What happened to the Mayan Empire?
SAN FRANCISCO — The ancient Mayan civilization collapsed due to a century-long drought, new research suggests.
Minerals taken from Belize's famous underwater cave, known as the Blue Hole, as well as lagoons nearby, show that an extreme drought occurred between A.D. 800 and A.D. 900, right when the Mayan civilization disintegrated. After the rains returned, the Mayans moved north — but they disappeared again a few centuries later, and that disappearance occurred at the same time as another dry spell, the sediments reveal. [In Photos: Stunning Sinkholes]
Although the findings aren't the first to tie a drought to the Mayan culture's demise, the new results strengthen the case that dry periods were indeed the culprit. That's because the data come from several spots in a region central to the Mayan heartland, said study co-author André Droxler, an Earth scientist at Rice University.
Rise and decline
From A.D. 300 to A.D. 700, the Mayan civilization flourished in the Yucatan peninsula. These ancient Mesoamericans built stunning pyramids, mastered astronomy, and developed both a hieroglyphic writing system and a calendar system, which is famous for allegedly predicting that the world would end in 2012.
But in the centuries after A.D. 700, the civilization's building activities slowed and the culture descended into warfare and anarchy. Historians have speculatively linked that decline with everything from the ancient society's fear of malevolent spirits to deforestation completed to make way for cropland to the loss of favored foods, such as the Tikal deer.
The evidence for a drought has been growing in recent years: Since at least 1995, scientists have been looking more closely at the effects of drought. A 2012 study in the journal Science analyzed a 2, 000-year-old stalagmite from a cave in southern Belize and found that sharp decreases in rainfall coincided with periods of decline in the culture. But that data came from just one cave, which meant it was difficult to make predictions for the area as a whole, Droxler said.
The main driver of this drought is thought to have been a shift in the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), a weather system that generally dumps water on tropical regions of the world while drying out the subtropics. During summers, the ITCZ pelts the Yucatan peninsula with rain, but the system travels farther south in the winter. Many scientists have suggested that during the Mayan decline, this monsoon system may have missed the Yucatan peninsula altogether.
To look for signs of drought, the team drilled cores from the sediments in the Blue Hole of Lighthouse lagoon, as well one in the Rhomboid reef. The lagoons surrounded on all sides by thick walls of coral reef. During storms or wetter periods, excess water runs off from rivers and streams, overtops the retaining walls, and is deposited in a thin layer at the top of the lagoon. From there, all the sediments from these streams settle to the bottom of the lagoon, piling on top of each other and leaving a chronological record of the historical climate.
"It's like a big bucket. It's a sediment trap, " Droxler told Live Science.
Droxler and his colleagues analyzed the chemical composition of the cores, in particular the ratio of titanium to aluminum. When the rains fall, it eats away at the volcanic rocks of the region, which contain titanium. The free titanium then sweeps into streams that reach the ocean. So relatively low ratios of titanium to aluminum correspond to periods with less rainfall, Droxler said.
The team found that during the period between A.D. 800 and A.D. 1000, when the Maya civilization collapsed, there were just one or two tropical cyclones every two decades, as opposed to the usual five or six. After that, the Maya moved north, building at sites such as Chichen Itza, in what is now Mexico.
But the new results also found that between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1100, during the height of the Little Ice Age, another major drought struck. This period coincides with the fall of Chichen Itza.
The findings strengthen the case that drought helped usher in the long decline of the Mayan culture.what to add to hamburger helper How to channel spirit medium tips? What does yktv mean in texting? How to start keto? What does impartial mean? How to make a gmail? What does lucid mean? What does dzuma mean? What does btk killer mean? What does top or bottom mean straight? How to make a margarita? Why are the tips of my pothos leaves turning brown? What is yelp? What does profile visit mean on instagram? What blackens the tips of aloe vera plants? Rappers give tips on where tostart? hamburger helper how to cook hamburger helper How to find specific heat? How to draw a ghost? What is the meaning of the lost sheep? What is walking pneumonia? How to boot in safe mode? What does fee simple mean? Tips and tricks for staying warm when playing in the snow? How to remove skin tag? What level does marill evolve? How to thaw ground beef? What is august 1? What does qc mean? What does gobsmacked mean? What is the meaning of badger? How to do ombre nails? What does bellwether mean? What does omni sexuality mean? What does a hernia feel like? What is the meaning of reya? What does mojo mean? How to play cornhole? How to transfer files from one computer to another windows 10? What is the meaning of toddler? How to repot succulents? What are scotch eggs? What does drl mean on a car? What is cached data? what are all these google chrome helper processes
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