A little over 2,000 years ago, many of the Maya were on the move.
They abandoned the eroded and deforested low-lying land on the Yucatan peninsula – probably because of a bad drought – and headed to hillier elevations in what is now modern-day central Guatemala, according to Vernon L. Scarborough, an anthropologist at the University of Cincinnati. There they began to build Tikal, one of the largest and most successful Mayan settlements.
A settlement, though, needs resources. When the Maya moved, they needed to devise a complex water collection and usage system that would sustain Tikal for nearly a millennium. This system is described by Dr. Scarborough and his colleagues in a new paper published online on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.