Audio: Climate Change May Have Caused Some Ancient Civilizations to Collapse

Scientists have documented the environmental impacts of climate change — including melting ice sheets — and predicted rising sea levels. But can climate change also disrupt culture?

Reporting in Science Advances, researchers say that climate change may have been a factor in the boom-and-bust cycles of ancient Southwest civilizations in the United States.

“Droughts didn't always impact societies in the past,” says archaeologist Kyle Bocinsky, one of the authors of the study. “There were plenty of times in which the Pueblo people did just fine in the face of pretty dramatic climate downturns. But we also found that a combination of social organization, inequality and climate change did prompt revolutions in Pueblo society, and not just once, but four times in the Pueblo past between 8500 and 1400.”

Daniel Mennerich