Mega-Droughts Wiped Out Toltec And Aztec Civilzations – When CO2 Was Only 280 PPM

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.

Photo credit: David Stahle

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 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 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.

15 responses to “Mega-Droughts Wiped Out Toltec And Aztec Civilzations – When CO2 Was Only 280 PPM”

  1. Jimbo

    Here are some papers on former droughts in Mexico caused by climate change.

    From 1640 to 1915 the country experienced a series of prolonged and devastating droughts which were extremely severe in the mid to late 1700s and the late 1800s. This interval coincides with periods of adverse weather conditions elsewhere in the world and may represent the period of the Little Ice Age. Since the early 1900s there has been a shift towards somewhat wetter conditions in Mexico.


    This period included the infamous ‘El Año del Hambre,’ one of greatest famines in Mexican history.

  2. Jimbo

    Here is a good piece with references covering megadroughst and monsoons over the past Millennium linked to natural climate variability.

  3. Jimbo

    Google Scholar and megadroughts,5&q=megadroughts

    Megadroughts are not unusual on earth however, warmists like to look at a snapshot in time, say 30 years, then blame man. Did man cause all the numberous megadroughts prior to 1960?

  4. Tim Whittle

    Where are the Trolls? Haven’t had a giggle from them in a good long while.



  5. R. de Haan

    Too much snow on Mount Kilimanjaro forces climbers to turn back despite
    391.76 ppm of CO2

  6. R. de Haan

    Pierre, please correct the last italic text block:
    “This study will prompt a grea(t) …..

  7. pochas

    Today we can transport food over long distances. This will save the Mexicans from another drought. As long as we secure the availability of abundant, cheap energy that is, and don’t succumb to that analog of human sacrifice : “sustainable resources,” otherwise known as uneconomic feel-good foolishness. We need to get those nukes on-line safely and abundantly so that fossil fuels remain available to speed transportation of resources as necessary, for ourselves and for generations far into the future. The risks of not doing so are made abundantly clear by this article, especially in the setting of a prospectively cooling climate.

  8. Edward

    A good article PG IMHO.

    I made this precise point a few months ago at the last UN IPCC jamboree in Cancun.
    My point being, human sacrifice, the Aztecs in their insane zeal to appease the Weather Gods [or whatever], sacrificed hundreds of thousands of their own countrymen. This was long before the supposed MMCO2 e problem – because they thought [thought?? – good grief] that said sacrifices, would alleviate the prolonged drought conditions.

    Now in Cancun we have a bunch of politicians who are sacrificing western industrial power and socio economic well being, on an idea, that mankind has some sort of control over the elements, right next to the Aztec temples, if only they’d open their tiny minds and read some history!

    For me, this had some weird parallels, they’d cut off our heads if they thought they could get away with it but pushing us back to the dark ages, amounts to the same thing.


    “Tree rings give a precise estimate for wetness for every single year, Stahle said.”

    A – precise estimate?

  9. Duster

    Ah, a minor point perhaps, but unless the Spanish lead by Hernando Cortes, his troops, and the allied tribes that fought the Aztecs with him are considered a drought, the Aztecs were wiped out by warfare. While it may not be obvious north of the border, there are still many non-Aztec Indians in the Valley of Mexico who quite literally hate Aztecs and the descendants of Aztecs, and they can be seriously offended if you mistakenly assume that they are Aztecs.

    1. Edward

      The history of Cental America was unsurprisingly not taught at my school, I’ve read some accounts of the Conquista though.

      The received wisdom, is the people’s of the Aztec culture were experiencing hardship of numerous types, drought did not help, over-population was an issue and Cortes choose a good moment to conquer the land, one of his best and most lethal weapons was, small pox.

  10. grayman

    Hi Pierre, i have mentioned it before and bears repeating! There is nothing extreme about the weather of the globe, look at written and geological history and you see as in this post that it has happened before and will again!

  11. R. de Haan

    Sceptics PRF stigmatized in PSU course

    This is very serious! Must read.

  12. R. de Haan

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this. More information at our Data Privacy Policy