Pollen Study Points to Drought as Culprit in Bronze Age Mystery
Isabel Kershner, The New York Times, 22-10-2013
More than 3,200 years ago, life was abuzz in and around what is now this modern-day Israeli metropolis on the shimmering Mediterranean shore. To the north lay the mighty Hittite empire; to the south, Egypt was thriving under the reign of the great Pharaoh Ramses II. Cyprus was a copper emporium. Greece basked in the opulence of its elite Mycenaean culture, and Ugarit was a bustling port city on the Syrian coast. In the land of Canaan, city states like Hazor and Megiddo flourished under Egyptian hegemony. Vibrant trade along the coast of the eastern Mediterranean connected it all.
Yet within 150 years, according to experts, the old world lay in ruins. Experts have long pondered the cause of the crisis that led to the collapse of civilization in the Late Bronze Age, and now believe that by studying grains of fossilized pollen they have uncovered the cause. In a study published Monday in Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University, researchers say it was drought that led to the collapse in the ancient southern Levant.
Theories have included patterns of warfare, plagues and earthquakes. But while climate change has long been considered a prime factor, only recently have advances in science given researchers the chance to pinpoint the cause and make the case. The journal reports that an unusually high-resolution analysis of pollen grains taken from sediment beneath the Sea of Galilee and the western shore of the Dead Sea, backed up by a robust chronology of radiocarbon dating, have pinpointed the period of crisis to the years 1250 to 1100 B.C. Unlike studies examining longer-term processes that may require a pollen analysis of strata 500 years apart, this pollen count was done at intervals of 40 years – the highest resolution yet in this region, said Prof. Israel Finkelstein of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University.