Did the Mayan Civilization Collapse as a Result of Drought?

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Ever since the collapse of the once powerful Maya civilization, people have been trying to find out what caused it. Authors of the article, "“Climate and the Collapse of Maya Civilization”", which include Gerald Haug, Detlef Günther, Larry Peterson, Daniel Sigman, Konrad Hughen, and Beat Aeschlimann propose a theory that the Mayans collapsed because of an extended dry period between 760 and 910 A.D.

These scientists set out find the answer as to why the Maya civilization collapsed. This question is fairly popular and is often times answered by an extended drought, but they wanted to find geologic evidence of what the climate was like in the same time period hoping that there is an obvious link between the two. This question may be simple and straightforward, but this was different than using records that paleoclimatologists have been using which record data for the past millennia. These authors were trying to record climate for a short time period which until recently has been assumed to be unchanging for the last 6000 years.

The authors used sediment sequences from two holes drilled in the Cariaco Basin. These sediments were rapidly deposited and were estimated at 30cm per thousand years. They used bulk titanium (Ti) content as a recorder to get an index of the regional hydrologic conditions. High Ti content indicates wet conditions while lower Ti indicates dryer conditions. The authors' results showed Ti content were the lowest between 500 and 200 yr B.P. They also found higher Ti content between 1070 and 850 yr B.P. In addition, the authors found Ti levels were of intermediate value before the sharp rise at approximately 1070 yr B.P.(930 A.D.).

The authors also used a radiocarbon age control...

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...nce Archaeology can not fully explain the decline of the Maya civilization, the data recorded from the sediment cores by the authors of this article can be used for the hypothesis that drought ultimately led to the demise of the civilization. Not only does the data collected show the evidence of multiple droughts during an already dry period called the Terminal Classic Collapse period, but this data can also be aligned with archaeological data of this time period. The authors can use this archaeological data to support their hypothesis that peak regional drought during an extended period of reduced precipitation ed to the the end of the Maya civilization.

Work Cited

Larry C. Peterson and Gerald H. Haug "Climate and the Collapse of Maya Civilization"
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