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Thread: Drought and the Maya collapse

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    Drought and the Maya collapse



    The looney tunes claiming it was aliens or other bizarre theories were wrong. The Maya were at least partly done in by climate change. We're always at the mercy of the weather.

    See:
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-.../#.W28Pt-hKjIX

    "Though today it is a wilderness, in the time of the Maya, the Central American lowlands they called home would have looked far different. Where emerald jungle canopies roll for miles on end, cities, roads, reservoirs and terraced fields would have covered the hilly landscape in southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.Millions of people lived in the forest, members of a loose alliance of interconnected city-states. The Maya developed a system of writing, as well as a calendar system and sophisticated astronomical charts. In a world without metal, they built massive temples and irrigation networks through the thick rainforest.
    And then their society collapsed upon itself."

    "How it happened is the subject of much debate, though few certainties have emerged. Warfare, for one, seems to have become more common toward the end, and there’s evidence that a drought struck during that same time period. The actual impacts of the drought are less clear, however, as researchers have only been able to pick out a correlation between the two events thus far.

    Now, a new study lends a little more weight to the drought hypothesis. It shows that rainfall during the end of the Maya Classic period, the time of their collapse, was roughly cut in half. That would have been a huge loss for a society largely dependent on agriculture. Coping with a drought of this magnitude would be difficult today. And for the Maya, who relied on a complex network of canals and reservoirs to sustain their crops, it could well have been deadly."

    "Using both measures, the researchers found that a severe drought began during the Terminal Classic Period sometime after 800 C.E. and again around 950 C.E., which is roughly the end of Maya civilization as we know it. Rainfall was reduced by around 50 percent on average, and by up to 70 percent during the most severe periods. The scientists published their findings Thursday in Science.

    Dust Bowl

    For a society whose diet consisted mainly of the holy trio of maize, beans and squash for survival, it could well have been a death knell. By the end of the Maya Classic Period, their population had grown far beyond what the landscape could support on its own. For centuries, ingenious Maya engineers had come up with ways to alter the landscape in their favor: Creating canals to irrigate fields, reservoirs to hold water through the dry season, turning wetlands to fertile soil, and carving terraces into hillsides. But even with these human enhancements the Maya remained at the mercy of nature’s beneficence. Eventually, it ran out.
    As the drought dragged on, warfare, already somewhat common between antagonistic city-states, seems to have become even more prevalent. In addition, by denuding vast areas of their tree cover, the Maya may have created a landscape devoid of trees that could no longer hold on to water and precious nutrients, making farming more difficult and potentially exacerbating the effects of drought.
    Little food and too much fighting likely led people to abandon cities as populations plummeted. It’s estimated that the Maya population dropped around 90 percent during this time. Those who did remain melted back into the jungle or squatted in cities in the shadow of greatness. At a few locations, such as Chichen Itza and Mayapan, the Maya did continue on, though they would never return to their former glory."


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    Climatic conditions seem to trigger a snowball effect in all other parts of social life in such a way that sometimes the correlation between the cause (climate) and the consequence aren't even obvious. Findings like these should be a cautionary tale for our own post-modern civilization, so self-assured. Besides, as I wrote in another topic here about these news, "It's also important to notice that despite its being located in a tropical rainforest region most of the core Maya territories are not rich in rivers, lakes or other water sources, instead relying a lot on cisterns that collected the rainwater and the underground water exposed in cenotes, also - I assume - highly dependent on the maintenance of their levels by rainwater. Considering how dense and urbanized their agricultural civilization was, and that despite their many cultural advances they weren't exactly a pre-modern population like, say, early Modern Era Europe, India and China, they must've been especially vulnerable to that long drought."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ygorcs View Post
    Climatic conditions seem to trigger a snowball effect in all other parts of social life in such a way that sometimes the correlation between the cause (climate) and the consequence aren't even obvious. Findings like these should be a cautionary tale for our own post-modern civilization, so self-assured. Besides, as I wrote in another topic here about these news, "It's also important to notice that despite its being located in a tropical rainforest region most of the core Maya territories are not rich in rivers, lakes or other water sources, instead relying a lot on cisterns that collected the rainwater and the underground water exposed in cenotes, also - I assume - highly dependent on the maintenance of their levels by rainwater. Considering how dense and urbanized their agricultural civilization was, and that despite their many cultural advances they weren't exactly a pre-modern population like, say, early Modern Era Europe, India and China, they must've been especially vulnerable to that long drought."
    I've always wondered how the Maya fertilized their crops. Jungle soils are notoriously poor in nutrients, aren't they?

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    They probably fertilized with animal dump, likely from cattle/pigs
    mmmmmmmmm dooouuughhhnuuuutz

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    there was already another thread on this subject :

    https://www.eupedia.com/forum/thread...highlight=Maya

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    Quote Originally Posted by davef View Post
    They probably fertilized with animal dump, likely from cattle/pigs
    They lacked any animal domesticates with the exception of dogs, turkeys and ducks.

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