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What is the news?
A recent study reveals that drought was likely not the sole reason for the collapse of the ancient Mayan civilization.
What is Maya Civilisation?
Maya civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization. The civilization originated in the Yucatan Peninsula.
The civilization developed in the area that today comprises southeastern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador.
The civilization was known for its monumental architecture and an advanced understanding of mathematics and astronomy.
The civilization flourished between 600 and 800 AD. However, between 800 and 950 AD, many of the cities of civilization were abandoned. This period is called the collapse of the Classic Maya civilisations.
Why was this study conducted?
Based on evidence from the past, Scientists think that this period saw significant droughts. This led to a theory that the Maya people faced starvation because of their dependence on drought-sensitive crops such as corn, beans and squash.
However, several scientists were not convinced with the drought theory. That’s why this study was conducted.
How was the study conducted, and what are the findings?
Scientists made a list of 497 indigenous food plants of the Maya lowlands. These plants have also been identified through paleoethnobotany, a branch of science dealing with behavioural and ecological interactions between past humans and plants.
They examined the drought tolerance of the plants under three different scenarios: Short-duration, medium-duration and extreme drought.
Even in extreme situations, many plants persisted.
Based on this, they said that drought was likely not the sole reason for the collapse of the ancient Mayan civilization. The researchers think that social and economic upheaval also likely have played a role.
Source: This post is based on the article “Why did the Maya civilization collapse? We don’t know yet, but drought was likely not the cause: Study” published in the Down To Earth on 10th January 2022.