Climate History Network

A network of interdisciplinary scholars studying past climate change

New Evidence for Role of Drought in Terminal Classic Maya Conflict and Decline

A new study in this week’s Science (see also the news article here, and the lengthier analysis on uses U-Th dating on a stalagmite in Belize to offer the most convincing evidence yet that the conflict and settlement abandonment of the lowlands Maya Terminal Classic Period (~800-900AD) took place against a backdrop of severe recurring drought.  While past studies of lake sediments pointed to a similar conclusion, this speleothem research offers the most local, precisely dated, and high-resolution information to date.  As in similar studies in other parts of the world, the oxygen isotope data recovered won’t be a perfect representation of regional precipitation; but in this case the overlap of the finds with other proxies and, in the case of the 16th-century droughts, with historical records is highly suggestive.  This story has also picked up some coverage in the media as another cautionary tale for contemporary climate change.


About Sam White

Assistant Professor of History at the Ohio State University

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This entry was posted on November 9, 2012 by in In the News, Publications.
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