Paleoecology, soil, and water in Maya history

Authored by: Timothy Beach , Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach , Nicholas Dunning , Samantha Krause

The Maya World

Print publication date:  June  2020
Online publication date:  June  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138492837
eBook ISBN: 9781351029582
Adobe ISBN:


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We focus here on paleoecology in Maya history based on proxies from lakes, wetlands, ocean cores, cave speleothems, tree rings, soils, and water chemistry. These provide evidence of ecosystem change, evidence of Maya agriculture, and evidence of Maya environmental interaction. From sediment cores, evidence of change includes dated pollen, sedimentation rates and types (stratigraphy), micropaleontology, and geochemistry of many types. Faunal shells and cave speleothems provide stable isotope records that can record climate variation, and oxygen isotopes from these have been the key proxy for the Maya droughts. Soil can also provide evidence of erosion, sedimentation, and soil and plant management such as conservation and planting, and has the advantage of recording local human responses to environmental change. Water chemistry, especially groundwater chemistry, also provides insights into the past because it reflects long-term geology that recent and ancient inhabitants experienced.

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