Washington, March 1 : Scientists working with new satellite technology have found evidence that the Maya civilization's self-induced droughts might have led to the climate change that caused their destruction.
The group of scientists included researchers from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, who had launched the satellite program known as SERVIR in early 2005, to help combat wildfires, improve land use, and assist with natural disaster responses.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the program found traces of the Maya's hidden, possibly disastrous agricultural past-and is now using those lessons to help ensure that today's civilizations fare better in the face of modern-day climate change.
Though more than a hundred reasons have been proposed for the downfall of the Maya, among them hurricanes, overpopulation, disease, warfare, and peasant revolt, Tom Sever, NASA's only archaeologist, adds to evidence for another explanation.
"Our recent research shows that another factor may have been climate change," he said.
One conventional theory has it that the Maya relied on slash-and-burn agriculture. But Sever and his colleagues said that such methods couldn't have sustained a population that reached 60,000 at its peak.
According to the researchers, the Maya also exploited seasonal wetlands called bajos, which make up more than 40 percent of the Peten landscape of the ancient empire.
In most cases, Maya cities encircled the bajos, so archaeologists thought the culture made no use of them. But groundbreaking satellite images show that the bajos harbor ancient drainage canals and long-overgrown fields - an ingenious method of agriculture that may have backfired.
This could have fueled many of the suspected factors that led to the Maya decline-even seemingly unrelated issues like disease and war.