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Verbal Ability :: Reading Comprehension

Home > Verbal Ability > Reading Comprehension > General Questions

111. To summarize the Classic Maya collapse, we can tentatively identify five strands. I acknowledge, however, that Maya archaeologists still disagree vigorously among themselves in part, because the different strands evidently varied in importance among different parts of the Maya realm; because detailed archaeological studies are available for only some Maya sites; and because it remains puzzling why most of the Maya heartland remained nearly empty of population and failed to recover after the collapse and after re-growth of forests.

With those caveats, it appears to me that one strand consisted of population growth outstripping available resources: a dilemma similar to the one foreseen by Thomas Malthus in 1798 and being played out today in Rwanda (Chapter 10), Haiti (Chapter 11), and elsewhere. As the archaeologist David Webster succinctly puts it, Too many farmers grew too many crops on too much of the landscape. Compounding that mismatch between population and resources was the second strand: the effects of deforestation and hillside erosion, which caused a decrease in the amount of use able farmland at a time when more rather than less farmland was needed, and possibly exacerbated by an anthropocentric drought resulting from deforestation, by soil nutrient depletion and other soil problems, and by the struggle to prevent bracken ferns from overrunning the fields.

The third strand consisted of increased fighting, as more and more people fought over fewer resources. Maya warfare, already endemic, peaked just before the collapse. That is not surprising when one reflects that at least 5,000,000 people, perhaps many more, were crammed into an area smaller than the state of Colorado (104,000 square miles). That warfare would have decreased further the amount of land available for agriculture, by creating no-man's lands between principalities where it was now unsafe to farm. Bringing matters to a head was the strand of climate change. The drought at the time of the Classic collapse was not the first drought that the Maya had lived through, but it was the most severe. At the time of previous droughts, there were still uninhabited parts of the Maya landscape, and people at a site affected by drought could save themselves by moving to another site. However, by the time of the Classic collapse the landscape was now full, there was no useful unoccupied land in the vicinity on which to begin anew, and the whole population could not be accommodated in the few areas that continued to have reliable water supplies.

As our fifth strand, we have to wonder why the kings and nobles failed to recognize and solve these seemingly obvious problems undermining their society. Their attention was evidently focused on their short-term concerns of enriching themselves, waging wars, erecting monuments, competing with each other, and extracting enough food from the peasants to support all those activities. Like most leaders throughout human history, the Maya kings and nobles did not heed long-term problems, insofar as they perceived them. We shall return to this theme in Chapter 14.

Finally, while we still have some other past societies to consider in this book before we switch our attention to the modern world, we must already be struck by some parallels between the Maya and the past societies discussed in Chapters 2-4. As on Easter Island, Mangareva, and among the Anasazi, Maya environmental and population problems led to increasing warfare and civil strife. As on Easter Island and at Chaco Canyon, Maya peak population numbers were followed swiftly by political and social collapse. Paralleling the eventual extension of agriculture from Easter Island's coastal lowlands to its uplands, and from the Mimbres floodplain to the hills, Copan's inhabitants also expanded from the floodplain to the more fragile hill slopes, leaving them with a larger population to feed when the agricultural boom in the hills went bust. Like Easter Island chiefs erecting ever larger statues, eventually crowned by pukao, and like Anasazi elite treating themselves to necklaces of 2,000 turquoise beads, Maya kings sought to outdo each other with more and more impressive temples, covered with thicker and thicker plaster reminiscent in turn of the extravagant conspicuous consumption by modern American CEOs. The passivity of Easter chiefs and Maya kings in the face of the real big threats to their societies completes our list of disquieting parallels.

According to the passage, which of the following best represents the factor that has been cited by the author in the context of Rwanda and Haiti?

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Answer: Option B

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Answer: Option D

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Answer: Option C

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Answer: Option D

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Answer: Option C

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116. Directions for Questions 1-5: Read the passage and answer the questions that follow on the basis of the information provided in the passage.

