The Maya Resilience Project: climate variability and human response in the Maya lowlands of Central America

Authors: Duncan Cook*, Australian Catholic University, Dan Penny, University of Sydney, Timothy Beach, University of Texas at Austin, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, University of Texas at Austin, David McGee, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Quan Hua, ANSTO
Topics: Paleoenvironmental Change, Water Resources and Hydrology, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: Drought, climate change, ancient Maya, Central America, resilience
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Coolidge, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Drought is often invoked to explain the collapse of the Maya civilisation of Central America near the end of the 1st millennium of the Common Era. However, despite palaeoclimatic evidence for drought in some parts of Central America at that time, there is little archaeological evidence to suggest uniform collapse across the Maya cities, and some important centres continued to thrive. The Maya Resilience Project is an interdisciplinary research initiative tasked with reconstructing a detailed, uninterrupted history of climate and human response from historic Maya cities. In doing so, this project re-assess the primacy of climatic variability in historic urban collapse and will seek evidence for persistence, resilience, transformation and adaptation to climate by the Maya. This paper introduces the rationale for this research and details preliminary findings from the first year of the project, including new palaeoenvironmental records of drought and surface water availability from key Maya centres of lowland Central America.

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