Development and Disintegration of Maya Political Systems in Response to Climate Change

Douglas Kennett, Sebastian Breitenbach, Valorie V. Aquino, Yemane Asmerom, Jaime Awe, James Baldini, P. Bartlein, Brendan Culleton, C. Ebert, Chris Jazwa, M. Macri, Norbert Marwan, Victor Polyak, Keith Prufer, Harriet Ridley, Harald Sodemann, B. Winterhalder, Gerald Haug

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

356 Citations (Scopus)


The role of climate change in the development and demise of Classic Maya civilization (300 to 1000 C.E.) remains controversial because of the absence of well-dated climate and archaeological sequences. We present a precisely dated subannual climate record for the past 2000 years from Yok Balum Cave, Belize. From comparison of this record with historical events compiled from well-dated stone monuments, we propose that anomalously high rainfall favored unprecedented population expansion and the proliferation of political centers between 440 and 660 C.E. This was followed by a drying trend between 660 and 1000 C.E. that triggered the balkanization of polities, increased warfare, and the asynchronous disintegration of polities, followed by population collapse in the context of an extended drought between 1020 and 1100 C.E.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)788-791
Number of pages5
Issue number6108
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Development and Disintegration of Maya Political Systems in Response to Climate Change'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this