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Humans are ultimately dependent upon the natural world around them, so the study of past environments can yield much information about the people of the past. In particular, as you learned in this chapter, climatic shifts can have a significant and sometimes devastating effect on humanity.

It has long been known that our planet's climate moves in cycles. One particularly rapid climatic shift is the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Use your book as well as some internet research to investigate the following questions about the influence of El Niño events on ancient cultures.


How does El Niño typically affect the weather in a.) South America and b.) Southeast Asia?


How does El Niño affect the fish of South America's Pacific coast? How are these patterns revealed in the archaeological record?


How might El Niño have influenced the growth of larger and more complex agricultural communities on the west coast of South America?


What role might El Niño have played in the degradation and collapse of complex societies, particularly those in Central and South America?


What is La Niña?


Many different theories exist about what exactly causes El Niño/Southern Oscillation. Summarize one of them.

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