Paper No. 321-7
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM
COMPOUND-SPECIFIC HYDROGEN ISOTOPE EVIDENCE OF THE TERMINAL CLASSIC DROUGHT FROM HISPANIOLA AND POTENTIAL IMPACTS ON CARIBBEAN SOCIETIES
Multiple paleoclimate studies have documented the Terminal Classic Drought (TCD), which comprises a series of severe, multi-decadal droughts that affected Central and South America between ca. 500 and 1100 C.E. These droughts are suspected of playing a primary role in the demise of Classic Mayan socio-political structures and constitute one of the most compelling examples of the complexity of human-environment interactions. However, the geographic extent of the TCD and its impacts are still poorly constrained. Here we present sedimentary compound-specific (n-alkane) hydrogen isotope (δD) evidence of severe drought during the TCD from a small lake in the mid-elevations of Hispaniola. Archaeological evidence from the Greater and Lesser Antilles indicate that the TCD was a time of significant demographic and cultural change in the region that included increased colonization of island interiors, intensified cultivation, and use of irrigation and water conservation techniques. The co-occurrence of these cultural changes and evidence of severe drought may indicate that the impacts of the TCD on prehistoric societies reached beyond the Mayan Lowlands and into the Caribbean Antilles. In stark contrast to the massive population declines in the Mayan Lowlands, populations on the Caribbean Antilles appear to increase after the TCD. These contrasting cultural responses to the TCD document the multifaceted potential interplay between environmental and socio-political change, and offer a set of unique case studies to help us better understand the complexity of such interactions.