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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid