Ancient Maya practiced 'total war' well before climate stress

It's thought that widespread destruction of Maya cities only began when droughts threatened food supplies. A surprising find at the bottom of a lake is helping to upend that theory.

A long-standing idea about the ancient Maya is that for most of the civilization’s 700-year-long Classic period, which lasted from 250 to 950 A.D., warfare was more or less ritualized. Perhaps the royal family might be kidnapped, or some symbolic structures torn down, but large-scale destruction and high numbers of civilian casualties were supposedly rare.

Researchers have generally believed that only towards the very end of the Classic period, increasing droughts would have reduced food supplies, in turn escalating tensions between Maya kingdoms and resulting in violent warfare that is believed to have precipitated their decline. Research presented today in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, however, is adding to the evidence that violent, destructive warfare targeting both military and civilian

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