Washington: A team of scientists has refuted the theory of climate change being the cause behind the huge population collapse in Europe at the end of the Bronze Age.
Archaeologists and environmental scientists from the University of Bradford, University of Leeds, University College Cork, Ireland (UCC), and Queen's University Belfast have shown that the changes in climate that scientists believed to coincide with the fall in population in fact occurred at least two generations later.
Researcher Graeme Swindles said that they found clear evidence for a rapid change in climate to much wetter conditions, which they were able to precisely pinpoint to 750BC using statistical methods.
According to lead author Ian Armit, social and economic stress is more likely to be the cause of the sudden and widespread fall in numbers as communities producing bronze needed to trade over very large distances to obtain copper and tin.
Control of these networks enabled the growth of complex, hierarchical societies dominated by a warrior elite and as iron production took over, these networks collapsed, leading to widespread conflict and social collapse.
It may be these unstable social conditions, rather than climate change, that led to the population collapse at the end of the Bronze Age.
Researcher Katharina Becker, who thinks the Late Bronze Age is usually seen as a time of plenty, in contrast to an impoverished Early Iron Age, said that their results show that the rich Bronze Age artifact record does not provide the full picture and that crisis began earlier than previously thought.
The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.