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New Research reveals that Water shortage may have led to demise of Maya civilisation

Within a short period of time, Mayan civilisation in Central America went from flourishing to collapsing probably due to water shortage

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1892 photograph of the Castillo at Chichen Itza, by Teoberto Maler. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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London, August 24, 2016: New Research has revealed that the irrigation technology that served the Mayans well during periods of drought may have actually made their society more vulnerable to major catastrophes.

Something really drastic must have happened to the ancient Maya at the end of the Classic Period in the ninth century.

Within a short period of time, this advanced civilisation in Central America went from flourishing to collapsing- the population dwindling rapidly and monumental stone structures were no longer being constructed.

The socio-hydrological model developed by the Gunter Bloschl-led team at Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) tell us that droughts and water issues are one possible explanation for their demise and shows us just how vulnerable an engineered society can be.

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“It’s well-known that the Mayans built water reservoirs in preparation for dry spells,” said Linda Kuil, one of professor Gunter Bloschl’s PhD students of the Vienna Doctoral Programme on Water Resource Systems.

“With our model, we can now analyse the effects of the Mayans’ water engineering on their society. It is also possible to simulate scenarios with and without water reservoirs and compare the consequences of such decisions,” Kuil noted.

The water supply determines how much food is available and, in turn, affects the growth of the population.

As it turns out, water reservoirs can actually provide substantial relief during short periods of drought.

In the simulations without reservoirs, the Mayan population declines after a drought, whereas it continues to grow if reservoirs provide extra water.

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However, the reservoirs may also make the population more vulnerable during the prolonged dry spells.

Maya Civilisation. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Maya Civilisation. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The water management behaviour may remain the same, and the water demand per person does not decrease, but the population continues to grow.

“This may then prove fatal if another drought occurs resulting in a decline in population that is more dramatic than without reservoirs,” the authors noted.

“When it comes to scarce resources, the simplest solutions might turn out to be superficial and not always the best ones,” Kuil added.

The lessons learnt may also help us to draw important conclusions for our own future.

“We need to be careful with our natural resources. If technical measures simply deal with the shortage of resources on a superficial level and we do not adjust our own behaviour, society is left vulnerable,” the authors pointed out. (IANS)

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How sexual violence in neighbourhood affects your health

Researchers conducted interviews with nearly 350 adults in nine neighbourhoods in a major American city with high rates of poverty, unemployment and crime

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Sexual violence in neighborhood can affect the mental health of women. Pexels
Sexual violence in neighborhood can affect the mental health of women. Pexels
  • Sexual violence in the neighbourhood can harm your health.
  • Neighbourhood plays a vital role in human behaviour.
  • Men can be more aware of what makes women feel insecure.

A study finds sexual violence in the neighbourhood can harm the physical and mental health of women. Neighbourhoods play a key role in the behaviour and development of people, previous studies show and some conditions — such as crime, segregation, poverty and disorder — can have harmful effects on health.

Researchers conducted interviews with nearly 350 adults in nine neighbourhoods in a major American city with high rates of poverty, unemployment and crime.

“Feeling unsafe, especially in and around your home, can erode physical and mental health,” said Dana M. Prince, co-author of the study and assistant professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.

Researchers say men can be more aware of what makes women feel insecure. Pexels
Researchers say men can be more aware of what makes women feel insecure. Pexels

According to the researchers, feelings about the frequency of rape or other forms of sexual assault in a neighbourhood are significantly tied to women’s perceptions of its safety.

“Our results could mean men are less aware of sexual violence, or perhaps they do not feel comfortable reporting that it makes them feel less safe — perhaps both — while women tend to be socialised early on to be aware of the possibility of sexual attack,” Prince added.

Participants were asked how often particular crimes occurred in their neighbourhood in the past six months.

“Our results indicate that men can become more aware of how women feel about what contributes to and threaten their safety,” the researcher said.

The study was published in the Journal of Community Psychology. (IANS)