The mysterious disappearance of the Mayan dynasty from the surface of this planet some 3,000 years ago has continued to baffle archeologists and historians for several years now. Alien invasion to over-hunting to deforestation to peasant uprising have been proposed to explain the collapse of the civilization which, at the time of its annihilation, was one of the most advanced races in the world during its height.

Based in the Yucatan peninsula, the Mayans built great pyramids, mastered astronomy, and developed a hieroglyphic writing system. Their famous prophecy about the end of the world in 2012 added to their ‘fame’.

Findings of a new study now suggest that the ancient race might have been wiped out due to a century old drought. The proof of this new explanation, believe the researchers, might be hidden in an underwater cave in Belize.

Minerals taken from a famous underwater cave in Belize, known as the Blue Hole, and from adjoining lagoons now confirm that the area was hit by a severe drought between 800 AD and 1,000 AD. After the drought ended and normal conditions returned, these people moved northwards only to disappear again after a few centuries. The sediments found from the Blue Hole now confirm that the final disappearance occurred at the same time as the other dry spell.

Though this is not the first time that the demise of this civilization has been linked to a drought, there is now concrete evidence pointing in this direction for the first time. That’s because the data come from several spots in a region central to the Mayan heartland, said study co-author André Droxler, an Earth scientist at Rice University.

Analysis of a 2,000 year old stalagmite from southern part of Belize two years back had also suggested the possibility of a link between the demise of the Mayan civilization and the prolonged dry spell over the region. But since that information had come in from only one area, it was not considered ‘sufficient’ to explain what happened over the entire region.

Working upon that earlier lead, this time the researchers drilled holes in the sediments in the Blue Hole underwater cave and the Rhomboid reef.

“During storms or wetter periods, excess water runs off from rivers and streams, overtops the retaining walls, and is deposited in a thin layer at the top of the lagoon. From there, all the sediments from these streams settle to the bottom of the lagoon, piling on top of each other and leaving a chronological record of the historical climate,” reports Live Science.

“It’s like a big bucket. It’s a sediment trap,” said study’s co-author André Droxler, an Earth scientist at Rice University.

Though it is still too early to confirm that the unduly long dry spell over the region was indeed responsible for wiping off one of the most intelligent races in the history of mankind, there is strong evidence pointing in that direction for the first time.

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