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Drought-Induced Civil Conflict Among the Ancient Maya

Kennett, D.J. and Masson, M. and Peraza Lope, C. and Serafin, S. and George, R.J. and Spencer, T.C. and Hoggarth, J.A. and Culleton, B.J. and Harper, T.K. and Prufer, K.M. and Milbrath, S. and Russell, B.W. and González, E.U. and McCool, W.C. and Aquino, V.V. and Paris, E.H. and Curtis, J.H. and Marwan, N. and Zhang, M. and Asmerom, Y. and Polyak, V.J. and Carolin, S.A. and James, D.H. and Mason, A.J. and Henderson, G.M. and Brenner, M. and Baldini, J.U.L. and Breitenbach, S.F.M. and Hodell, D.A. (2022) 'Drought-Induced Civil Conflict Among the Ancient Maya.', Nature Communications, 13 . p. 3911.


The influence of climate change on civil conflict and societal instability in the premodern world is a subject of much debate, in part because of the limited temporal or disciplinary scope of case studies. We present a transdisciplinary case study that combines archeological, historical, and paleoclimate datasets to explore the dynamic, shifting relationships among climate change, civil conflict, and political collapse at Mayapan, the largest Postclassic Maya capital of the Yucatán Peninsula in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries CE. Multiple data sources indicate that civil conflict increased significantly and generalized linear modeling correlates strife in the city with drought conditions between 1400 and 1450 cal. CE. We argue that prolonged drought escalated rival factional tensions, but subsequent adaptations reveal regional-scale resiliency, ensuring that Maya political and economic structures endured until European contact in the early sixteenth century CE.

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Date accepted:21 June 2022
Date deposited:01 August 2022
Date of first online publication:19 July 2022
Date first made open access:01 August 2022

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