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Paleo Slide Set: Climate and the Classic Maya Civilization
View of the ancient Maya city of Tikal, Guatemala
Our society is increasingly interested in the consequences of future climate and environmental changes, as well as the role that humans play in these changes. Human civilizations throughout history have affected the environment (and perhaps influenced climate) through deforestation, agriculture, urbanization and industrialization. In turn, climate events such as droughts, floods, and hurricanes have impacted ancient cultures, both socially and economically. For decades, archaeologists have been trying to unlock the mystery surrounding one ancient society's collapse of the Classic Maya. Did human-induced sociopolitical or ecological change cause the collapse of this highly advanced Mesoamerican civilization, or could natural climate variability of the Yucatan Peninsula have contributed to the change? Paleoclimatologists are studying the climatic history of this region to provide archaeologists with the climate history during one of the most dramatic cycles in Mayan civilization.

Photo Credits:
Robert S. Webb
NOAA
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Last Modified: 12 October 2001

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