Journal cover Journal topic
Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2018-15
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
06 Mar 2018
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).
Climate impact on the development of Pre-Classic Maya civilization
Kees Nooren1, Wim Z. Hoek1, Brian J. Dermody1, Didier Galop2, Sarah Metcalfe3, Gerald Islebe4, and Hans Middelkoop1 1Utrecht University, Faculty of Geosciences, 3508 TC Utrecht, the Netherlands
2Université Jean Jaurès, CNRS, UMR 5602 GEODE, 31058 Toulouse, France
3University of Nottingham, School of Geography, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
4El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Unidad Chetumal Herbario, Chetumal, AP 424 Quintana Roo, Mexico
Abstract. The impact of climate change on the development and disintegration of Maya civilization has long been debated. The lack of agreement among existing palaeoclimatic records from the region has prevented a detailed understanding of regional-scale climatic variability, its climatic forcing mechanisms, and its impact on the ancient Maya. We present two new palaeo-precipitation records for the Central Maya Lowlands, spanning the Pre-Classic period (1800 BCE–250 CE), a key epoch in the development of Maya civilization. Lake Tuspan's diatom record is indicative of precipitation changes at a local scale, while a beach ridge elevation record from world's largest late Holocene beach ridge plain provides a regional picture. We identify centennial-scale variability in palaeo-precipitation that significantly correlates with the North Atlantic δ14C atmospheric record, with a comparable periodicity of approximately 500 years, indicating an important role of North Atlantic atmospheric-oceanic forcing on precipitation in the Central Maya Lowlands. The Early Pre-Classic period was characterized by relatively dry conditions, shifting to wetter conditions during the Middle Pre-Classic period, around the well-known 850 BCE (2.8 ka) event. We propose that this wet period may have been unfavorable for agricultural intensification in the Central Maya Lowlands, explaining the relatively delayed development of Maya civilization in this area. A return to relatively drier conditions during the Late Pre-Classic period coincides with rapid agricultural intensification in the region and the establishment of major cities.
Citation: Nooren, K., Hoek, W. Z., Dermody, B. J., Galop, D., Metcalfe, S., Islebe, G., and Middelkoop, H.: Climate impact on the development of Pre-Classic Maya civilization, Clim. Past Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2018-15, in review, 2018.
Kees Nooren et al.
Kees Nooren et al.
Kees Nooren et al.

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Short summary
We present two new palaeoclimatic records for the Central Maya Lowlands, adding valuable new insights into the impact of climate change on the development of Maya civilization. Lake Tuspan's diatom record is indicative of precipitation changes at a local scale, while a beach ridge elevation record from world’s largest late Holocene beach ridge plain provides a regional picture.
We present two new palaeoclimatic records for the Central Maya Lowlands, adding valuable new...
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