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Agriculture and the Environment

Megadroughts Pt. 1: Ancient Societal Collapse


The American West is parched right now by extreme and persistent drought. That has a lot of people wondering what will happen if the rains don’t come and the water dries up. But if history has anything to teach us about megadroughts, it’s that they can pose a very serious threat to civilization.

Throughout human history, great societies have suffered the withering effects of extreme drought. Archaeologists, examining the historical record, say that drought played a major part in the collapse of the Maya, the Old Kingdom of Egypt, the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia and others. And then there was the breakdown of the Ancestral Puebloans, who, hundreds of years ago, fled the Four Corners region and never returned. This Friday at noon we’re kicking off our three-part series about droughts by talking about what happened to these cultures, and what we can learn from the worst outcomes of some of the worst droughts in human history.


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