Maya Mystery PPt

Climate Change
Poor Agricultural
Destruction of
Eco System
Maya Mystery
 Research in 2001 by University of Florida peleoclimatologists,
consisting of analysis from the bottom of Lake Punta Laguna has
shown that the region's generally wet conditions were interspersed
with periods of dryness. These occurred around 250, 585, and 800 —
the latter event was especially long, into the eleventh century.
These dates correspond to period where little Maya development is
observed in the surviving arts and architecture.
 The scientists discovered that the ninth century had been the driest
time in the region for 7,000 years. They took cores of mud from the
bottom of the lake. The mud had built up over thousands of years the deeper the mud, the older the shells and seeds it contained. A
core from the ninth century showed an exceptional surge of heavy
oxygen, indicating it was the driest time in the region for 7,000
 The Maya required massive amounts of wood to fuel the fires that
cooked the lime plaster they used to build their elaborate
constructions—experts estimate it would have taken 20 trees to
produce a single square meter of cityscape.
 Because cleared land absorbs less solar radiation, less water evaporates
from its surface, and less evaporation makes clouds and rainfall more
scarce. As a result, the rapid deforestation made an already severe
drought worse.
 Deforestation reduced precipitation by 5 to 15 % and was responsible
for 60 % of the total drying that occurred over the course of a century
as the Mayan civilization collapsed.
 Tropical soils quickly become drained of their nutrients when exposed
to the sun.
 "We're not saying deforestation explains the entire drought, but it does
explain a substantial portion of the overall drying that is thought to
have occurred," said Benjamin Cook.
 Newly deciphered stone carvings clearly indicate that the Maya warred
frequently and viciously among themselves. City-states such as Dos Pilas, Tikal,
Copán and Quirigua went to war with one another quite often.
 A series of natural disasters could have instigated an increase in warfare. Rulers
felt their powers were failing and the gods required more and more royal blood
- their own personal bloodletting was insufficient – they decided to attack other
Maya cities to secure other royalty to sacrifice to the insatiable gods. What
happened when these royals were captured is that they were not immediately
sacrificed but were kept for years to be bled at ritual ceremonies. Meanwhile
there was no one running the show back at their homes. Their heirs could not
take over leadership responsibilities because the ruler was still alive. The belief
system was shattered. Finally it got to the point that people just deserted the
cities, and rewrote the rules - adapting their belief system as best they could.
 Hieroglyphs in the area reveal that Tikal and Calakmul, were bitter rivals
for centuries. Skirmishes between the kings of each city grew increasingly
violent, prompting both to build alliances with other cities via raids,
conquest, and royal coups. But, as more and more cities got involved, the
warfare spread.
 In 2002 archaeologists discovered a stunning new set of hieroglyphic texts
carved into the steps of a palace staircase at Dos Pilas .The texts told the
surprising story of renegade princes from Tikal, who tried to create an
empire of their own by waging a full-force attack on their home city with
the help of neighboring allies. The invasion occurred during the height of
the drought, and the result was pure devastation. Pyramids and temples
were torn apart to build fortifications, and what few trees were left in the
razed rainforest were cut down to build fences. Eventually, farmers had to
retreat to the fast-growing weeds. The war destroyed the cities, leaving
behind ruins and refugees.
Maya War Theory
Maya War Theory
Clues to the Maya collapse can be found at Copán, a
Maya site in western Honduras.
 A conclusion that is based on botanical and bone
evidence indicate malnutrition and disease was a
part of the Mayan history.
Over 80% of the skulls of people showed signs of
anemia. Anemia in all classes suggests severe
malnutrition, possibly causing a rapid collapse in
Spongy marks on skulls found at Copal are due to
lack of iron in the diet.
 Recently scientists discovered a distinct beige clay mineral in
ruined canals at Guatemala's Tikal archaeological site—once the
largest city of the southern Maya lowlands. The mineral, a type of
smectite, derives only from the breakdown of volcanic ash.
 Using chemical fingerprinting techniques, the team showed that
the smectite at Tikal came from volcanoes within Guatemala
and in what are now El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico.
 The tiny ash particles would have suffocated many plantpollinating insects and ash can encourage acid rain, which can
harm crops.
 Maya had completely transformed the land on which they lived by
turning jungles into a vast area of plains filled with cities, farms, and an
ever-growing population. In fact, settlements around centers like Tikal
reached more than half the population density of modern-day New
York City.
 The large population in the cities must have put great strain on the
food production. A famine or other agricultural calamity affecting these
basic crops could certainly have caused the downfall of the ancient
 A large population was probably insupportable because of the
difficulties of ensuring a steady water supply and because of the limits
of the region's agricultural capacity.
 As the Mayan population grew, however, the society became vulnerable
to the limitations of their environment. They gobbled up the resources
around them, but failed to develop new ideas to fix the problem.

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