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Study bolsters links between climate change, Maya decline

Extreme weather likely disrupted advanced Central American civilization

The Altun Ha Maya site, near Belize City. Bob Berwyn photo.

Researchers used a stalactite from a cave to help establish an accurate climate record. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Archaeologists and paleoclimatologists have teamed to offer more proof that climate extremes likely caused the collapse on the ancient Maya civilization of Central America.

The Maya demise has long fascinated researchers, who wonder how a civilization that seemed to be at its peak simply vanished within the span of a few decades. Numerous studies have pointed to climate as a factor — even in the Earth’s pre-industrial era, natural cycles of rainfall and drought apparently had an impact.

“Here you had an amazing state-level society that had created calendars, magnificent architecture, works of art, and was engaged in trade throughout Central America,” said UC Davis anthropology professor and co-author Bruce Winterhalder. “They were incredible craftspersons, proficient in agriculture, statesmanship and warfare — and within about 80 years, it fell completely apart.” Continue reading

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Tropical Storm Harvey spurs warnings in Honduras, Belize

Tropical Storm Harvey is headed for Belize.

Strong winds, dangerous surf on the coast; threatening rains in the higher terrain

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Popular tourist beaches in Central America are bracing for the arrival of Tropical Storm Harvey, now taking direct aim at Belize, where tropical storm warnings have been issued.

The storm has sustained winds of 40 mph and could drop three to five inches of rain, with higher amounts possible over the mountains. This rains could produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides over the higher terrain.

A tropical storm warning is also in effect for the Bay Islands of Honduras. According to the latest National Weather Service advisory, the storm is moving slowly and could gain more strength over the warm Caribbean before making landfall in about 24 hours. At mid-day Friday, Harvey was about 285 miles southeast of Belize City and expected to pass over the Bay Islands during the day.

Tropical storm watches have been issued for the coast of Honduras and the coast of Guatemala.   Tropical storm-force winds could also affected the southeastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula by Saturday night. At present, tropical storm-force winds extend about 40 miles from the center of the storm, mainly to the north.

New tree ring study pinpoints ancient mega-droughts

A 1,100-year old Montezuma tree from Barranca de Amealco, Mexico, used in the rainfall chronology. This tree species is called "ahuehuete" in the indigenous language Nahuatl, meaning 'old man of the water'.

Dry spells may be linked to decline of pre-Hispanic civilizations in Mexico and Central America

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new tree ring study spanning more than 1,200 years is helping archaeologists pinpoint the exact dates of ancient mega-droughts that may have been key factors in the decline of major pre-Hispanic cultures in Mexico and Central America.

The new data supports other evidence that droughts played a big role in the rise and fall of the Toltecs and Maya, but the record had many gaps, leaving researchers guessing as to the exact dates geographic extent of the dry spells.

The new, 1,238-year-long tree-ring chronology is the longest and most accurate of its kind for Mesoamerica, and the first to reconstruct the climate of pre-colonial Mexico on an annual basis for more than a millennium, pinning down four ancient mega-droughts to their exact years. Continue reading

Travel: Luna de Miel in Panama

A traditional dug-out fishing boat in the kuna yala of Panama.

On her honeymoon, Golden-based adventure and travel writer Emily A. Palm Mulica explores indigenous cultures and tropical islands. Please scroll down for the slide show.

Story and photos by Emily A. Palm Mulica
Despite the fame of the canal, the fact the U.S. dollar serves as the national currency, and the allure of beaches and jungle, not too many Americans visit Panama. I’ve met far more folks who have ventured to Costa Rica (Panama’s northern neighbor), and this was a contributing factor to why my husband and I honeymooned last fall in Central America’s southernmost country.

Please click the “read more” tab for the full story, along with a slide show: Continue reading

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