Climate, Chronology, and Collapse: Comparing the Classic Maya and the Roman Empire

Author(s): Julie Hoggarth; Laurent Cases

Year: 2016


Increasing literature has focused on the role of climate change in the collapse of complex societies. These studies suggest that abrupt shifts in climate can exacerbate existing political, social, and economic issues by affecting the basic subsistence systems on which populations depend. Here we compare archaeological, historic, and climate proxy data from two state-level societies: the Classic Maya and the Roman Empire. A strong focus on the impact of multi-decadal droughts from the ninth to eleventh centuries has emerged in the investigation of the ‘Classic Maya collapse’. Archaeological and historic investigations on the collapse of the Roman Empire have focused less on the climatic context for the breakdown of the expansive empire in the fourth and fifth centuries. Here we present comparative methods to identify chronological correlations between climatic change and the breakdown of political systems. We focus on compiling multiple climate proxy records and compare these data with the available archaeological and historic record to enrich our understanding of the role of climate in the political collapse of both cases.

Cite this Record

Climate, Chronology, and Collapse: Comparing the Classic Maya and the Roman Empire. Julie Hoggarth, Laurent Cases. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403748)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;