Researchers from the University of Chicago (USA) conducted an isotopic analysis of the remains of representatives of the Mayan civilization and found that its collapse may have resulted in increased dependence on corn.
The report is presented in the journal Current Anthropology, and EurekAlert briefly describes the study. A group of authors argues that the Maya corn-based diet may have contributed to the collapse of this civilization.
Researchers examined the remains of 50 human burials found in Belize. The oldest graves belong to the period of 735-400 BC, the youngest ones belong to the late Mayan period from 800 to 850 AD.
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Scientists measured the values of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the remains. This allowed us to determine exactly what the ancient people ate. It turned out that corn was always present in their diet. However, in earlier periods of time, the ration also included numerous wild plants and meat of animals killed in the hunt.
This allowed the ancient inhabitants, including representatives of the Maya of the pre-classical period, to experience periods of drought without any problems. However, closer to the classical period, the share of corn in the diet began to increase. Soon this culture became the staple food of the Maya.
The study proved that both noble and simple members of this society fed on it. According to scientists, the passion for corn has played an important role in the collapse of civilization. The people became dependent on the size of the harvest.
This caused social and economic upheavals between 750 and 900 AD. It was then that the ancient society made a bet on powerful agricultural production. A growing population demanded more and more corn.
But the climate crisis struck – for a long time, the Maya state was struck by droughts, to which the corn turned out to be intolerable. Hunger began, which led to the collapse.
"Our results show that society, especially the elite, in the late classical period," sat "on a hyper-specialized corn-based diet," writes lead author Claire Ebert.
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