The Ancient Maya Response to Climate Change: A Cautionary Tale

Date: 

Feb 27, 2020, 6:00 pm

Location: 

Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Gordon R. Willey Lecture and Reception. Free Public Lecture.

B.L. Turner II                  
Regents Professor and Gilbert F. White Professor of Environment and Society, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and the School of Sustainability, Arizona State University     

Ancient Maya civilization—known for its cities, monumental architecture, ceramics, hieroglyphic writing, and advanced understanding of mathematics and astronomy—suffered a major demise between the tenth and eleventh centuries. The causes continue to be investigated and debated. Paleoenvironmental research over the past twenty years has revealed that the demise coincided with a prolonged intensive drought that extended across the region, providing compelling evidence that climate change played a key role in the collapse of the Maya. B.L. Turner examines this evidence and the complex social and environmental conditions—including land use and landscape changes—that affected Maya societies.

B. L. Turner II studies human-environment relationships from prehistory to contemporary sustainability. Focusing on the dynamics between society and land, his research has addressed the ancient Maya, smallholder agriculture in the tropics, tropical deforestation, and sustainability science. Dr. Turner is a member of both the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts of Sciences, and serves as Associate Editor of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He has served on numerous national and international organizations addressing land, climate change, and sustainability. He holds a PhD in geography from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a MA and BA in geography from the University of Texas at Austin. 

Presented by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology and the Harvard Museum of Natural History in collaboration with the Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean Program at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University.

Read the Harvard Gazette article about the lecture.

 A recording of this program will be available on the HMSC Lecture Videos page approximately three weeks after the lecture.

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