The mystery around the ancient civilization of the Maya collapsing around 900 A.D. is one that researchers have been trying to solve for centuries.
A group of researchers from Rice University and Louisiana State University believe they may have found the missing pieces to the puzzle in the “Great Blue Hole” in Belize, a massive sinkhole that is now a popular scuba diving spot. The civilization collapsed because of a massive drought.
According to Huffington Post, “the researchers analyzed sediment samples from the Blue Hole, looking specifically at variations in color, grain size, and layer thickness.” They paid attention to the differences in the samples’ ratio of titanium to aluminum, which helps provide an estimate for rainfall levels. The analyses revealed extremely low levels of precipitation and tropical cyclones happened less frequently from 800 to 900 A.D. in the Yucatan peninsula–which suggests the region was hit by a major drought at that time.
The research also suggested that another major drought hit the region between 1000 and 1100 A.D., around when the Maya city of Chichen Itza is believed to have fallen.
The study’s co-author, Dr. André Droxler noted, “When you have major droughts, you start to get famines and unrest.”
Studies in the past have said that they believe famine caused the fall of the empire, but this new study shows that a drought was the cause of the famine that led to the collapse.