Climate and the collapse of Maya civilization

Larry C Peterson, Gerald H. Haug

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

41 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

During its Classic period (250-950 A.D.), Maya civilization reached a zenith. At its peak, around 750 A.D., the population may have topped 13 million. Then, between about 750 and 950 A.D., their society imploded. The Maya abandoned what had been densely populated urban centers, leaving their impressive stone edifices to fall into ruin. The demise of Maya civilization (which archaeologists call "the terminal Classic collapse") has been one of the great anthropological mysteries of modern times. What could have happened? Scholars have advanced a variety of theories over the years, pinning the fault on everything from internal warfare to foreign intrusion, from widespread outbreaks of disease to a dangerous dependence on monocropping, from environmental degradation to climate change. Some combination of these and other factors may well be where the truth lies. However, in recent years, evidence has mounted that unusual shifts in atmospheric patterns took place near the end of the Classic Maya period, lending credence to the notion that climate, and specifically drought, indeed played a hand in the decline of this ancient civilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-329
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Scientist
Volume93
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2005

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Civilization
continuous cropping
environmental degradation
Military operations
Drought
Weathering
Climate
Climate change
hands
drought
climate change
climate
Anthropology
Climate Change
Droughts
Disease Outbreaks
Hand
Population

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Climate and the collapse of Maya civilization. / Peterson, Larry C; Haug, Gerald H.

In: American Scientist, Vol. 93, No. 4, 07.2005, p. 322-329.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Peterson, Larry C ; Haug, Gerald H. / Climate and the collapse of Maya civilization. In: American Scientist. 2005 ; Vol. 93, No. 4. pp. 322-329.
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