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Archaeology & History

Drought is likely cause of Mayan collapse

By T.K. Randall
December 30, 2014 · Comment icon 11 comments



People flock to Tikal during the Mayan winter solstice. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Bjorn Christian Torrissen
Further evidence has been found suggesting that drought caused the collapse of the Mayan civilization.
With their impressive pyramids and unrivaled mastery of mathematics, writing and art the Maya were one of the most successful civilizations ever to arise in South America.

The remnants of their sophisticated constructions continue to be a popular attraction more than 1,000 years after they disappeared and their calendars were so influential that even in the modern world many people believed them to signify the end of days.

Mystery still remains however over the exact events that lead to the Mayan civilization's collapse. Many theories have been suggested but the one that continues to hold the most weight is that their prosperous society was brought down by an extended period of intense drought.
Now scientists believe that they have discovered further evidence to support this idea in the form of core samples taken from the sediment of the Great Blue Hole, a 1,000ft crater off the coast of Belize in which sediment from the time of the Mayans has been conveniently preserved.

By comparing the ratio of titanium to aluminum in the samples researchers have been able to determine that the Mayan were plagued by a dry period lasting more than two-hundred years.

"The team found that during the period between A.D. 800 and A.D. 1000, when the Mayan civilization collapsed, there were just one or two tropical cyclones every two decades, as opposed to the usual five or six," said Rice University scientist Andre Droxler.

Source: Washington Post | Comments (11)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by LimeGelatin 8 years ago
Did anyone see the movie Apocalypto. Drought may have gotten the ball of their demise rolling, but I think it was the diseases that arose from all of the blood spread by their brutality that did them in.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Calibeliever 8 years ago
Once a society reaches a certain size and complexity it takes too long to adapt to major climate changes such as drought. The western US should take heed.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Hammerclaw 8 years ago
Apocalypto ripped off two other movies, the 1984 British drama The Killing Fields set in Cambodia during the terror reign of the Khemer Rouge, and the 1965 adventure film The Naked Prey, set in Africa in the nineteenth century. Some of the action and dramatic episodes in Apocalypto seemed almost lifted bodily from those two films. While blood sacrifice was practiced throughout MesoAmerica, it is not known to have occured on the scale depicted in the film among the Maya.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Mentalcase 8 years ago
The Mayans were destroyed by the Spanish I thought?
Comment icon #6 Posted by Calibeliever 8 years ago
The Mayans were destroyed by the Spanish I thought? That was the Aztec. The Mayan civilization was all but gone by 900 AD or so. What was left of it was likely absorbed by the Inca and then Aztec.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Atuke 8 years ago
These studies aren't quite right. Apparently they don't really know the maya zone. There a very different climates in all the vast region. For example Yucatan penninsula it is very different to from Tabasco swamps, or the riverside along Coatzacoalcos. Mayans were not only one single empire, so certain cities were in rise and others in fall, invations of caciques etc. The drought is very relative in places such as Tabasco, for example where the rivers and swamps never ceased just decresed. And it is quite illogical they had gone to the North in such drought, because it is pretty much drier as ... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by Jarocal 8 years ago
Atuke, If I am not mistaken some of the more arid areas which should have been more susceptible to a widespread, prolonged drought (as is theorized) actually showed signs of growth during the period.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Orcseeker 8 years ago
Did anyone see the movie Apocalypto. Drought may have gotten the ball of their demise rolling, but I think it was the diseases that arose from all of the blood spread by their brutality that did them in. I have seen that movie and the disease you saw in it was smallpox. An introduced disease from the Spanish and not from bloodshed.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Swede 8 years ago
I have seen that movie and the disease you saw in it was smallpox. An introduced disease from the Spanish and not from bloodshed. You may wish to refine/reconcile your temporal and cultural timelines. You may also find the following to be of interest: http://www.ncbi.nlm....pubmed/11304065 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11304065 http://www.ajtmh.org.../6/733.full.pdf Edit: Additional references.
Comment icon #11 Posted by back to earth 8 years ago
I think most civilisations failed due to drought or climate change. Once the water isn't available anymore like it was - big trubs!


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