Study says Maya disappeared due to prolonged drought

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Measured stalagmites, which grow by rain, corroborating low rainfall between 1020 and 1100.

Balum Yok Cave in Belize, is located less than five kilometers from the ancient city of Uxbenká, buzzing Mayan city in its glory came to house 10,000 people, making it one of the first cities of this civilization around the year 500.

Today, these remote caves could be the explanation for the mysterious disappearance of the Maya, a culture of impressive progress, however, between 800 and 1000 Columbian suddenly disappeared from the map, a mystery that for decades has intrigued archaeologists .

According to a study that analyzed the stalagmites of over 2,000 years in the caves there-those that grow as the level of rainfall-place, concluded that a prolonged drought between 1020 and 1100 devastated the place, causing the collapse of this civilization.

While the theory of a climate crisis has taken hold for some time among the researchers to test the Mayan demise, this is the first time that there is as accurate records of the period when the drought occurred.

For their research, the experts of the U. State of Pennsylvania (USA), who conducted the study, measured the presence of oxygen in these stalagmites.

Oxygen has a mixture of isotopes (atoms of the same element). The heaviest of these atoms, oxygen-18, traveling by rainwater and deposited in the stalagmites, affecting their growth. By contrast, the oxygen-16 evaporates easily with the heat, also making its mark in the stalagmite.

With these two parameters, the researchers could determine periods of more rain and less, discovering a major drought between 1020 and 1100.

The phenomenon triggered a decline in agricultural productivity and contributed to social fragmentation and subsequent political collapse of the Maya.

Douglas Kennett, lead author of the study, published yesterday in the journal Science, explains to La Tercera that these long-term droughts are a regular phenomenon in the area. “The drought cycles are part of the natural climate system in the region. We identify several droughts ranging from 10 years and sometimes up to 100 years “, as he finally did the Maya collapse.

However, stalagmites also measured periods of high rainfall, which triggered a population expansion between 440 and 660.

According to the environmental anthropologist, now there is a climate record that is directly comparable to the historical records of the Mayan sites.

Climate collapse

The study coincides with a similar one, directed by Martin Medina Elizalde, the Centre for Scientific Research of Yucatan (Mexico) and Eelco Rohling of the U. of Southampton (United Kingdom), and also published in the journal Science (in February), which concluded, also measuring the growth of stalagmites, while in another area of the Yucatan Peninsula,

Rainfall in the area experienced a reduction of between 20% and 40% due to the decrease in summer storms, although this decrease amounted to between 800 and 950.

The Mayans are not the only civilization that disappeared ravaged by extreme weather events.

According to Kennett, are other examples, such as Akkadian cities of Mesopotamia “and there is some recent evidence that dry weather contributed to the decline of civilization Harrappan in India”.

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