Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Mayans and Climate Change

The theory that changes to climate (specifically drought) may have caused, or been a significant factor, in the collapse of Mayan civilization has been around a while. The Daily Mail reports on some new research into the matter:
According to findings published in the November issue of Science, anthropologists have found evidence to support the idea that radically altered weather patterns led to a long dry spell that triggered a decline in agricultural productivity eventually fueling social fragmentation and political collapse.

Rather than being man made, scientists attribute these alterations to the combined effects of El NiƱo events and changes in the northeast and southeast equatorial winds known as the intertropical convergence zone.
What? It wasn't their SUVs?
Anthropologist Douglas Kennett's team came to this conclusion from studying the chemical composition of stalagmites in caves that indicate relatively wet periods versus dry periods. 

They pulled a 22 inch stalagmite from deep within the cave and using its chemical record to guide the way found that there were droughts lasting decades between the years 200 to 1100 B.C.

Those dates coincide with periods of upheaval and hardship in Mayan history.

. . . The worst drought from 1020 to 1100 B.C. coincides with the accepted end of Mayan culture itself.

Kennett added that the greatest periods of rainfall were in line with eras that Mayan culture thrived from 450 to 660 B.C. and the proliferation of their greatest cities.

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