News / Science & Technology

New Evidence Links Mayan Collapse to Climate Change

The stalagmites of Yok Balum cave provided opportunities for researchers to study rainfall records. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Kennett, Penn State)The stalagmites of Yok Balum cave provided opportunities for researchers to study rainfall records. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Kennett, Penn State)
x
The stalagmites of Yok Balum cave provided opportunities for researchers to study rainfall records. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Kennett, Penn State)
The stalagmites of Yok Balum cave provided opportunities for researchers to study rainfall records. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Kennett, Penn State)
VOA News
The ancient Mayan civilization, which developed a sophisticated culture in the Central American rainforests, vanished mysteriously a thousand years ago.  Now, an international team of anthropologists, archeologists, chemists and climatologists says it has identified the cause of the Mayan collapse: climate change.
 
To create a weather record for the past 2,000 years, the scientists analyzed a natural mineral formation called a stalagmite from a cave in Belize, using oxygen-isotope dating to determine how much rain fell on the region over the centuries. Stalagmites build up incrementally, like tree rings, as water drips through the cave ceiling, preserving an accurate climate record.
 
Mayan rulers commissioned stone monuments to record important events such as their rise to power, major battles, civic unrest and strategic alliances.  Pennsylvania State University Anthropology professor Douglas Kennett, the study's co-author, says the team was able to compare changes in the society documented on those monuments with their new climate timeline. 
 
Stone monuments like this stucco frieze in Caracol, Belize, document Maya battles, births and burials. (Photo image of Douglas Kennett, Penn State)Stone monuments like this stucco frieze in Caracol, Belize, document Maya battles, births and burials. (Photo image of Douglas Kennett, Penn State)
x
Stone monuments like this stucco frieze in Caracol, Belize, document Maya battles, births and burials. (Photo image of Douglas Kennett, Penn State)
Stone monuments like this stucco frieze in Caracol, Belize, document Maya battles, births and burials. (Photo image of Douglas Kennett, Penn State)
On a podcast for the journal Science, he said the team saw a relationship between rainfall levels and political stability.
 
"The growth of Maya civilization and increases in population and levels of sophistication actually correlate with a very wet interval that spans several hundred years and the decline of the Maya actually appeared to correlate with a downturn generally in climate and climate drying," he said. 
 
Abundant rainfall led to bumper crops and a population boom, but a climate reversal and drought triggered famine, political competition, increased warfare and eventually, the society's collapse.
 
Scientists have long suspected that climate change played a role in the fall of the Mayan civilization, but the precise timeline - published in Science  - provides them with new confidence in that connection.  Kennett suggests their methodology could be used to increase understanding of the influence of climate on other ancient cultures that also have nearby cave systems.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: riano baggy from: ina
November 11, 2012 4:29 AM
proved climate change can destroyed maya peoples because deforestation for expand their habitat, but now not only one nation deforest for habitat and mining but more nations, so climate change it,s very fast to destroy our planet.


by: Sawaki from: Japan
November 09, 2012 7:31 PM
Climate has been changing for a vert long span and we can not recognize the change in our lifetime. It is believed that climate is changing rapidly in these days due to increasing CO2 emission, but that is not true because climate is changing more more long time span.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid