A new study that examined minerals from the famous underwater cave in Belize, known as the Blue Hole, discovered evidence for an extreme drought between 800 and 900 AD, which corresponds to the time period in which the ancient Maya civilization collapsed. The researchers suggest that the drought contributed to the demise of the Maya.
The Maya culture stretched across much of what is now southern Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and thrived there for more than 2,000 years. Their advancement spanned the sciences, astronomy, mathematics, writing system, calendars and monumental constructions. Cities, like the magnificent Tikal, were ruled by a dominant elite who could command mighty armies. Yet over the course of only a century, beginning around the 8th century AD, the cities became abandoned and were left in ruins.
Studying the Big Blue Hole in Belize has led scientists to a theory about the end of the Mayan civilization which thrived from 300 to 700 CE.
“It’s like a big bucket. It’s a sediment trap,” explains Rice University Earth scientist, Andre Droxler. The study co-author continues, “When you have major drought, you start to get famines and unrest.”
Discovery explains how researchers use the Big Blue Hold in Belize to determine the how a shift in climate could have so dramatically affected the Mayan civilization: “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.”
“There’s a tremendous amount of change going on in Guatemala,” explains Robert Oglesby, a researcher from the University of Nebraska. He goes on to say, “They may be that much more vulnerable to a severe drought.”
And the new findings do suggest that somewhere around AD 1000—during the height of the Little Ice Age—another major drought hit the area. This period actually falls directly in line with the fall of Chichen Itza, which further supports the idea that a severe drought helped to bring the demise of the Mayan people…
[continues at Pioneer News]
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