The 2016-2017 Mesoamerica Center Colloquium Series

Fri. October 14 2016, 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Please join us for the first talk of the semester in the 2016-2017 Mesoamerica Center Colloquium Series, in conjunction with the Department of Geography and the Environment, and the Arcaheological Institute of America International Archaeology Day!
Friday October 14th, 4-5 PM, CLA 0.130
"Drought and its Demographic Effects in the Maya Lowlands: Bridging Historical and Archaeological Perspectives" by Dr. Julie A. Hoggarth, Baylor University

Free and open to the public


Increasing evidence supports the role of severe drought in the disintegration of regional polities in the Maya Lowlands at the end of the Classic Period (750 to 1000 C.E.). Despite the large corpus of archaeological literature on the topic, the demographic effects of climate change remain largely unknown in the absence of Classic Period textual evidence indicating declines in agricultural productivity and population over this broad geographic area. To understand relationships between climatic and demographic change, I present historic records from the Colonial Period (1519 to 1821 C.E.) in northern Yucatan to compare with the sub-annually resolved Yok Balum climate proxy record. These data offer evidence that multi-year droughts resulted in crop failure and severe famines that correlate with intervals of high mortality and migration within two extended dry intervals during the eighteenth century. While historic records offer important information about drought and its demographic effects during the Colonial Period, we cannot directly apply this analogy haphazardly to Pre-Columbian times. Archaeologists must endeavor to develop precisely-dated archaeological datasets to begin to explore the complex relationships between drought, demographic change, and the breakdown of political systems at the end of the Classic period. I present the preliminary results of my recent project focused on building high-precision AMS 14C chronologies from sites across the Maya Lowlands to begin to explore the impacts of distinct drought episodes in relation to demographic and political change.

Free and open to the public

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