The collapse of Bronze Age civilisation

Brian G Turner

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#1
Here's an interesting article about the collapse of Bronze Age civilisations across the Mediterranean:
Climate and the Late Bronze Collapse in the Southern Levant - Archaeology News from Past Horizons : Archaeology News from Past Horizons

I'm sure I've seen climate change fingered before as a cause, so it's good to see it described in detail here.

However, I wonder if there's anything from the climate records that explain such a dramatic climate change? Volcanic eruptions, solar cycle, what?
 

svalbard

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#2
I am not too sure about dates, but wasn't the volcanic eruption on Santorini/Thera around this time. Interestingly the fall of Troy is dated to about this time period.

Good article.
 

Parson

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#3
Brian, I loved the article. But I would not think that there would have to be any really strong input from an "outside" source for this kind of climate change. The middle east is at best semi-arid and drought would have to be a regular feature of the climate on any long term scale.
 

Aquilonian

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#4
Hekla 3 eruption (Iceland) and Bond Event (seems to be a subdivision of the Ice Ages whatever causes them) have been implicated according to the Wikpedia article on Late Bronze Age Collapse.
 

DragonKhan25

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#5
I am not too sure about dates, but wasn't the volcanic eruption on Santorini/Thera around this time. Interestingly the fall of Troy is dated to about this time period.

Good article.
The collapse of the Minoans is dated to that period of time. the fall of Troy is dated a couple of hundred years later
 

Brian G Turner

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#7
Just watched a really interesting lecture on YouTube by Dr Eric Cline about this very topic:


In it he underlines environmental change as a major factor that results in a Systems Collapse, but advises against thinking in terms of single causes. He also dismisses the Santorini/Thera Eruption as being 500 years too early.
 

svalbard

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#8
Just finished watching the lecture. Really good and I will be looking out for his book.
 

Dave

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#9
The Mediterranean region is still very active geologically. Etna erupted just last weekend. It could be any number of that kind of event that caused tsunami or changes in sea levels. I do think that it would be that kind of local event, and if, by "climate records" you mean temperatures, then the methods of measuring temperature using proxies might be too imprecise on that local scale. However, It is quite a while since I studied paleoclimatology, so if anyone knows about new methods that could give more precise temperatures at that kind of local scale then I'd be very interested in a link.
 

Venusian Broon

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#10
I'm going a bit out of the scope of the original post, but seeing that lecture posted there made me think of this.

I've been using youtube a lot more to get entertainment, whether pod- or videocast, and I subscribe to these two channels:

The Oriental Institute

Penn Museum

Which have a great deal of fascinating lectures about the ancient world and cultures. Some of it is a bit dry and academic and some of the really early stuff they were clearly still working on sound issues. So be warned.

If anyone else knows of any other channel that does similar content I'd be very interested in finding out!
 

KC York

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#11
Thanks for the link to Cline's lecture, @Brian G Turner, I had not seen that before. I have read his book and it is a pretty fascinating overview of the civilizations in question, and what led to their collapse. It's dry reading, through -- Cline is an academic, not a storyteller, so know that going in. I had to chew it up in bites over the course of nearly a month, when I normally plow through books of that length in a week or less. The lecture is, ironically, a LOT more engaging than his writing!
 

night_wrtr

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#12
The Oriental Institute

Penn Museum

If anyone else knows of any other channel that does similar content I'd be very interested in finding out!
Thanks for sharing these! I just finished watching the lecture on the Battle of Kadesh, which was great because of they way it is presented with original texts and images.

*Forgive me for the continued sidetrack from the OP* I would add YaleCourses to the list, but it is a wide range of topics, not just history. My main usage of that channel is to watch/listen to Donald Kagan's lectures (24 of them!) on Greece.
 

Dennis E. Taylor

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#13
In it he underlines environmental change as a major factor that results in a Systems Collapse, but advises against thinking in terms of single causes. He also dismisses the Santorini/Thera Eruption as being 500 years too early.
I remember seeing a science show a while back that blamed it on deforestation, and goat and sheep herding. Srsly. The idea was that they are aggressive browsers, and tend to kill the plants they browse--as opposed to cattle, which just "mow" the lawn. So deforestation is self-explanatory, and reasons for it would be a combination of creating pasture and needing the wood for construction.

