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Drought-Induced Civil Conflict Among the Ancient Maya

Kennett, D.J.; Masson, M.; Peraza Lope, C.; Serafin, S.; George, R.J.; Spencer, T.C.; Hoggarth, J.A.; Culleton, B.J.; Harper, T.K.; Prufer, K.M.; Milbrath, S.; Russell, B.W.; González, E.U.; McCool, W.C.; Aquino, V.V.; Paris, E.H.; Curtis, J.H.; Marwan, N.; Zhang, M.; Asmerom, Y.; Polyak, V.J.; Carolin, S.A.; James, D.H.; Mason, A.J.; Henderson, G.M.; Brenner, M.; Baldini, J.U.L.; Breitenbach, S.F.M.; Hodell, D.A.

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D.J. Kennett

M. Masson

C. Peraza Lope

S. Serafin

R.J. George

T.C. Spencer

J.A. Hoggarth

B.J. Culleton

T.K. Harper

K.M. Prufer

S. Milbrath

B.W. Russell

E.U. González

W.C. McCool

V.V. Aquino

E.H. Paris

J.H. Curtis

N. Marwan

M. Zhang

Y. Asmerom

V.J. Polyak

S.A. Carolin

D.H. James

A.J. Mason

G.M. Henderson

M. Brenner

S.F.M. Breitenbach

D.A. Hodell


The influence of climate change on civil conflict and societal instability in the premodern world is a subject of much debate, in part because of the limited temporal or disciplinary scope of case studies. We present a transdisciplinary case study that combines archeological, historical, and paleoclimate datasets to explore the dynamic, shifting relationships among climate change, civil conflict, and political collapse at Mayapan, the largest Postclassic Maya capital of the Yucatán Peninsula in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries CE. Multiple data sources indicate that civil conflict increased significantly and generalized linear modeling correlates strife in the city with drought conditions between 1400 and 1450 cal. CE. We argue that prolonged drought escalated rival factional tensions, but subsequent adaptations reveal regional-scale resiliency, ensuring that Maya political and economic structures endured until European contact in the early sixteenth century CE.


Kennett, D., Masson, M., Peraza Lope, C., Serafin, S., George, R., Spencer, T., …Hodell, D. (2022). Drought-Induced Civil Conflict Among the Ancient Maya. Nature Communications, 13, Article 3911.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 21, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 19, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Jul 20, 2022
Publicly Available Date Aug 1, 2022
Journal Nature Communications
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Article Number 3911
Public URL


Published Journal Article (2.2 Mb)

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