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Paleo Slide Set: Climate and the Classic Maya Civilization
Chac the Rain God
Image of Chac, the Maya Rain God, from the Madrid Codex, one of the few surviving texts of the Maya (most books were burned by the Spanish). Chac is often portrayed by a reptilian face with long, down-curving snout, two curved fangs and teeth. His image is often associated with running water as represented by the vertical blue lines. Here he is depicted overturning a ceramic pot.

Chac is extremely prevalent in the sculpture, art, and architecture throughout the Maya region, attesting to the importance that rainfall played in the daily lives of the Maya people. For the ordinary farmer whose paramount interest was his crops (consisting of mainly maize, beans, and squash), Chac was the all-important deity. Even today, Mayans perform a rain ceremony (known as Cha-Chac) towards the end of the dry season in May.

Paleoclimatologists and archaeologists are working together towards a better understanding of the role natural climate variability may have played in the evolution of this advanced ancient civilization. Based on the evidence of drought derived from the lakes in the region, it appears likely that natural cycles in drought have contributed to changes in Mayan civilization.

Photo Credits:
David A. Hodell
Department of Geology, University of Florida
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Last Modified: 12 October 2001

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