Researchers highlight the influence of climate change on civil conflict and social instability even in the most established and prosperous civilizations.
The political collapse of Mayapán, the Mayan capital on the Yucatan peninsula ( Mexico) in the 13th and 14th centuries, was probably caused by the influence of the climate on the stability of society, according to a study recently published in the journal Nature Communications.
The new investigation concludes that the drought would have led to a civil conflict that led to political collapse in the capital of the Mayan culture between 1200 and 1450 AD
According to the authors, the increase in rainfall was associated with prosperity and the increase of Mayapán’s population, but subsequent decreases in rainfall were associated with the conflict, suggesting that the prolonged droughts that hit the city in the period between 1400- 1450 caused social tensions to escalate between rival factions and eventually people would have retreated to smaller and safer settlements.
The lack of water would have affected agricultural practices and trade routes, putting pressure on the people of the city. As food became scarcer and the situation became more dangerous, people died or dispersed.
To verify this hypothesis, the researchers used various methods to examine whether drought stimulated the civil conflicts and social instability in Mayapán, based on a biological archeology analysis of human remains in search of signs of physical injury using radiocarbon methods. In addition, they integrated regional climate records and developed a new one from evidence and sediment data found in a cave just below the settlement.
By combining climate data with historical sources and archaeological finds , the researchers concluded that Mayapán’s population decline coincided with a period of extreme drought (circa 1350-1430) and that prolonged hardships caused by climate change led to social tensions fueled by politicians, which in turn led to to an intensification of violence.
“Our findings support the historical institutional collapse of Mayapán between 1441 and 1461, a consequence of the civil conflict driven by political rivalry and ambition, which was embedded in the social memory of the Yucatecan peoples whose testimonies entered the written record of the early colonial period”, the authors explain.
Specialists res They highlight the interdisciplinary approach to the research, which helped examine the complexities of Mayapán’s social and economic environment, as well as providing useful insight into the history of this ancient people. They also highlight the influence of climate change on civil conflicts and social instability even in the best established civilizations and prosperous.