Belize’s “Great Blue Hole” may point to the death of the Mayans
New mineral evidence may connect the Great Blue Hole and the Mayans. The famous sinkhole off the coast of Belize suggests epic, devastating droughts.
The “Great Blue Hole” off the coast of Belize is one of the most photographed and well-known locations in the ocean. It is iconic, mysterious, beautiful, and even a bit unsettling. And it may explain how the Mayan civilization collapsed at some point around the 9th or 10th century.
The blue hole is a large sinkhole that forms a circle almost 1,000 feet across, and over 400 feet deep. The hole was originally a cave, and it formed over hundreds of thousands of years, offering a glimpse into the past thanks to its unique origins.
A recent dive into the cave – as well as several nearby lagoons – collected mineral samples dating back hundreds of years, according to Discover News. Those minerals show that an extreme, sustained drought began at some point between the 800-900 AD, which coincides with the collapse of Mayan society. Shortly after, the Mayans moved north, and a few centuries later another drought essentially wiped them out for good.
The Mayan society flourished between 300-700 AD in the Yucatan peninsula, spreading from Mexico through Central America. The Mayans built massive pyramids, created a complex system of writing, developed a calendar, and they were centuries ahead of most other societies in astronomy. Granted, they got a few things wrong, like that whole end of the world thing back in December 2012, but they were an extremely advanced civilization, especially given their relative isolation from the rest of the world.
Their collapse has been the subject of many a nerdy debate in the halls of history and science. For the last few decades though, the theory that a drought of epic proportions was the primary culprit has continued to gain credibility. The new evidence helps support those claims.
The Mayans relied on consistent rains on the Yucatan peninsula that frequently reached near monsoon levels. The theory goes that a shift in weather patterns meant the Yucatan peninsula missed the monsoons and most rains in general. The research suggests that during the height of the Mayan civilization, the region would have been hit by six or more major storms over the course of a decade or two. During the drought, there were likely one or two at most, over the course of two decades.
The effects would have been devastating on a culture that relied heavily on agriculture, especially one without the trade opportunities that civilizations in the eastern hemisphere may have had. That would have likely led to famines, and eventually massive unrest among the Mayan people.
It is all still just a theory, but the evidence is strengthening. And it’s all because of a pretty blue hole.