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October 6, 2009: For 1200 years, the Maya dominated Central America. At their peak around 900 A.D., Maya cities teemed with more than 2,000 people per square mile -- comparable to modern Los Angeles County. Even in rural areas the Maya numbered 200 to 400 people per square mile. But suddenly, all was quiet. And the profound silence testified to one of the greatest demographic disasters in human prehistory -- the demise of the once vibrant Maya society.
"They did it to themselves," says veteran archeologist Tom Sever.
A major drought occurred about the time the Maya began to disappear. And at the time of their collapse, the Maya had cut down most of the trees across large swaths of the land to clear fields for growing corn to feed their burgeoning population. They also cut trees for firewood and for making building materials.
"They had to burn 20 trees to heat the limestone for making just 1 square meter of the lime plaster they used to build their tremendous temples, reservoirs, and monuments," explains Sever.
He and his team used computer simulations to reconstruct how the deforestation could have played a role in worsening the drought. They isolated the effects of deforestation using a pair of proven computer climate models: the PSU/NCAR mesoscale atmospheric circulation model, known as MM5, and the Community Climate System Model, or CCSM.
Many of these insights are a result of space-based imaging, notes Sever. "By interpreting infrared satellite data, we've located hundreds of old and abandoned cities not previously known to exist. The Maya used lime plaster as foundations to build their great cities filled with ornate temples, observatories, and pyramids. Over hundreds of years, the lime seeped into the soil. As a result, the vegetation around the ruins looks distinctive in infrared to this day."
Originally posted by argentus
I've spent a fair amount of time researching Mayan history, and this is the first time I've read a theory of their downfall that indicated themselves as the source.
What do you think ATS? Does this theory hold water?
Originally posted by DrumsRfun
First of all I wonder about if nasa is saying the truth
and second I wonder why the Mayans didn't just migrate to a different area?
After all they did make the Mayan calender which everyone is freaking out about.
. Indeed it is. I fancy this story much more than the idea (and expense) of NASA exploding a piece of the moon in order to scan it for minerals/water.
Nice thread though. It is refreshing to see NASA actually use their technology to solve an archeological mystery
Originally posted by chiron613
The Sahara Desert used to have forest and lots of water. Although human activity doesn't account for the whole desertification, it certainly accelerated the process. Again, cutting down the trees left soil vulnerable to erosion from water and wind. It also interfered with the cycle of rain, absorption into the ground, release from the trees back into the atmosphere. Slowly but surely, the area of desert increased.