Exploratory Research into Arctic Climate Change and Ancient Maya Response: Paleoclimate Reconstruction and Archaeological Investigation at the Puuc Region of Yucatan, Mexico
Ezra B. Zubrow Principal Investigator
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This is an EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) to provide funding to take advantage of new discoveries that occurred during the 2010 and 2011 season of the Xcoch Archaeological project, funded in part through the Arctic Social Science Program. The broad vision of the project is to investigate the ways in which ancient Mayan social and political structures responded to climate change that occurred during the Medieval Climatic Optimum (AD 800-900) in the Puuc Hill region of Yucatan, Mexico. The Xcoch Archaeological project is investigating how Arctic climate processes during this critical change period may have affected weather in tropical Yucatan, Mexico which experienced severe droughts. These environmental changes influenced a series of dramatic social and material adaptations, such as the construction and maintenance of large scale irrigation systems, aguadas (engineered cave systems for storing water) and huge catchment systems funneling water into the aguadas. <br/><br/>The 2010-2011 field season was focused on intensive surveying, surface collecting, and mapping of architectural features in the Xcoch urban zone. During this intensive surveying activity the research team located a cave system near to Xcoch that appears to be active in terms of the type of water filtration needed for collecting data relevant to paleoclimate analyses. The discovery of the new cave offers a new opportunity to gather close proximity data that directly relates to the natural and social environment at Xcoch. <br/><br/>The Xcoch project is part of a growing body of research investigating north-south teleconnections of global human ecodynamics. Smyth's research is part of the Global Human Ecodynamics Alliance (GHEA) whose stated objective is to "incentivize" the expansion, integration, and augmentation of cutting human ecodynamics research globally and at short, medium and deep time scales. Although this seems like an odd fit for the Arctic Social Sciences Program, Smyth's participation in the Global Human Ecodynamics Alliance and the discovery of potential teleconnections between Arctic climatic changes and those occurring in the Yucutan, make this project of interest to the ASSP. Questions of how Arctic environmental processes not only affected northern social change, but potentially affected social change at the lower latitudes are an important issue even today. This research is not about direct social contact and associated change, but rather how people respond to change at a structural level, what triggers certain decisions in response to global environmental processes. Before we can understand the complexities of social change and adaptive decisions it is necessary to have global comparisons not just regional ones.