The Ancient Maya Civilization dominated Central and South America until 800 AD.
They built supermassive astronomically aligned temples and incredible pyramids that rival in complexity the Pyramids in Egypt. However, by 1000AD, the mysterious disappeared, leaving experts wondering what happened to them.
For centuries, scholars have proposed many theories trying to understand what happened to one of the greatest civilizations of the American continent.
Now, researchers say they’ve solved the mystery behind why the ancient Maya disappeared without a trace.
According to experts, the Maya civilization collapsed because of extreme, and severe droughts.
The Pyramid of Chichen Itza. (Shutterstock)
Based on these measurements, the researchers found that annual precipitation decreased between 41% and 54% relative to today during the period of the Maya civilization’s collapse, with periods of up to 70% rainfall reduction during peak drought conditions, and that relative humidity declined by 2% to 7% relative to today. The results are reported in the journal Science.
By the time the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, jungle vines were flourishing on abandoned massive ancient Pyramid cities built by the Maya.
In the past, scholars have suggested that the ancient Maya may have collapsed due to invasion by foreign powers, war, disease and a collapse in trade. However, scientists from the universities of Cambridge and Florida have found strong evidence that an extended period of drought caused devastating effects on this vast civilization.
To come to their conclusion, researchers studied water samples in Lake Chichancanab where the Maya were based. Experts measured isotopes of water in gypsum, a mineral that forms in lakes during times of drought.
As gypsum is formed, water molecules adhere to its crystalline structure, and this water records the different isotopes that were present in the ancient lake water at the time of its formation.
“The role of climate change in the collapse of Classic Maya civilization is somewhat controversial, partly because previous records are limited to qualitative reconstructions, for example, weather conditions were wetter or drier,” said Nick Evans, a Ph.D. student in Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences and the paper’s first author. “Our study represents a substantial advance as it provides statistically robust estimates of rainfall and humidity levels during the Maya downfall.”