, Volume 83, Issue 1-2, pp 215-240

Climate and cultural history of the Northeastern Yucatan Peninsula, Quintana Roo, Mexico

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Abstract

We inferred the Holocene paleoclimate history of the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, by studying stratigraphic variations in stable isotopes (δ 18O and δ 13C) and lithologic properties (organic matter and carbonate content) in sediment cores taken in 6.3 and 16.2 m of water from Lake Punta Laguna. We present a simple model to explain the lithologic and isotopic variations, and discuss the inferred paleoclimate history in terms of its relation to ancient Maya cultural development. We find evidence for lower lake level and drier climate at about the same time as each major discontinuity in Maya cultural history: Preclassic Abandonment (150–250 A.D.), Maya Hiatus (534 to 593 A.D.), Terminal Classic Collapse (750–1050 A.D.), and Postclassic Abandonment (mid-fifteenth century). Although these broad temporal correlations suggest climate played a role in Maya cultural evolution, chronological uncertainties preclude a detailed analysis of climate changes and archaeologically documented cultural transformations.