Wetland fields as mirrors of drought and the Maya abandonment

Edited by Karl W. Butzer, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, and approved November 17, 2011 (received for review September 9, 2011)
February 27, 2012
109 (10) 3646-3651

Abstract

Getting at the Maya Collapse has both temporal and geographic dimensions, because it occurred over centuries and great distances. This requires a wide range of research sites and proxy records, ranging from lake cores to geomorphic evidence, such as stratigraphy and speleothems. This article synthesizes these lines of evidence, together with previously undescribed findings on Maya wetland formation and use in a key region near the heart of the central Maya Lowlands. Growing lines of evidence point to dryer periods in Maya history, which correlate to major periods of transition. The main line of evidence in this paper comes from wetland use and formation studies, which show evidence for both large-scale environmental change and human adaptation or response. Based on multiproxy studies, Maya wetland fields had a long and varied history, but most evidence indicates the start of disuse during or shortly after the Maya Terminal Classic. Hence, the pervasiveness of collapse extended into a range of wetlands, including perennial wetlands, which should have been less responsive to drought as a driver of disuse. A synthesis of the lines of evidence for canal infilling shows no attempts to reclaim them after the Classic Period.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Karl Butzer and Georgina Endfield for their insightful feedback, D. Klemm for graphics assistance, and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. We thank F. Valdez, T. Guderjan, E. Graham, S. Walling, S. Bozarth, R. Terry, D. Howard, K. Cox, J. Lohse, V. Scarborough, and W. Woods; students T. Bhattacharya, J. Flood, and K. Doctor; and many others for their insights and contributions. We thank the National Science Foundation (Grant BCS 0924501 to S.L.-B. and Grant BCS 0924510 to T.P.B.), the National Geographic Society (Grant CRE 7861-05 to T.P.B.), and George Mason and Georgetown Universities for support.

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 109 | No. 10
March 6, 2012
PubMed: 22371605

Classifications

Submission history

Published online: February 27, 2012
Published in issue: March 6, 2012

Keywords

  1. Mesoamerica
  2. proxies
  3. wetland agriculture

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Karl Butzer and Georgina Endfield for their insightful feedback, D. Klemm for graphics assistance, and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. We thank F. Valdez, T. Guderjan, E. Graham, S. Walling, S. Bozarth, R. Terry, D. Howard, K. Cox, J. Lohse, V. Scarborough, and W. Woods; students T. Bhattacharya, J. Flood, and K. Doctor; and many others for their insights and contributions. We thank the National Science Foundation (Grant BCS 0924501 to S.L.-B. and Grant BCS 0924510 to T.P.B.), the National Geographic Society (Grant CRE 7861-05 to T.P.B.), and George Mason and Georgetown Universities for support.

Notes

*This Direct Submission article had a prearranged editor.

Authors

Affiliations

Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach1 [email protected]
Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22307;
Timothy P. Beach1 [email protected]
Science, Technology, and International Affairs, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057; and
Nicholas P. Dunning1 [email protected]
Department of Geography, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221

Notes

1
To whom correspondence may be addressed. E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected].
Author contributions: S.L.-B., T.P.B., and N.P.D. designed research, performed research, analyzed data, and wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    Wetland fields as mirrors of drought and the Maya abandonment
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 109
    • No. 10
    • pp. 3601-4020

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