A MASSIVE drought that spread across Mexico over 1,000 years ago sparked the death of ancient Maya, experts say.
Scientists studying climate found that rainfall fell by 70 per cent when the region suffered major political collapse and its states were abandoned.
Alamy Scientists claim a massive drought sparked the collapse of Mayan civilisation
The downfall of Classic Maya has long been the subject of debate, with drought being mooted for years as the cause of its destruction.
Others have suggested it crumbled due to war, invasion or loss of trade routes.
But a team of international researchers has calculated the conditions on the Yucatan Peninsula at the time of the decline – after taking sediment samples from a local lake.
Nick Evans, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, said:”The role of climate change in the collapse of Classic Maya civilisation is somewhat controversial, partly because previous records are limited to qualitative reconstructions, for example whether conditions were wetter or drier.
Reuters The mortuary trousseau of the Mayan Red queen Tzak-bu Ajaw at an exhibition in Mexico City
Reuters The Kukulkan pyramid . Mayan civilisation thrived for more than 2,000 years with its heyday being 300 to 900 AD
Reuters At the end of this period, something happened to cause people to flee the limestone cities
“Our study represents a substantial advance as it provides statistically robust estimates of rainfall and humidity levels during the Maya downfall.”
Classic Maya civilisation spans from 250 to 800 AD when the famous stone monuments were constructed.
During that time, the ancient people built incredible cities using advanced machinery and gained an understanding of astronomy, as well as developing advanced agricultural methods and accurate calendars.
However, at the end of this period, something happened to cause people to abandon the limestone cities.
Reuters Scientists say they’ve discovered the cause of Maya’s collapse
The Maya people survived to the present day across the region, but by the time the first Europeans encountered them their power was considerably depleted.
Mr Evans and his team’s new research has been published in the journal, Science.
They concluded that drought was the cause of economic and political changes around 800 AD.
The team analysed water trapped within crystal of a mineral called gypsum, found in Lake Chichancanab.
Archaeologists hope to unlock the secrets of the mysterious ancient Mayan pyramids of Chichen Itza by looking underground