An prolonged interval of turmoil in the prehistoric Maya metropolis of Mayapan, in the Yucatan area of Mexico, was marked by inhabitants declines, political rivalries and civil battle. Between 1441 and 1461 CE the strife reached an unlucky crescendo — the full institutional collapse and abandonment of the metropolis. This all occurred throughout a protracted drought.
Coincidence? Not possible, finds new analysis by anthropologist and professor Douglas Kennett of UC Santa Barbara.
Writing in the journal Nature Communications, lead creator Kennett and collaborators in the fields of archaeology, historical past, geography and earth science counsel that drought might the truth is have stoked the civil battle that begat violence, which in flip led to the institutional instabilities that precipitated Mayapan’s collapse. This transdisciplinary work, the researchers mentioned, “highlights the importance of understanding the complex relationships between natural and social systems, especially when evaluating the role of climate change in exacerbating internal political tensions and factionalism in areas where drought leads to food insecurity.”
“We found complex relationships between climate change and societal stability/instability on the regional level,” Kennett mentioned in an interview. “Drought-induced civil conflict had a devastating local impact on the integrity of Mayapan’s state institutions that were designed to keep social order. However, the fragmentation of populations at Mayapan resulted in population and societal reorganization that was highly resilient for a hundred years until the Spanish arrived on the shores of the Yucatan.”
The researchers examined archaeological and historic information from Mayapan, together with isotope information, radiocarbon information and DNA sequences from human stays, to doc specifically an interval of unrest between 1400 and 1450 CE. They then used regional sources of climatic information and mixed it with a more moderen, native report of drought from cave deposits beneath the metropolis, Kennett defined.
“Existing factional tensions that developed between rival groups were a key societal vulnerability in the context of extended droughts during this interval,” Kennett mentioned. “Pain, suffering and death resulted from institutional instabilities at Mayapan and the population fragmented and moved back to their homelands elsewhere in the region.”
The vulnerabilities revealed in the information, the researchers discovered, had been rooted in Maya reliance on rain-fed maize agriculture, a scarcity of centralized, long-term grain storage, minimal investments in irrigation and a sociopolitical system led by elite households with competing political pursuits.
Indeed the authors argue that “long-term, climate-caused hardships provoked restive tensions that were fanned by political actors whose actions ultimately culminated in political violence more than once at Mayapan.”
Yet considerably, a community of small Maya states additionally proved to be resilient after the collapse at Mayapan, partially by migrating throughout the area to cities that had been nonetheless thriving. Despite decentralization, commerce impacts, political upheaval and different challenges, the paper notes, they tailored and persevered into the early 16th century. It all factors to the complexity of human responses drought on the Yucatan Peninsula at the moment — an vital consideration for the future in addition to the previous.
“Our study demonstrates that the convergence of information from multiple scientific disciplines helps us explore big and highly relevant questions,” Kennett mentioned, “like the potential affect of local weather change on society and different questions with huge social implications.
“Climate change worries me, particularly here in the western U.S., but it is really the complexities of societal change in response to climatic perturbations that worry me the most,” he added. “The archaeological and historical records provide lessons from the past, and we also have so much more information about our Earth’s climate and the potential vulnerabilities in our own sociopolitical systems.”