Does a 2,000-year-old stalagmite tell the tale of the fall of the Maya?

Published on November 9th, 2012 | by Sevaan Franks

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A 2,000-year-old stalagmite found in a cave in Belize suggests that climate change may have contributed to the fall of the Mayan civilization.

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University traced a climate trail recorded in a 2,000-year-old stalagmite found in a cave in Belize, concluding that prolonged periods of drought corresponded with the disintegration of the Maya political system. The findings are published today in the journal Science.

The Maya, who originated around 2600 B.C. in current day Southeastern Mexico, grew to prominence and size during the next three millennia, building temple step-pyramids and developing highly accurate astronomical and calendar systems. Why some of their larger cities were abandoned a thousand years ago is largely a mystery. Though weather shifts have been proposed previously, the stalagmite findings may offer the data that was lacking, said Douglas Kennett, the lead study author.

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Story: Ryan Flinn, Bloomberg News | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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