Quantification of drought during the collapse of the classic Maya civilization.


Type
Article
Change log
Authors
Evans, Nicholas P 
Gázquez-Sánchez, Fernando  ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8258-1352
Brenner, Mark 
Abstract

The demise of Lowland Classic Maya civilization during the Terminal Classic Period (~800 to 1000 CE) is a well-cited example of how past climate may have affected ancient societies. Attempts to estimate the magnitude of hydrologic change, however, have met with equivocal success because of the qualitative and indirect nature of available climate proxy data. We reconstructed the past isotopic composition (δ18O, δD, 17O-excess, and d-excess) of water in Lake Chichancanab, Mexico, using a technique that involves isotopic analysis of the structurally bound water in sedimentary gypsum, which was deposited under drought conditions. The triple oxygen and hydrogen isotope data provide a direct measure of past changes in lake hydrology. We modeled the data and conclude that annual precipitation decreased between 41 and 54% (with intervals of up to 70% rainfall reduction during peak drought conditions) and that relative humidity declined by 2 to 7% compared to present-day conditions.

Description
Keywords
Civilization, Droughts, History, Ancient, Lakes, Mexico
Journal Title
Science
Conference Name
Journal ISSN
0036-8075
1095-9203
Volume Title
361
Publisher
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Sponsorship
European Research Council (339694)
ERC 339694 (Water Isotopes of Hydrated Minerals)