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October 25, 2013 4:36 pm

Drought Led to Rise of Ancient Israelite Kingdom, Study Says

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A sunset over Israel's Sea of Galilee. Sediment samples from under the sea suggest widespread drought led to collapse of Bronze Age civilizations. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org A series of major droughts may have led to the collapse of several great Bronze Age civilizations in the eastern Mediterranean between 1250 and 1100 B.C.E, leading to the rise of new civilizations such as the ancient Israelite kingdom, a new three-year study published in the Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University proposes.

Using samples of sediment retrieved from up to 18 meters underneath the Sea of Galilee and other sites such as the Dead Sea, researchers were able to use fossilized pollen grains to understand ancient climate conditions.

“These [pollen] particles tell us about the vegetation that grew near the lake and testify to the climatic conditions in the region,” Palynologist Dafna Langgut, one of the report’s authors, told Haaretz.

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According to researchers, at the end of the Bronze Age severe cold spells and reduced precipitation destroyed crops in the ancient Near East. This caused severe droughts, widespread famine and mass migration.

The pollen climate record also correlates with ancient Near Eastern documents that tell of droughts and famine from the Hittite Empire in modern day Turkey to ancient Egyptian civilizations.

“Egypt is gone. Forever,” Tel Aviv University Professor Israel Finkelstein, one of the study’s authors, told the New York Times. “It never got back to that level of prosperity again.”

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