February 28, 2015 Douglas J. Kennett, PhD; Professor of Environmental Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology at Penn State University: "Development and Disintegration of Maya Political Systems in Response to Climate Change"

            The role of climate change in the development and demise of Classic Maya civilization, AD 300 to1000, remains controversial because of the absence of well-dated climate and archaeological sequences. Doctor Kennett presented a precisely dated sub-annual climate record for the past 2000 years from YokBalum Cave, Belize. From comparison of this record with historical events compiled from well-dated stone monuments, he proposes that anomalously high rainfall favored unprecedented population expansion and the proliferation of political centers between AD 440 and 660. This was followed by a drying trend between AD 660 and 1000 that triggered the balkanization of polities, increased warfare, and the asynchronous disintegration of polities, followed by population collapse in the context of an extended drought between AD 1000 and 1100.

            Douglas J. Kennett received his BA, MA and PhD from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Doctor Kennett is a Professor of Environmental Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology at Penn State University.  He has held faculty positions at California State University, Long Beach, from1998 to 2001, and the University of Oregon from 2001 through 2011. He is the author of The Island Chumash , University of California Press, 2005 and co-editor, with Bruce Winterhalder, of the book Behavioral Ecology and the Transition to Agriculture, University of California Press, 2006. He is also the co-editor, with Atholl Anderson, of  Taking the High Ground: the Archaeology of Rapa, a fortified island in remote East Polynesia, Australia National University Press, 2012. His current interests include the study of human sociopolitical dynamics under changing environmental conditions, human impacts on ancient environments, and behavioral response to abrupt climate change in the past.

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