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General Information for Teachers > Climate and Civilization - the Maya Example
1. Observe how geochemical data from a seafloor sediment core recovered by the Ocean Drilling Program from the Cariaco Basin (offshore Venezuela) provide evidence for past drought in Central America;
2. Examine geochemical data from a second sediment core taken from a fresh water lake in Mexico that provides independent evidence of the droughts; and
3. Explore the connection between population collapses of the Maya and periods of drought revealed by the geochemical data in the core.
This activity also provides an opportunity for learners to use and improve their analytical skills using graphing software (e.g., Microsoft Excel) to evaluate the data.
Students will be working with concepts of sedimentlogy. Therefore they should have had an introduction to stratigraphic principles, in particular and the law of superposition for laminations. Students should have enough chemistry background to understand the elements and the concept of oxygen and its importance to life. Students should know the fundamentals of a graph.
Time Frame – The activity will require three 50-minute class periods. Students should read the worksheet introduction prior to the first class.
Equipment and Supplies
- Pencil/Colored Pencil
- Computer with graphing software such as EXCEL and, if possible, access to YouTube on the Internet.
- Video: “Ancient Apocalypse: Episode 3 – The Maya Collapse”, BBC (2004) also available on YouTube in five parts:
- View Part One View Part Two View Part Three View Part Four View Part Five
Note: This is an excellent program from the BBC Ancient Apocalypse series that can be used to engage learners at the start of the activity. The program is also available on YouTube (see resource section) and has been broken down into 5 parts which makes it easy to view in stages as learners work through the activity over three class periods. There is no better introduction to this lesson that for the students to view this segments 1 and 2 at the start of the activity, and 3 after they have completed the data analysis if time permits. Segments 4 and 5 should be viewed at the end of the activity to finish the story.
- Teacher Background Information - PDF, 215K
- PowerPoint - PDF, 780K
- Maya Activity Student Worksheets- PDF, 1.0M
- Guide to using EXCEL to plot the data - PDF, 1.1M
- EXCEL data file (Maya Activity Data); image files (History 1 background TIF - 1.24M and History 2 background TIF - 1.1M)
- Assessments (password required)
- Answer Key - PDF 400K (password required)