The tightly corn-based diet may have contributed to the extinction of the Maya according to a new study published in Current Anthropology. According to the researchers, in fact, the strong dependence on the maize crop by the Maya would have made this population so vulnerable to drought events and in general to climate change as to be one of the main reasons why it has disappeared.
The only cause would not result, but one of the linked causes, together with the expansion of the population and in general the degradation of the environment caused by agricultural intensification, as pointed out by Claire Ebert, one of the authors of the study together with Julie Hoggarth, Jaime Awe, Brendan Culleton and Douglas Kennett.
The researchers analyzed the remains of 50 human burials of a Mayan community that once lived near today’s Cahal Pech in Belize. With the radiocarbon dating technique, the researchers determined the age of these burials and discovered that they date back to a period between 735-400 BC and 800-850 AD.
Later they analyzed the remains of bone collagen to understand what they ate and how their diets changed over the years. They found an ever-increasing consumption of corn and a more varied consumption, which included various wild and animal plants, in the oldest bodies.
This means that the most ancient populations were better able to withstand droughts and unfavorable climatic events compared to the more recent populations, more dependent on corn, a plant that needs much more water and is not very tolerant of drought.