Why Did the Maya Abandon the Ancient City of Tikal?
by Alex Fox/Smithsonianmag.com
the ninth century A.D., the Maya abandoned the great city of Tikal after hundreds of years of prosperity and expansion. Researchers have long sought to explain how and why the city collapsed, but despite extensive study of the site, unanswered questions remain.
Commonly cited explanations for Tikal’s downfall center on a confluence of overpopulation, overexploitation of the surrounding landscape and a spate of withering megadroughts. Now, reports Kiona Smith for Ars Technica, a new study of the ancient city’s reservoirs outlines evidence that mercury and toxic algae may have poisoned Tikal’s drinking water at a time when it was already struggling to survive the dry season.
Located in northern Guatemala, Tikal dates back to the third century B.C. Once among the most powerful city-states in the Americas, the rainforest metropolis boasted multiple stone temples standing more than 100 feet tall and, at its zenith in the mid-eighth century, supported upward of 60,000 inhabitants, according to David Roberts of Smithsonian magazine.
Tikal’s residents built reservoirs to collect and store water after rainfall slowed to a trickle during multi-decade droughts in the ninth century. These reservoirs were essential during the dry season, as …read more: