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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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