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Posted Sat Apr 3 2010: from Environmental Research Web:
Evidence suggests changing environment can bring down a civilization
Decades of drought, interspersed with intense monsoon rains, may have helped bring about the fall of Cambodia's ancient Khmer civilization at Angkor nearly 600 years ago, according to an analysis of tree rings, archeological remains and other evidence. The study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may also shed light on what drives - and disrupts - the rainy season across much of Asia, which waters crops for nearly half the world's population.... Similar studies suggest that abrupt environmental changes may have pushed other ancient civilizations over the edge, including the Anasazi people of the southwestern United States; the Maya people of Central America, and the Akkadian people of Mesopotamia. There is some evidence that other once-powerful kingdoms in what is now Vietnam and Myanmar may have fallen during the late 1700s, following extreme dry and wet periods. "Both human society and the Earth's climate system are complex systems capable of unexpected behavior. Through the long-term perspective offered by climate and archaeological records, we can start to identify and understand the myriad ways they may interact," said study coauthor Kevin Anchukaitis, a tree ring scientist at Lamont. "The evidence from monsoon Asia should remind us that complex civilizations are still quite vulnerable to climate variability and change."
[Read more stories about: climate impacts, drought, weather extremes]

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