Why did the Maya Civilization go extinct? This mystery is closer to being solved after researchers analyzed the sediments inside two underwater caves nearby the coast of Belize.
Researchers found that the Maya civilization might have gone extinct after two one-hundred-year long droughts. The sediments revealed there was a major drought in the islands between A.D. 800 and A.D. 900, two centuries prior to the Mayan people vanishing.
Scientists analyzed the minerals from the Great Blue Hole, a large submarine sinkhole located in a lagoon near the Belizean coast, as part of their research, the Utah People’s Post reported. The sediments gathered there revealed that there were two prolonged droughts that led to the Maya civilization’s extinction – the second between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1100.
Researchers said that between those two droughts, Mayans moved north, but they completely vanished after the second dry spell.
Andre Droxler, lead author of the study and researcher at Rice University, said that this wasn’t the first time the extinction of the Mayan culture has been linked to a long period of drought. However, the new findings confirm that the dry periods were the culprit since data covered several areas where the Mayan culture flourished.
The research team gathered sediment samples from two Belizean sinkholes, — one located in the Lighthouse lagoon, and the second within the Rhomboid reef. The sinkholes are surrounded by thick walls of coral reef which made the divers jobs even more complicated.
Researchers say that when there’s a period of rain on the nearby coast, rivers, and streams bring in sediments to the lagoon that get deposited at the bottom. In time, several layers of sediments pile atop each other allowing researchers to gather insight on each chronological period of the islands climate.
Dr. Droxler described the Great Blue Hole as a “big bucket” and a “sediment trap.”
Dr. Droxler and his colleagues analyzed the amount of titanium and aluminum in the sinkholes to determine which sediment layers were associated to a drought season and which were liked to a wetter period.