? Could chultuns (subterranean water cisterns) have dried up? It is always a possibility but it does not explain why people did not return to the site once the drought was over (Gill would say that everyone or almost everyone died). A crucial aspect here is that settlement in the area existed before the chultuns were excavated. Population increase cannot explain the increase in chultuns since the area lacks any “natural” water sources to compete over in the first place (cenotes do not exist here).
If I understand the article correctly, it appears that the buildings at the Stairway to Heaven underwent ritual termination where old buildings were destroyed to make way for new ones (that never were constructed or were left half-finished in the case of the plaza). Could this be a termination ritual for the whole site like that suggested by Prudence Rice for may-cycle seats (or perhaps katun seats in the case of the smaller size of Kiuic)? I am not a strong believer in her model for periods earlier than the Postclassic from where it is derived. However, the article hints that people had plans to continue the constructions after the termination ritual. Something made them change their minds.