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An 8700 year paleoclimate reconstruction from the southern Maya lowlands

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Abstract

Analysis of a sediment core from Lago Puerto Arturo, a closed basin lake in northern Peten, Guatemala, has provided an ~8700calyear record of climate change and human activity in the southern Maya lowlands. Stable isotope, magnetic susceptibility, and pollen analyses were used to reconstruct environmental change in the region. Results indicate a relatively wet early to middle Holocene followed by a drier late Holocene, which we interpret as reflecting long-term changes in insolation (precession). Higher frequency variability is more likely attributable to changes in ocean/atmosphere circulation in both the North Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. Pollen and isotope data show that most of the period of prehispanic agricultural settlement, i.e. ~5000-1000calyrBP, was characterized by drier conditions than previous or subsequent periods. The presence of Zea (corn) pollen through peak aridity during the Terminal Classic period (~1250-1130calyrBP) suggests that drought may not have had as negative an impact as previously proposed. A dramatic negative shift in isotope values indicates an increase in precipitation after ~950calyrBP (hereafter BP).

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Wahl, D., Byrne, R., & Anderson, L. (2014). An 8700 year paleoclimate reconstruction from the southern Maya lowlands. Quaternary Science Reviews, 103, 19–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.08.004

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