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Drought Mayan Empire: Did a Dry Spell Doom a Civilization?

Image: Drought Mayan Empire: Did a Dry Spell Doom a Civilization?
The Great Pyramid at the Mayan ruins of Uxmal, Mexico. (wikimedia/commons)

By    |   Tuesday, 30 Dec 2014 06:17 AM

A 100-year drought may have been the major factor in the downfall for of the Mayan Empire that dominated the area around the Yucatan Peninsula from 800 to 900 A.D., according to a new study.

The study co-authored by Rice University Earth scientist Andre Droxler strengthens a theory that has been around since 1995 that drought more than other reason such deforestation, warfare and loss of the Tikar deer led to the collapse of the civilization, according to LiveScience.com.

The Mayan Empire, which flourished in what is now Guatemala, is renowned for the development of its own language, advances in agriculture, pottery, hieroglyph writing, calendar-making and mathematics, noted History.com. The empire's relatively quick disappearance has been long studied by researchers.

"This was a civilization with pyramids, agriculture and a complex economy," wrote Justin Moyer of the Washington Post. "Sure, the Mayans enjoyed the occasional human sacrifice, and their calendar incorrectly predicted the world would end in 2012. But centered in what is now Guatemala, this civilization rivaled its contemporaries springing up in drafty castles in Europe."

LiveScience.com reported that Droxler and other researchers analyzed the chemical composition of materials taken from Belize's huge underwater cave, known as the Blue Hole, and nearby lagoons.

The analysis revealed that a severe drought took place between 800 and 900 A.D. at the same time researchers believe the Mayan civilization was falling apart. Researchers believe that the Mayans traveled north when rain returned to the region but disappeared when a second dry spell hit, Droxler told LiveScience.com.

"When you have major droughts, you start to get famines and unrest," said Droxler.

Researchers said the Mayans built the Chichen Itza site in Mexico during their first push north after the first drought, but the second drought during the height of what is called the Little Ice Age occurred from 1000 and 1100 A.D. Scientists believe that led to the fall of Chichen Itza.

"The main driver of (the first) drought is thought to have been a shift in the intertropical convergence zone … a weather system that generally dumps water on tropical regions of the world while drying out the subtropics," wrote Tia Ghose, of LiveScience.com. "Many scientists have suggested that during the Mayan decline, this monsoon system may have missed the Yucatan peninsula altogether."

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A 100-year drought may have been the major factor in the downfall for of the Mayan Empire that dominated the area around the Yucatan Peninsula from 800 to 900 A.D., according to a new study.
drought, mayan, empire, 100-year, civilization
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2014-17-30
Tuesday, 30 Dec 2014 06:17 AM
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