Ancient Lake Holds Clues To Maya Civilization's Collapse

Posted: Aug 5 2018, 10:58am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 6 2018, 12:02am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Ancient Lake Holds Clues to Maya Civilization's Collapse
A pyramid located in the Great Plaza. Credit: Mark Brenner

Researchers have used a new method and estimated the extent of a major drought that occurred about one thousand years ago.

The collapse of the ancient Maya civilization has puzzled archaeologists for decades. Most recent investigations, however, quantify the severity of a thousand-year-old drought and shed new light on events that led up to the civilization’s downfall.

Maya was one of the most dominant and prominent civilizations of Mesoamerica. Their society was characterized by the construction of monumental architecture and development of art. During the 9th century, however, the civilization suddenly collapsed and many of its famous cities were abandoned.

Many theories have been proposed over the years to explain its demises, such as invasion, war or drought. The world experienced a major drought about 1,000 years ago. At the same time, Maya civilization began to disappear.

In the latest effort, researchers studied Lake Chichancanab in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula where the Maya were based. They developed a new method to measure the different isotopes of water trapped in gypsum and used it to determine changes in rainfall.

Gypsum is a mineral that forms during times of drought when water levels are low. Based on these measurements, researchers concluded that annual precipitation decreased between 41% and 54% during the period of the Maya civilization’s collapse.

‘The role of climate change in the collapse of Classic Maya civilization is somewhat controversial, partly because previous records are limited to qualitative reconstructions, for example, weather conditions were wetter or drier," said lead researcher Nick Evans from University of Cambridge."Our study represents a substantial advance as it provides statistically robust estimates of rainfall and humidity levels during the Maya downfall."

Until now, no reliable estimates had been made about the severity of that drought. The new method has made it possible to reconstruct the history of the lake water and estimated the extent of that drought.

Nick Evans says. “This method is highly accurate and is almost like measuring the water itself.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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