August 15, 2013

Climate caused the Late Bronze Age collapse in the Eastern Mediterranean

PLoS ONE 8(8): e71004. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071004

Environmental Roots of the Late Bronze Age Crisis

David Kaniewski et al.

The Late Bronze Age world of the Eastern Mediterranean, a rich linkage of Aegean, Egyptian, Syro-Palestinian, and Hittite civilizations, collapsed famously 3200 years ago and has remained one of the mysteries of the ancient world since the event’s retrieval began in the late 19th century AD/CE. Iconic Egyptian bas-reliefs and graphic hieroglyphic and cuneiform texts portray the proximate cause of the collapse as the invasions of the “Peoples-of-the-Sea” at the Nile Delta, the Turkish coast, and down into the heartlands of Syria and Palestine where armies clashed, famine-ravaged cities abandoned, and countrysides depopulated. Here we report palaeoclimate data from Cyprus for the Late Bronze Age crisis, alongside a radiocarbon-based chronology integrating both archaeological and palaeoclimate proxies, which reveal the effects of abrupt climate change-driven famine and causal linkage with the Sea People invasions in Cyprus and Syria. The statistical analysis of proximate and ultimate features of the sequential collapse reveals the relationships of climate-driven famine, sea-borne-invasion, region-wide warfare, and politico-economic collapse, in whose wake new societies and new ideologies were created.

Link

7 comments:

John said...

Seems to coincide with Bond event 2.

See also Potential influence of Bond
events on mid-Holocene climate and
vegetation in southern Pyrenees as
assessed from Burg lake LOI and pollen records.
hol.sagepub.com/content/21/1/95.abstract?rss=1 by A Pèlachs - ?2011

andrew said...

Not surprising, but an impressive opus of proof to back the hypothesis.

Grey said...

Makes sense i think.

On the one hand a climate event might affect the marginal farming periphery more than the optimal farming core creating both a life or death incentive for the peoples on the margins to move inwards while at the same time weakening the defences of the civilized core.

Or alternatively if the damage from the climate event affected the civilized farmers in the core regions much more than the wild herders on the periphery.

Either way the balance of power changes and the core gets stomped.

Dale Light said...

Climate change is the hot explanation for just about everything these days. One problem with these kinds of studies is that if you are looking for climate change you will always find climate change, because some aspect of the climate is always changing. And then there is the problem that you aren't measuring climate change directly, but are using very imprecise and problematic proxies. So the premise is plausible but not, to me, any more persuasive than changes in battle tactics, or system collapse models, or seismic activity, or any of the other explanations so far advanced.

Grey said...

"So the premise is plausible but not, to me, any more persuasive than changes in battle tactics, or system collapse models, or seismic activity, or any of the other explanations so far advanced."

I think the critical thing is that climate changes can drive other more dramatic and more proximate causes i.e. climate change may have driven the Sea Peoples but it was still the Sea Peoples who did the actual collapsing.

eurologist said...

The initial decline seems to correlate with the Thera event.

Atropa belladonna said...

I do think that that the title of the post is a bit misleading: the authors themself state, already in the abstract "The statistical analysis of proximate and ultimate features of the sequential collapse reveals the relationships of climate-driven famine, sea-borne-invasion, region-wide warfare, and politico-economic collapse, in whose wake new societies and new ideologies were created". Which is quite different from what is stated in the title of this post.
The same authors, if I remember well, wrote an article where they presented archaeological proofs of a defined level of destruction at Gibala.
It is not surprising that the collapse was a complex event, with diverse and somehow diverging "roots"; accordingly, the authors remain propositive non conclusive.