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The Great Mayan Drought: A GK-12 Activity Utilizing ODP Core 1002D

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The Great Mayan Drought:
A GK-12 Activity Utilizing ODP Core 1002D

By Jeri Rodgers, J. Cano, and K.K. Ellins

DP Site 1002D core data benefits the study of Holocene climatic conditions, and provides the basis for a fascinating high school level earth sciences activity linking core studies with the collapse of the Mayan civilization. In this activity a subset of Ti concentration/core depth data obtained from the Cariaco Basin (offshore Venezuela) by previous workers (Haug et al., 2001) is plotted as a proxy for rainfall/time. During 2000 years BP - present, the plotted data indicate multiyear droughts at approximately 1720, 1620, and 1200 years BP, with the last drought lasting approximately 200 years. When the students superimpose times of Mayan population collapse they find a correlation with core data for drought occurrences - approximately 280 and 380 AD (Pre-Classic Abandonment) and a major drought from approximately 750-950 AD (Terminal Classic Collapse). Additional activity information includes seismic profiling of the Cariaco Basin, the importance of an anoxic basin in this type of analysis, Ti mineralogy, information on the ODP, and Mayan culture and history. This activity package fulfills many of the TEKS and NSES requirements for GMO courses.

To be presented at the ASLO meeting in Salt Lake City, Feb. 2005