Thursday, August 15, 2013

Climate Link To Bronze Age Collapse Substantiated

A new study (open access) has convincingly linked the dramatic events around 1200 BCE in the Eastern Mediterranean called "Bronze Age Collapse" that led to events including the end of the Hittite Empire, the arrival of the Philistines in the Southern Levant, and the fall of many cities at the hands of the "Sea People" to a severe and sudden three hundred year long drought.

While other historians have cast doubt on the connection, the paper's rigorous analysis of radiocarbon dates in a consistent manner explains that:
[T]he [Late Bronze Age] crisis, the Sea People raids, and the onset of the drought period are the same event. Because climatic proxies from Cyprus and coastal Syria are numerically correlated, as the LBA crisis shows an identical calibration range in the island and the mainland, and because this narrative was confirmed by written evidence (correspondences, cuneiform tablets), we can say that the LBA crisis was a complex but single event where political struggle, socioeconomic decline, climatically-induced food-shortage, famines and flows of migrants definitely intermingled. . . . the LBA crisis coincided with the onset of a ca. 300-year drought event 3200 years ago. This climate shift caused crop failures, dearth [sic] and famine, which precipitated or hastened socio-economic crises and forced regional human migrations at the end of the LBA in the Eastern Mediterranean and southwest Asia. The integration of environmental and archaeological data along the Cypriot and Syrian coasts offers a first comprehensive insight into how and why things may have happened during this chaotic period. The 3.2 ka BP event underlines the agro-productive sensitivity of ancient Mediterranean societies to climate and demystifies the crisis at the Late Bronze Age-Iron Age transition.
The study's fairly narrow geographic range doesn't permit a determination of the extent to which this climate change extended further than the Eastern Mediterranean, although we do know that droughts typically affect very large geographic areas all at once. They are the natural disaster opposites of a tornado that can ravage one house while leaving the one next door virtually untouched.

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