Climate change may have caused Mayan civilization's collapse
For unknown reasons, the ancient Mayan civilization then disintegrated more than a millennium ago. The number of people declined catastrophically to a fraction of the empire's former size, and the ruins of its great cities are now largely overgrown by jungle.
MEXICO CITY, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Relatively mild drought may have caused the collapse of the classic Maya civilization in what is now southern Mexico and Guatemala, researchers say.
It had long been believed that prolonged severe drought caused the collapse of the civilization in around 950 A.D, but Mexican and British researchers now think seasonal water supplies in the region could have been exhausted by a small but sustained drop in rainfall.
Researchers from Britain's University of Southampton collaborated in the research with the Yucatan Center for Scientific Research in southern Mexico.
"This is in a region that has no surface water," researcher Nicholas Dunning said. "There are only a handful of caves that go deep enough to get to the permanent water table, so for anyplace that's bone dry for five months out of the year, this is a pretty special location."
Excavations of the city revealed the cave was part of a network of cisterns and reservoirs that fed the community's water supply.
Two large reservoirs were located in the middle of the city and the smaller reservoirs and cisterns extended into the residential area and surrounding farmland, the researcher said.
The city was the largest in the Puuc Region of the Yucatan from around 800 B.C. to 100 A.D., but there are significant signs the city was abandoned between 100 A.D. and 300 A.D., most likely due to drought, a university release said.
The ancient Mayan empire once stretched across an area about the size of Texas, with cities and fields occupying what is now southern Mexico and northernCentral America, including the countries of Guatemala,Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. The height of the Mayan empire, known as the Classic period, reached from approximately A.D. 250 to at least A.D. 900.
The ancient Maya had what was arguably the most advanced civilization in the Americas. For instance, they made dramatic breakthroughs in astronomy that helped them very accurately predict where the moon and other planets would be in the sky centuries in the future. They also left behind many books and stone inscriptions regarding the stories of their gods and the history of their divine kings and queens.Maya is a mysterious civilization, about which nobody knows where it appeared no, nor as missing. Maya civilization lived in the area between Mexico and SouthAmerica,and was very advanced, especially in mathematics, astronomy and architecture. Maya accurately predict eclipses and movements of Venus meant the tables with a precision that stupefies scientists today, and used the numeral 20 as a basis,and not the 10 that we use today. Besides astronomy, another area where the Mayan civilization excelled is architecture, considered the largest and most prolific builders on our planet. Maya erected thousands of buildings that attract and amaze today by the harmony of forms, ambition and scale of projects and through an undeniable beauty.
Maya has always been an enigma. A few decades ago, the glory of their cities ruined, and their beautiful writing, but manyresearchers had made unreadable to imagine a peaceful society of scribes and priests. Maya history became a fresco withaccurate data and powerful characters outlined.
The scientists found that rainfall in the region decreased episodically for periods as long as a decade at a time.
"Our results show rather modest rainfall reductions between times when the Classic Maya civilization flourished and its collapse between 800 to 950," said researcher Eelco Rohling, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Southampton in England. "These reductions amount to only 25 to 40 percent in annual rainfall, but they were large enough for evaporation to become dominant over rainfall, and open water availability was rapidly reduced. The data suggest that the main cause was a decrease in summer storm activity."
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