Environmental roots of the late bronze age crisis

PLoS One. 2013 Aug 14;8(8):e71004. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071004. eCollection 2013.


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 19(th) 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.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Archaeology
  • Civilization*
  • Climate
  • Cyprus
  • Environment*
  • History, Ancient*
  • Oceans and Seas

Grant support

This research was funded by the Geological Survey of Belgium, the Université Paul Sabatier - Toulouse 3, and the PAI PVI/34 (Belspo) project. This work is also a contribution to the Labex OT-Med (ANR-11-LABX-0061) funded by the « Investissements d’Avenir», French Government program of the French National Research Agency(ANR) through the A-Midex project (ANR-11-IDEX-0001-02). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.