Spatial and temporal distribution of palaeoclimatic records in the Maya Area

  • Haydar Martinez-Dyrzo School of Geography. University of Nottingham. University Park. Nottingham, NG7 2RD, East Midlands. UK. Instituto de Geología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Av. Universidad 3000, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, Mexico City, 04510, Mexico.
Keywords: Palaeoclimatic-records, Maya-Cultural-Area, Maya-Collapse, Lake-cores, speleothems, environmental-proxies


Palaeoclimatic research has been performed in the Maya Area (MA), using mainly lake sediment cores and speleothems. Most of the studies have been performed in the lowlands, leaving the highlands unexplored. Lake sediments records contain a diversity of proxies (e.g. Mineralogy, isotopes, pollen, charcoal, diatoms, chemicals, magnetic susceptibility, among others) and temporal resolution, making them frequently not easy to compare and leaving numerous gaps of information. Practically all stalagmites are focused on using δ18O as a proxy of effective rainfall during the Maya periods, having only some explored the role of palaeostorms and hurricanes as well as the paleoclimatology of the pre-Maya and modern periods. In this review paper, the location and temporal frame of palaeoenvironmental records of the MA and their proxies are presented, showing the zones and periods that possess environmental information and assessing their resolution. The comparison shows that more high-resolution records with a multi-proxy approach covering most of the Holocene are needed to understand the climate change in different zones of the MA. Finally, the geographic distribution of the diverse recorded hydroclimate responses based on the records is presented for three critical moments in the Maya History that have been associated with dry periods in the Great Maya Droughts hypothesis. This geographic perspective shows that dry events were not presented in all the MA during these moments although they were vastly recorded in both high- and lowlands. The geographic perspective also shows a negligible drought effect in the central lowlands for the Maya Hiatus period, where this cultural phenomenon was identified first. But signals of droughts are presented in other zones of the MA for this period. The distribution of the drought signal also shows that sites that thrived during the Maya Collapse period were in the regions that suffered the strongest droughts, whilst many sites that were abandoned were in regions rich in hydric resources. Explanations are reviewed for these contradictions. Finally, the works towards the development of mathematical models of the environmental variables are briefly reviewed, pointing out the lack of a proper computational model that has been fed by the palaeoclimatic data developed by the records in the MA.

Regular Papers