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Abrupt Climate Change May Have Rocked the Cradle of Civilization


New research reveals that some of the earliest civilizations in the Middle East and the Fertile Crescent may have been affected by abrupt climate change. These findings show that while socio-economic factors were traditionally considered to shape ancient human societies in this region, the influence of abrupt climate change should not be underestimated.

A team of international scientists led by researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science found that during the first half of the last interglacial period known as the Holocene epoch, which began about 12,000 years ago and continues today, the Middle East most likely experienced wetter conditions in comparison with the last 6,000 years, when the conditions were drier and dustier.

Artist’s reconstruction of the Sumerian city of Ur.

Artist’s reconstruction of the Sumerian city of Ur. (Kings Academy)

"Evidence for wet early Holocene was previously found in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea region, North and East African lakes and cave deposits from Southwest Asia, and attributed to higher solar insolation during this period," said Ali Pourmand, assistant professor of marine geosciences at the UM Rosenstiel School, who supervised the project. "Our study, however, is the first of its kind from the interior of West Asia and unique in its resolution and multi-proxy approach."

The Fertile Crescent, a region in west Asia that extends from Iran and the Arabian Peninsula to the eastern Mediterranean Sea and northern Egypt is one of the most climatically dynamic regions in the world and is widely considered the birthplace of early human civilizations.

"The high-resolution nature of this record afforded us the rare opportunity to examine the influence of abrupt climate change on early human societies. We see that transitions in several major civilizations across this region, as evidenced by the available historical and archeological records, coincided with episodes of high atmospheric dust; higher fluxes of dust are attributed to drier conditions across the region over the last 5,000 years," said Arash Sharifi, Ph.D. candidate at the department of marine geosciences and the lead author of the study.

Setting up the core in multi sensor core logger (MSCL) at the paleoceanography lab at the Rosenstiel School, to make a high-resolution image and measure the physical properties such as density and magnetic susceptibility.

Setting up the core in multi sensor core logger (MSCL) at the paleoceanography lab at the Rosenstiel School, to make a high-resolution image and measure the physical properties such as density and magnetic susceptibility. (Diana Udel, UM Rosenstiel School Communications Office)

The researchers investigated climate variability and changes in paleoenvironmental conditions during the last 13,000 years based on a high-resolution (sub-decadal to centennial) peat record from Neor Lake in Northwest Iran. Abrupt climate changes occur in the span of years to decades.

Featured image: Illustration of Mesopotamia. (Jeff Brown Graphics)

Source: University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. "Abrupt climate change may have rocked the cradle of civilization: Effects of climate on human societies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 July 2015.



IronicLyricist's picture

its called global nuclear war and if things dont shape up itll happen again…

infinitesimal waveparticles comprise what we call home the earth
manipulatable by thought ability supressed in humans since birth

I have thought for some time that the Santorini supervolcano about 1400BCE changed a lot of things in the middle east as well as on Crete. Gilgamesh and Enkidu's trip to the lands of Humbaba to the West was stated to be for timber as much as anything. A major deforestation at that time around 4000 BCE could have brought about the creation of the Syrian Desert, and the following incident of the Bull of Heaven suggests a major earthquake to me. That's only my opinion though.

rbflooringinstall's picture

This definitely coincides with everything we learned about polar shifts and climate change and floods and atomic bombs and everything else.

Peace and Love,


Unfortunately, for the last couple hundred years, we have live in an age of authoritarianism, which always includes mysticism and today has lots of pseudo science.

Although written in very dry language, this artilcle, or the research it discusses, merely confirms what has become more and more apparent – sometime between 2000 and 4000 BCE (I think closr to 2500 BCE, but no one can precisely date the ancient past), a worldwide disaster struck.

We know the Sahara came into being at that time.  This article mentions African lakes, so you wouldn’t guess the Sahara had giant lakes, including the now completely dry Lake Mega Chad, over half the size of one of the Great Lakes.  And tons of rivers etc.  Same with the great northern deserts of China.  Until last year, people thought they had existed for milions of years, but now we now they too came into being only a few thousand years ago, probably at the same instant as the Sahara.

If you look at a globe or world map along the 25th to 35th parallel, desert covers almost the entire area, except where ocean intervenes, and the SW USA and nearby islands.

And they continue to get drier and drier.  The evaporation rates in the Middle East greatly exceed the rainfall rates.  Alexander the Great only 2400 hundred years ago marched to Persia with elephants, horses, and thousands of troops, across lands that camels cross today because nothing else can.

I think the earth has suffered through tens of thousands of years of terrible catastrophes, many during human memory. 


Tom Carberry

There was obviously a time of great flooding, given the abundance of ancient tales about such an event, and possibly this was due to the final stages of the receding ice-age, as the last vestiges of the glaciers crumbled and melted away. This would have led to the great migrations which are also chronicled in ancient sagas including the Torah (Semites emerging from the Arab Peninsula) and Rig Veda (Caucasions arrving in Iran & India).

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