Anyway, forests are a major factor in a Mediterranean climate, as they act as water reservoirs, collecting the water when it's cool and sweating it out when it's warm; and protection against erosion. Take away all the trees and ground cover, and you end up with everyone's vision of Afghanistan. No trees, no plants, no rain, basically dirt.

Oh, and increased erosion would mean increased silting of rivers, and consequential obliteration of convenient bays. The show talked about one city in particular (I think it was Greek) where the bay that the city was built on became so silted up that the city was essentially abandoned.

Anyway, it's not "Global Warming" per se, but it is definitely environmental degradation.
 

hej

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#14
I find societal collapse intriguing.

What with the existence of writing, math, economics and even law, the Bronze Age is rather modern. Please, humor me with this tangent. I hope you will find it generally relevant vis-a-vis collapse.

I have familiarized myself with the Neolithic, and found the Kurgan Hypothesis to be both necessary and insufficient to explain the dominance of the peoples from the Pontic-Caspian steppe over the autochthonous ones in Europe.

I speculate on the problems of the indigenous folk in a few paragraphs in the setting for my stories: Busting Rocks - Stonigsthwaighte - About

In sum, I see the following threats: soil depletion, climate change, depredation, and cultural shifts.

Something massive happened in Europe such that, even by the time of the Bronze Age, the daughter languages of Proto-Indo-European (PIE, which I call Kurgan in my writing), had spread through the lands.

As to what actually went on, well, anthropology can only make suggestions based on scant archeological evidence and linguistic extrapolation.

That's 'archaeological' for all you British and Anglophiles. :)
 

night_wrtr

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#18
I just finished reading Eric Cline's book 1177 finally. It is basically his lecture, with lots of footnotes and interesting details that support his main points. If you just want the rundown quickly, his lecture is all you need. I would still recommend the book if you're like me and enjoy the boring little details that come with it.
 

Venusian Broon

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#19
I just finished reading Eric Cline's book 1177 finally. It is basically his lecture, with lots of footnotes and interesting details that support his main points. If you just want the rundown quickly, his lecture is all you need. I would still recommend the book if you're like me and enjoy the boring little details that come with it.
The little details ain't boring!

I'd say the only flaw was right at the end, 'cause he was waving his hand a bit and saying it was all because of 'Systems Collapse'. I got no real understanding, from a technical point of view, what that meant. But I'm sure he definitely hints that there is such a definition.

I get the main jist - stop thinking about it as being caused by just one thing - but I felt it didn't really scratch even the surface of the subject - even a theoretical example or two of what a real documented systemic collapse entailed - and how it differs from other 'collapses' (if it does, are all collapses Systems Collapse? I mean can you really say any big sweeping change in society or civilisations be pinpointed on one cause?), would have helped.

I know that to do that would probably be going into some technical talk of a different nature and subject, so probably not good for what is really a populist history book on a specific time, but...hey, that's just me. I like details, rigour and logic. :p
 

night_wrtr

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#20
The little details ain't boring!
I am all on board! I even went through a few (a lot) wiki pages for some of the topics and people he covered to get more depth. I really found Suppiluliuma to be very interesting, and the whole state of affairs with the Hittites.

I get the main jist - stop thinking about it as being caused by just one thing - but I felt it didn't really scratch even the surface of the subject - even a theoretical example or two of what a real documented systemic collapse entailed - and how it differs from other 'collapses' (if it does, are all collapses Systems Collapse? I mean can you really say any big sweeping change in society or civilisations be pinpointed on one cause?), would have helped.
Yes, indeed. There was more to be had. It really wasn't a long book - he still had room to elaborate. If you haven't already read it, look up Collapse by Jared Diamond. It uses specific societies and circumstances, and details their fall very well. A wider range than the bronze age, but still a good read.
 
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