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Drought Is Blamed in Mayan Collapse

March 15, 2003|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A study of southern Caribbean sediments suggests that a century-long dry trend may have been the killing blow in the demise of the Mayan civilization that once built pyramids and elaborate cities in Mexico and Central America.

Geochemist Konrad A. Hughen of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts reported in Friday's issue of Science that sediments from the Cariaco Basin in northern Venezuela, which shares a climate with the Mayan region, clearly record a dry siege in the Caribbean starting in about the 7th century and lasting more than 100 years.

Within this dry period, Hughen said, there were at least three years of virtually no rainfall. It was in those periods of extra dryness, he said, that the Mayan civilization went through a series of collapses before its demise. Other researchers have attributed the demise to extensive deforestation and to war.

The Maya flourished in the pre-classic period before AD 700.

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