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Award Abstract #0716015

Collaborative Research: Speleothem Proxies for Mayan Culture-Climate Interactions

Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences
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Initial Amendment Date: August 28, 2007
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Latest Amendment Date: August 28, 2007
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Award Number: 0716015
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Award Instrument: Standard Grant
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Program Manager: John E. Yellen
BCS Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences
SBE Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences
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Start Date: September 1, 2007
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End Date: August 31, 2010 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $36,447.00
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Investigator(s): Bruce Dahlin bdahlin@frontiernet.net (Principal Investigator)
Timothy Beach (Co-Principal Investigator)
Clifford Brown (Co-Principal Investigator)
Eugene Perry (Co-Principal Investigator)
Amy Frappier (Co-Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: Shepherd University Research Corporation
Administration & Finance
Shepherdstown, WV 25443-5000 (304)876-5106
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Program Reference Code(s): 9150, 9278, EGCH
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Program Element Code(s): 1391


This award will permit Drs. Eugene Perry and Bruce Dahlin to initiate collection of speleothem (stalagmite) records from Mexican caves. These proxy records of past environmental changes will enable Maya archaeologists to address culture-environment interactions with sufficient specificity to establish causal relationships. The project will enable the timing, intensities and durations of the climatic events recorded in stalagmites with much higher precision using U/Th dating than is available with existing paleoclimate reconstruction techniques, and this will provide deeper insights into the relative importance of climatic versus purely cultural drivers of the culture changes observable in the archaeological record. In particular, this work will set the stage for a better understanding of the 9th century collapse of Maya civilization, specifically whether the active agent(s) was the abruptness of this climate change, the severity and spatial extent of the megadroughts, the increasing frequency and damage potential of hurricanes associated with global warming and the onset of megadrought conditions on the Yucatan peninsula, or something else entirely. The proxy calibrations will be useful in further exploring cave records of pre-Columbian climate-culture interactions across the Maya lowlands in future studies of spatial and temporal patterns of past regional environmental change.

The proposed project will provide the basis for new insights into the relationships between environmental change and the response of human societies, and thus bear on future impacts of observed and projected global climate changes. The project will test the veracity of the icon of climate induced civilizational collapse that is so popular today: the 9th century collapse of Classic Maya civilization. The multidisciplinary nature of the proposed project will bring together scientists with a wide variety of expertise and will give graduate and undergraduate students laboratory and field experience. This collaboration will bring together scientists from a wide variety of disciplines, include several institutions in the U.S. and Mexico and will further scientific cooperation and enhance scholarly exchange between these disciplines and countries. This project will provide thesis research projects for two to three graduate students, and also will support the career of a young female tenure-track professor.


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