CAIRO – 21 July 2022: Researchers at the University of California, USA, looked back through 800 years of history to conclude that Mayapan, the cultural and political capital of the Mayan people in the Yucatan Peninsula in the 13th and 14th centuries AD may have faded due to drought.
This drought led to civil strife, which in turn led to political collapse, according to the researchers.
In addition to giving us useful insight into the history of the ancient Mayan people, the new study by UCLA anthropologists and published by Nature is also warning that shifts in climate can quickly put pressure on even the most established and prosperous civilizations.
“Multiple data sources indicate that civil conflict increased dramatically due to drought conditions between 1400 and 1450 AD,” the researchers wrote in their published paper.
“We argue that prolonged drought has heightened tensions between competing factions, but subsequent adaptations reveal region-wide resilience. This ensured the continuity of Maya political and economic structures until European contact in the early 16th century AD,” wrote the researchers.
The team already had plenty of historical records to work with, covering population change, contemporary diets, and climatic conditions. These records are bolstered by a new analysis of human remains in search for signs of traumatic injury that point to the conflict.
Relationships between increased precipitation and increased population appeared in the region. The subsequent reduction in rainfall led to increased conflict. Researchers say a prolonged drought during 1400-1450 CE likely led to the abandonment of Mayapan.