Researchers from the University of Texas are studying the impact of the Mayans on their, and our, environment.
The researchers suggest that Maya activity more than 2,000 years ago not only contributed to the decline of their environment but continues to influence today’s environmental conditions.
“Most popular sources talk about the anthropocene and human impacts on climate since the industrial revolution, but we are looking at a deeper history,” said lead author Tim Beach, the C.B. Smith Sr. Centennial Professor of Geography and the Environment. “Though it has no doubt accelerated in the last century, humans’ impact on the environment has been going on a lot longer.”
By looking at Maya impacts on climate, vegetation, hydrology and lithosphere from 3,000 to 1,000 years ago, researchers propose that the Maya’s advanced urban and rural infrastructure altered ecosystems within globally important tropical forests.
The researchers identified six stratigraphic markers — or “golden spikes” — that indicate a time of large-scale change, including: “Maya clay” rocks; unique soil sequences; carbon isotope ratios; widespread chemical enrichment; building remains and landscape modifications; and signs of Maya-induced climate change.
“These spikes give us insight into how and why Mayas interacted with their environment, as well as the scope of their activity,” said Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, co-author and chair of the Department of Geography and the Environment.