Sunday, August 14, 2022

Climate change and civil unrest among the ancient Maya

An extended period of upheaval in the prehistoric Maya city of Mayapan in the Yucatán region of Mexico was marked by population decline, political rivalry, and civil strife. Between 1441 and 1461 the conflict reached an unfortunate climax – the complete institutional collapse and abandonment of the city. All this happened during a long drought.

coincidence? Not likely, finds new research by anthropologist and UC Santa Barbara professor Douglas Kennett.

writing in a journal nature communication, Lead author Kennett and colleagues in the fields of archaeology, history, geography and earth sciences suggest that the drought actually fueled civil conflict that led to violence, which led to institutional instability that led to the fall of Mayapan. This transdisciplinary work, the researchers said, “highlights the importance of understanding the complex relationships between natural and social systems, particularly when evaluating the role of climate change in internal political tensions and factionalism in regions where droughts have reduced food intake.” There is insecurity.”

“We found complex links between climate change and social stability/instability at the regional level,” Kennett said in an interview. “Drought-induced civil strife had a devastating local effect on the integrity of Mayapan’s state institutions, which were designed to maintain social order. However, the fragmentation of the population in Mayapan resulted in population and social reorganization that lasted over a hundred years. was resilient. The Spanish arrived on the coast of the Yucatán.”

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Researchers examined archaeological and historical data from Mayapan, including isotope records, radiocarbon data and DNA sequences from human remains, to document the period of disturbance specifically between 1400 and 1450 CE. They then used regional sources of climate data and combined it with a new, local record of drought from cave deposits beneath the city, Kennett explained.

“The existing factional tensions that developed between rival groups were a major social vulnerability in the context of the extended drought during this interval,” Kennett said. “Pain, suffering and death resulted in institutional instability in Mayapan and populations fragmented and moved back to their homes elsewhere in the region.”

The researchers found that the weaknesses uncovered in the data lay in the Maya’s reliance on rainfed maize agriculture, lack of centralized, long-term grain storage, minimal investment in irrigation, and a socio-political system led by aristocratic families with competing political interests. ,

In fact the authors argue that “long-term, climate-caused hardships provoked turbulent tensions that were fueled by political actors whose actions ultimately culminated in political violence more than once in elation.”

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Yet importantly, a network of smaller Maya kingdoms also proved resilient after the fall in Mayapan, migrating across the region to cities that were still thriving. Despite decentralisation, trade influence, political turmoil and other challenges, the paper notes, he adapted and persisted into the early 16th century. All this points to the complexity of human responses to drought on the Yucatan Peninsula at the time – an important consideration for the future as well as the past.

“Our study shows that the convergence of information from multiple scientific disciplines helps us explore large and highly relevant questions,” Kennett said, “the potential impact of climate change on society and other questions with enormous social impacts.” like.

“Climate change worries me, especially here in the western US, but it’s really the complexities of social change in response to climate-related disturbances that worry me most,” he said. “The archaeological and historical records provide lessons from the past, and we have much more information about our Earth’s climate and potential vulnerabilities in our own socio-political systems.”

Story Source:

material provided by University of California – Santa Barbara, Original written by Shelley Leachman. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.

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