Justin was always prepared. His motto was "Never throw anything out, you never know when it might come in handy." His bedroom was so full of flat bicycle tires, bent tennis rackets, deflated basketballs, and games with missing pieces that you could barely get in the door. His parents pleaded with him to clean out his room.

"What use is a fish tank with a hole in the bottom?" his father asked. But Justin simply smiled and repeated his motto, "Never throw anything out, you never know when it might come in handy."

When Justin was away from home, he always carried his blue backpack. He liked to think of it as a smaller version of his bedroom a place to store the many objects that he collected. It was so worn and stretched that it hardly resembled a backpack anymore. It was full of the kind of things that seemed unimportant, but when used with a little imagination, might come in handy.

Justin had earned a reputation for figuring things out and getting people out of otherwise hopeless situations. Many of his classmates and neighbors sought him out when they needed help with a problem. On the first day of school, his friend Kenny, came looking for Justin.

"Do you think you have something in your bag that could help me remember my locker combination?" he asked. "I lost the scrap of paper it was written on. I have science class in two minutes and if I'm late on the first day it'll make me look bad for the rest of the year." Kenny looked genuinely worried.

"Relax," Justin said, taking his backpack off and unzipping the top. "Remember how you borrowed my notebook in homeroom to write the combination down? Well, I know how we can recover what you wrote."

He took the notebook and a soft lead pencil out of his bag. The page that Kenny had written on had left faint indentations on another page in the notebook. Justin held the pencil on its side and rubbed it lightly over the indentations. Slowly but surely the numbers of the locker combination appeared in white, set off by the gray pencil rubbings.

"That's amazing!" Kenny said. "I owe you one." And he dashed off to open his locker.

During science class, Mr. Tran was lecturing on the structure of the solar system using a model. He made a sudden gesture and the model fell apart. Planets and rings and connector rods went everywhere, rolling and clattering and disappearing under desks. The students scrambled around on the floor for ten minutes and were finally able to recover every piece except one a connector rod that was lodged in a crack between two lab stations.

"If we had a magnet," said Mr. Tran, "we could easily coax it out that way. But I loaned all of the magnet kits to the elementary school yesterday."

Justin was already searching through his backpack. "I have some materials that will work just as well, I think," he told Mr. Tran. He pulled out a battery, an iron nail, and some electrical wire and tape, while Mr. Tran and the other students looked on in amazement.

"Why do you have all of that stuff?" Louise Baxter asked. Justin just smiled and repeated his motto. "Never throw anything out, you never know when it might come in handy."

By wrapping the wire around the nail and taping each end to a battery terminal, he was able to make a magnet strong enough to lift the rod out of the crack.

"Bravo!" said Mr. Tran.

"No problem," said Justin.

After school, Justin rode the bus to the mall where he worked at a music store. His boss, Gail, was taking inventory of all of the CDs and tapes in the classical music section. As he helped a customer at the register, Justin heard her exclaim, "Oh, no! I forgot my glasses! There's no way I can read this list without them." Justin sighed, picked up his backpack, and walked over to Gail.

"I think I can help you out," he said, unzipping the bag. While Gail watched in surprise, he pulled out a jar of petroleum jelly, a washer, a glass slide, and a small bottle of water. He put the jelly on the bottom of the washer, placed it securely, jelly-side down, on the glass slide, and then put a drop of water in the center of the washer.

He put the contraption on top of the inventory list and said to his boss, "See what happens when you look through the water droplet." Gail looked and her eyes widened with delight.

"Wow!" she cried. "It enlarges the print that I'm looking at, just like a magnifying glass!" She patted Justin on the back. "I'm all set now," she said. "Thanks."

Justin smiled. "No problem," he said, returning to the register.

It was just another day in the life of the boy whose motto was "Never throw anything out, you never know when it might come in handy."

Question: Why is Justin's room such a mess?

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Answer: Option B

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Answer: Option A

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118. Read this sentence from the story. His parents pleaded with him to clean out his room.

Which word is a synonym for pleaded?

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Answer: Option D

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Answer: Option D

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120. How do most of the characters in the story feel toward Justin?

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Answer: Option B

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