A late Holocene paleoenvironmental reconstruction from Agua Caliente, southern Belize, linked to regional climate variability and cultural change at the Maya polity of Uxbenká

Megan K. Walsh, Keith M. Prufer, Brendan J. Culleton, Douglas J. Kennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We report high-resolution macroscopic charcoal, pollen and sedimentological data for Agua Caliente, a freshwater lagoon located in southern Belize, and infer a late Holocene record of human land-use/climate interactions for the nearby prehistoric Maya center of Uxbenká. Land-use activities spanning the initial clearance of forests for agriculture through the drought-linked Maya collapse and continuing into the historic recolonization of the region are all reflected in the record. Human land alteration in association with swidden agriculture is evident early in the record during the Middle Preclassic starting ca. 2600. cal. yr. BP. Fire slowly tapered off during the Late and Terminal Classic, consistent with the gradual political demise and depopulation of the Uxbenká polity sometime between ca. 1150 and 950. cal. yr. BP, during a period of multiple droughts evident in a nearby speleothem record. Fire activity was at its lowest during the Maya Postclassic ca. 950-430. cal. yr. BP, but rose consistent with increasing recolonization of the region between ca. 430. cal. yr. BP and present. These data suggest that this environmental record provides both a proxy for 2800. years of cultural change, including colonization, growth, decline, and reorganization of regional populations, and an independent confirmation of recent paleoclimate reconstructions from the same region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-50
Number of pages13
JournalQuaternary Research (United States)
Volume82
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2014

Fingerprint

cultural change
regional climate
Holocene
climate change
recolonization
drought
land use
speleothem
shifting cultivation
paleoclimate
charcoal
lagoon
pollen
colonization
Belize
Climate Variability
Cultural Change
Maya
Polity
Late Holocene

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

Cite this

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title = "A late Holocene paleoenvironmental reconstruction from Agua Caliente, southern Belize, linked to regional climate variability and cultural change at the Maya polity of Uxbenk{\'a}",
abstract = "We report high-resolution macroscopic charcoal, pollen and sedimentological data for Agua Caliente, a freshwater lagoon located in southern Belize, and infer a late Holocene record of human land-use/climate interactions for the nearby prehistoric Maya center of Uxbenk{\'a}. Land-use activities spanning the initial clearance of forests for agriculture through the drought-linked Maya collapse and continuing into the historic recolonization of the region are all reflected in the record. Human land alteration in association with swidden agriculture is evident early in the record during the Middle Preclassic starting ca. 2600. cal. yr. BP. Fire slowly tapered off during the Late and Terminal Classic, consistent with the gradual political demise and depopulation of the Uxbenk{\'a} polity sometime between ca. 1150 and 950. cal. yr. BP, during a period of multiple droughts evident in a nearby speleothem record. Fire activity was at its lowest during the Maya Postclassic ca. 950-430. cal. yr. BP, but rose consistent with increasing recolonization of the region between ca. 430. cal. yr. BP and present. These data suggest that this environmental record provides both a proxy for 2800. years of cultural change, including colonization, growth, decline, and reorganization of regional populations, and an independent confirmation of recent paleoclimate reconstructions from the same region.",
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T1 - A late Holocene paleoenvironmental reconstruction from Agua Caliente, southern Belize, linked to regional climate variability and cultural change at the Maya polity of Uxbenká

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AU - Prufer, Keith M.

AU - Culleton, Brendan J.

AU - Kennett, Douglas J.

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N2 - We report high-resolution macroscopic charcoal, pollen and sedimentological data for Agua Caliente, a freshwater lagoon located in southern Belize, and infer a late Holocene record of human land-use/climate interactions for the nearby prehistoric Maya center of Uxbenká. Land-use activities spanning the initial clearance of forests for agriculture through the drought-linked Maya collapse and continuing into the historic recolonization of the region are all reflected in the record. Human land alteration in association with swidden agriculture is evident early in the record during the Middle Preclassic starting ca. 2600. cal. yr. BP. Fire slowly tapered off during the Late and Terminal Classic, consistent with the gradual political demise and depopulation of the Uxbenká polity sometime between ca. 1150 and 950. cal. yr. BP, during a period of multiple droughts evident in a nearby speleothem record. Fire activity was at its lowest during the Maya Postclassic ca. 950-430. cal. yr. BP, but rose consistent with increasing recolonization of the region between ca. 430. cal. yr. BP and present. These data suggest that this environmental record provides both a proxy for 2800. years of cultural change, including colonization, growth, decline, and reorganization of regional populations, and an independent confirmation of recent paleoclimate reconstructions from the same region.

AB - We report high-resolution macroscopic charcoal, pollen and sedimentological data for Agua Caliente, a freshwater lagoon located in southern Belize, and infer a late Holocene record of human land-use/climate interactions for the nearby prehistoric Maya center of Uxbenká. Land-use activities spanning the initial clearance of forests for agriculture through the drought-linked Maya collapse and continuing into the historic recolonization of the region are all reflected in the record. Human land alteration in association with swidden agriculture is evident early in the record during the Middle Preclassic starting ca. 2600. cal. yr. BP. Fire slowly tapered off during the Late and Terminal Classic, consistent with the gradual political demise and depopulation of the Uxbenká polity sometime between ca. 1150 and 950. cal. yr. BP, during a period of multiple droughts evident in a nearby speleothem record. Fire activity was at its lowest during the Maya Postclassic ca. 950-430. cal. yr. BP, but rose consistent with increasing recolonization of the region between ca. 430. cal. yr. BP and present. These data suggest that this environmental record provides both a proxy for 2800. years of cultural change, including colonization, growth, decline, and reorganization of regional populations, and an independent confirmation of recent paleoclimate reconstructions from the same region.

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