Drought triggered Mayans’ bloody downfall, say scientists


CENTRAL AMERICA – Devastating drought triggered the collapse of the ancient Maya civilisation in Central America, new research has found.  Analysis of the Mexico climate hundreds of years ago revealed that rainfall plummeted by 70 percent as the Mayan empire fell into sharp decline.  Previous drought theories surrounding the demise lacked hard statistical evidence, reports The Independent.  Researchers used sediment samples from a lake on Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico to calculate climate conditions when the Mayan empire – famous for its huge stone structures –  began to crumble.

They examined water in a mineral known as gypsum found in Lake Chichancanab to work out exact values for changes in rainfall and humidity hundreds of years ago.  In a drought, more water would have evaporated from the lake, with the lighter chemical variants of water evaporating quicker. The discovery of more heavier variants points to dry conditions.  “This method is highly accurate and is almost like measuring the water itself,” said Nick Evans, one of the study’s lead authors,

“Our study represents a substantial advance as it provides statistically robust estimates of rainfall and humidity levels during the Maya downfall.”

The high point of the classic Maya empire was from 250AD to 800AD, when the enormous stone structures such as the Chichen Itza pyramid in Mexico were built.   But from 800AD, the Mayans began to mysteriously abandon their cities and towns.  Theories behind the abandonment include war, invasion, disease and declining trade.   Historians believe a severe drought would have accelerated the decline through poor crop harvests leading to food scarcity.  Accompanying it came bloody social unrest including the killing of Mayan royalty.  The researchers’ findings were published in the journal Science.

by Richard Wood
Nine Digital Pty Ltd

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