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2012-11-09. Development and Disintegration of Maya Political Systems in Response to Climate Change

posted Nov 9, 2012, 10:36 AM by Alan Gould
| by Douglas J. Kennett et al, Science Magazine: Vol. 338 no. 6108 pp. 788-791. An article relevant to GSS Life and Climate chapter 12. Editor's description: Climate has affected the vitality of many different societies in the past, as shown by numerous records across the globe and throughout human history. One of the most obvious and spectacular examples of this is from the Classic Maya civilization, whose advanced culture left highly detailed records of all aspects of their existence between 300 and 1000 C.E. Kennett et al. (p. 788; see the cover) present a detailed climate record derived from a stalagmite collected from a cave in Belize, in the midst of the Classic Maya settlement. The fine resolution and precise dating of the record allows changes in precipitation to be related to the politics, war, and population fluctuations of the Mayans. -|- Abstract:  The role of climate change in the development and demise of Classic Maya civilization (300 to 1000 C.E.) remains controversial because of the absence of well-dated climate and archaeological sequences. We present a precisely dated subannual climate record for the past 2000 years from Yok Balum Cave, Belize. From comparison of this record with historical events compiled from well-dated stone monuments, we propose that anomalously high rainfall favored unprecedented population expansion and the proliferation of political centers between 440 and 660 C.E. This was followed by a drying trend between 660 and 1000 C.E. that triggered the balkanization of polities, increased warfare, and the asynchronous disintegration of polities, followed by population collapse in the context of an extended drought between 1020 and 1100 C.E. Read the full article: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6108/788 [subscription needed]