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 HistoricalClimatology.com) 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.

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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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