London: Climate change may have hastened the collapse of once-flourishing Eastern Mediterranean civilisations in the 13th century BC by sparking political and economic turmoil, a new study has found.
Ancient civilisations flourished in regions of the Eastern Mediterranean such as Greece, Syria and neighbouring areas, but suffered severe crises that led to their collapse during the late Bronze Age, researchers said.
Researchers from University of Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France and colleagues studied pollen grains derived from sediments of an ancient lake in the region to uncover a history of environmental changes that likely drove this crisis.
Shifts in carbon isotopes in the Eastern Mediterranean and in local plant species suggest that this lake was once a flourishing harbour that gradually dried into a land-locked salt lake, researchers said.
As a result, crop failures led to famines, repeated invasions by migrants from neighbouring regions and eventually, the political and economic collapse of the Eastern Mediterranean civilisations at the end of the late Bronze Age.
Combining this data with archaeological evidence from cuneiform tablets and correspondence between kings, the researchers suggest that the late Bronze Age crisis was a complex, single event comprised of climate change-induced drought, famines, sea-borne invasions and political struggles, rather than a series of unrelated events.
They concluded that this event underlines the sensitivity of these agriculture-based societies to climate, and demystifies the crisis that led to their end.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.