Many of you may have noticed that Steve Goddard at his Real Science site has recently posted a number of similar articles, putting to rest that weather extremes are exclusive to today (because of our CO2 emissions). Indeed they were just as frequent in the past.
This story here is just the latest, from online Der Spiegel titled: Tree Rings Witness To Devestating Droughts.
Der Spiegel starts by mentioning that Mexican construction workers in 2007 in Tula had excavated into an ancient Toltec chamber which held the skeletons of 24 youths, all under the age of 15. Among the bones were small statues of the god of rain, Tlaloc. The children had not died of natural causes, but had been sacrificed – in the year 1150 AD.
They had been the victims of futile weather appeasement rituals performed by high priests.
Tree rings show extreme droughts in the past
A recent study by author David Stahle, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, shows that an ancient drought, previously confirmed for the U.S. Southwest, extended into central Mexico from 1149 to 1167, and thus likely delivered the potentially fatal blow to the Toltec culture.
Stahle and his co-authors assembled a new and complete 1,238-year-long tree-ring chronology – the longest and most accurate of its kind – for ancient Mexico and Central America (or Mesoamerica). It is the first to reconstruct the yearly climate of pre-colonial Mexico over more than a millennium and identifies four ancient megadroughts down to their exact years.
Stahle’s team used 30 specimens of the more than 1000 year old Montezuma bald cypress trees near Tenochtitlan, which served as the captial of the Aztec empire, and Tula. Our amazing planet.com writes:
Tree rings give a precise estimate for wetness for every single year, Stahle said. The researchers determined the year of formation for each tree ring and analyzed what the rings’ growth patterns had to say about how soil moisture varied from growth season to growth season over the years, a parameter directly associated with rainfall.”
Stahle and his team stumbled upon the reason why these children had been sacrificed: Severe droughts had been decimating the Toltec population, and so the Aztec priests appear to have had the children sacrificed to in a bid to end the weather extreme that had gripped the region and parched their agricultural activity. Der Spiegel writes:
For many years the fields yielded too few crops to feed the people. At the end, the drought was so bad that the residents of Tula offered the god of rain the blood of children in a bid to gain back mercy – but the drought stayed.”
The drought lasted 18 years, from 1149 to 1167, forcing an entire generation to grow up under constatnt hunger and killing thousands. Der Spiegel also writes that another major drought could be easily discerned from the tree-ring chronology, one beginning in the year 1514, five years before Cortez and the Conquistadors landed on the Mexican beaches, and ending in 1539. Like the Toltecs, the Aztecs also performed human sacrifices. Der Spiegel:
Similar to the Toltecs, the Aztecs tried to appease god of rain Tlaloc; archeologists discovered the skeletons of 42 executed children in the large pyramids of the Aztec capital if Tenochtitlan.”
Strangely the ouramazingplanet.com article issues a message of warning to today’s societies, though probably not the one it intended. University of Tennessee/Knoxville archaeologist David Anderson says:
This study will prompt a great deal of follow-up research by archaeologists and paleoclimatologists alike, and offers lessons for our own civilization — specifically how vulnerable complex societies may be to drought-induced crop failures.”
If any lesson ought to be learned from all this, it is that rain-dancing and performing rituals to appease the weather gods with the aim to prevent “weather extremes” is not only ineffective, but is pure madness.
The difference today is that at least Toltecs and Aztecs waited until things were really desperate before embarking on their madness. In today’s modern world, at the very height of human prosperity, we have science lunatics proposing the same mad behaviour in a bid to prevent weather extremes in a distant future – based on tea leaves and crystal balls.