CANCELED: The Ancient Maya Response to Climate Change: A Cautionary Tale


Sep 18, 2019, 6:00 pm


Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Becan Archaeological Site, Campeche, Mexico.
Becan Archaeological Site, Campeche, Mexico. Photo by Billie Turner II.

This event has been canceled.


Gordon R. Willey Lecture and Reception

Billie 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. Billie Turner will examine this evidence and the complex social and environmental conditions—including land use and landscape changes—that affected Maya societies.

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

Free event parking at the 52 Oxford Street Garage

This event will be livestreamed on the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture (HMSC) Facebook page and the HMSC website. A recording of this program will be available on the HMSC Lecture Videos page approximately three weeks after the lecture.

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 Ph.D. in geography from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a M.A. and B.A. in geography from the University of Texas at Austin. 

accessibility icon We encourage persons with disabilities to participate in programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation please contact us in advance at

See more Mexico-related events

September 12 Maintaining Heritage Languages
September 14 Animated Tales for All
October 10 Molinillos and Chocolate in Contemporary Mexico
October 25 Taller de Pintura de Estilo Zapoteco-Taller para adultos/Zapotec-Style Painting Adult Workshop
October 26 Taller de Pintura de Estilo Zapoteco-Taller Familiar/Zapotec-Style Painting Family Workshop
November 1 Day of the Dead Evening Celebration
November 2 Day of the Dead Family Celebration