As anthropologists who focus their scholarly attention on the past, archaeologists are interested in examining past changes in human cultures, which can include investigating the role(s) of climatic conditions in shaping them. Paleoclimatology offers the possibility of reconstructing past climates and demonstrating their variability over time, potentially contributing a great deal to archaeology. However, while paleoclimatology may lead to new discoveries about the human past, it may also lead to new errors in interpreting it. Cave speleothems are sources of paleoclimatic data that have recently attracted attention in Mesoamerican archaeology, particularly in studies of the Maya region. In order to evaluate past uses of speleothem paleoclimatic records to support archaeological hypotheses, I will describe the strengths and weaknesses of particular datasets, evaluate the arguments that have been advanced for their broad spatial applicability, examine the science behind the spatial variability of precipitation patterns, and consider how the application of speleothem paleoclimatology to Maya archaeology might be improved upon. I hope to make clear that speleothem paleoclimatic records can potentially yield insights into the relationship(s) between Precolumbian climate change and ancient Maya culture change, but must be interpreted with the utmost caution.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Goldblatt, Benjamin, "An Inconclusive Truth: An Evaluation of Speleothem Evidence for Climate Change as a Driver of Ancient Maya Culture Change" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5111.