What led to the collapse of the ancient Maya

(ORDO NEWS) — The researchers analyzed 800 years of history and came to the conclusion that Mayapan – the cultural and political capital of the Mayan people on the Yucatan Peninsula in the 13th-14th centuries AD – could well have been destroyed due to drought.

According to the researchers, the drought would lead to civil conflict, which in turn would lead to political collapse.

Then people would retreat to smaller and safer settlements.

As well as giving us a useful insight into the history of this ancient people, the new study is also a warning about how climate change can quickly put pressure on even the most established and prosperous civilizations.

“Multiple data sources point to a significant increase in civil conflicts, and generalized linear modeling links city strife to drought conditions between 1400 and 1450 AD,” the researchers wrote in the published paper.

“We contend that a prolonged drought heightened tensions between rival factions, but subsequent adaptation showed resilience across the region, ensuring that Maya political and economic structures were preserved until European contact in the early 16th century CE.”

The team already had many historical records to work on, covering population change, modern diets and climate conditions.

These records have been supplemented by new analysis of human remains for signs of traumatic injury (indicative of a conflict).

Correlations have been found between increased precipitation and population growth in the area, and between subsequent decreases in precipitation and increased conflicts. Long drought in the period 1400-1450. AD, most likely led to the abandonment of Mayapan, the researchers believe.

The lack of water may have affected agricultural practices and trade routes, putting additional stress on Mayapan’s population, the study said. As food became scarcer and the situation more dangerous, people either died or dispersed.

In the last mass grave dug before the city was abandoned, researchers report that many of the remains likely belonged to members of the Kokom families (heads of state) – a bloody end brought on by rival factions and social unrest.

“Our results support the story of the institutional collapse of the Mayapan between 1441 and 1461 AD, which was the result of civil conflict caused by political rivalries and ambitions, which were entrenched in the social memory of the peoples of Yucatecan, whose testimonies entered the written records of the early colonial period,” the researchers write.

The human response to environmental pressures such as drought is certainly complex, varying by region and era – there are so many factors to weigh and balance when it comes to why historical populations acted the way they did. .

The movement of people to other parts of the Yucat√°n Peninsula, including flourishing coastal cities and politically independent settlements, helped the Mayan culture continue to flourish after the fall of the Mayapan and there was little to no evidence of any conflict between these regions until the start of Spanish rule.

This is evidence of a “resilient system of human adaptation to the environment,” the researchers say, but adaptation can only go very far. These same regions, along with the rest of the world, are once again facing a climate crisis.

“Archaeological and historical records are well suited to study the past effects of climate crises on society in long-term cycles,” the researchers write.

“The Maya region offers the breadth and depth of archaeological, historical and climatic records needed to study the correlations between social change and climatic fluctuations.”


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