Figuring out why a civilization collapses is always a tough question for researchers. But, the collapse of the Mayan civilization has stumped the research community. How did one of the world’s most sophisticated civilization comprising up to 19 million people suddenly collapse in the span of a couple of centuries?

Smithsonian highlights some of the possible and more ‘out there’ theories. Some of the more reasonable theories include foreign invasion, a revolt or over hunting. Or, maybe it was an alien invasion. Hell, it could have been a black hole. Right CNN?

Joking aside, one theory is gaining a lot of traction after new research. A prolonged drought. The theory isn’t a new one, but new research does support it.

As part of the new research, scientists looked at the Great Blue Hole in Belize.

belize great blue hole

Rice University professor Andre Droxler described the Blue Hole to Live Science as “like a big bucket.”

“It’s a sediment trap,” Droxler added.

The chemical composition of the sediment indicate two different periods of little rainfall. One, between the years 800 and 1000. And another between 1000 and 1100. That second drought is right around the time Chichen Itza, where the Mayans relocated, is believed to have collapsed.

How did researchers figure this out? Titanium. Heavy rains erode volcanic rock which contain the metal. Low ratios of titanium along with aluminum in the sediment in the Blue Hole and surrounding lagoons indicate prolonged periods of drought.

It strengthens the case a drought was ultimately responsible for the collapse of the Mayan civilization.

Image credits: Daniel Schwen (Wikipedia), USGS

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