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Catastrophes and Prehistory

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Author Topic: Catastrophes and Prehistory  (Read 6975 times)
Troy Exeter
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Posts: 2113

« Reply #30 on: March 18, 2007, 10:45:25 pm »

The destruction of the Old Kingdom was followed by a period of a violent economic and social upheaval.

From Admonitions of Ipuwer:

"The fruitful water of Nile is flooding,
The fields are not cultivated,
Robbers and tramps wander about and
Foreign people invade the country from everywhere.
Diseases rage and women are barren.
All social order has ceased,
Taxes are not paid and
Temples and palaces are being insulted.
Those who once were veiled by splendid garments, are now ragged.
Noble women wander around the country and lament:
"If only we would have something to eat."
Men throw themselves in the jaws of crocodiles -
So out of one's senses are people in their horror.
Laughter has ceased everywhere.
Mourning and lament are in its place.
Both old and young wish they are dead."

"Men don't any more sail to north, to Byblos.
"Where do we now get our cedar for our mummy coffins and oil to balm?""

Translated, collected and commented by TN.

The Curse of Akkad

Circa 2100 B.C.

"The large fields and acres produced no grain

The flooded fields produced no fish

The watered gardens produced no honey and wine

The heavy clouds did not rain

On its plains where grew fine plants

'lamentation reeds' now grow."

Quotations from H. Weiss, The Sciences, May/June 1996

"First of the world's empires, Akkad was not the last to blame

its fall on sacrilege. In a fit of pique, the author of the curse

believed, the Akkadian emperor had destroyed a temple to the sky god

Enlil, bringing on a century of drought, famine, and barbarian

invasions. How else to explain the empire's sudden, calamitous


"Only a hundred years before the collapse, Sargon of Akkad had

wrested the Sumerian city-states from Lugalzaggesi of Umma, then

stormed across the plains of Mesopotamia. When it was done the

Akkadian Empire controlled trade from the silver mines of Anatolia

to the lapis lazuli mines of Badakhshan, from the cedar forests of

Lebanon to the Gulf of Oman. In northern Mesopotamia, meanwhile,

fortresses were built to control imperial wheat production. To the

south, irrigation canals were extended, a new bureaucracy

established and palaces and temples built from imperial taxes.

"Then, abruptly, things fell apart. Sometime around

2200 BC seasonal rains became scarce, and withering storms replaced

them. The winds cut through northern wheat fields and blanketed them

in dust. They emptied out towns and villages, sending people

stumbling south with pastoral nomads, to seek forage along rivers

and streams. For more than a hundred years the desertification

continued, disrupting societies from southwestern Europe to central

Asia. Egypt's Old Kingdom, the towns of Palestine and the great

cities of the Indus Valley also were among the casualties.

"The Akkadian occupation of Tell Leilan, in any case, was to last

less than a hundred years. Only decades after the city's massive

walls were raised, its religious quarter renovated and its grain

production reorganized, Tell Leilan was suddenly abandoned. In our

excavations the collapsed remains of Akkadian buildings are covered

with erosion deposits that show no trace of human activity. Only

above them, in strata from 1900 BC, do ash, trash, and the

monumental remains of a new imperial capital appear.

"Striking as it is, the site's occupational hiatus came as no

surprise to us. Archaeologists first documented it in the late 1930s

at other sites in the region, relegating it to a footnote. Fifty

years later, when our team rediscovered the odd hiatus, we went one

step further. By determining radiocarbon dates for materials from

before and after the hiatus, we refined its chronology. By comparing

ceramics from our site with ceramics from the same strata at other

sites, we tracked the hiatus throughout the area. Whether at Tell

Leilan or Tell Taya, Chagar Bazar or Tell-al-Hawa, the results told

the same story: between 2200 and 1900 BC, people fled the Habur and

Assyrian plains en masse.

"Little by little, evidence of previously unrecorded climatic

events emerged. A thin layer of volcanic ash covers the last

Akkadian mud bricks. Just above that a layer of fine sand eight

inches thick testifies to centuries of flailing wind and relentless

drought. A volcanic eruption probably could not have caused the

disaster, but whether one did so may be unimportant. No matter what

caused them, dust storms and drought made rain-fed farming difficult

if not impossible. Year after year crops failed in northern


"Periods of drying climate are nothing new to Near Eastern

archaeologists. What is new are the data showing sudden, severe,

long-term climatic change. Add to these findings the simultaneous

social collapses documented in the Aegean, Egypt, Palestine, Iran,

and the Indus Valley, and you have a provocative picture indeed. The

problem, oddly enough, is that archaeologists have been ignoring it

for decades.

"In 1948 the French archaeologist Claude Schaeffer cast his eye

over the urban collapses of the third millennium and concluded that

regionwide earthquakes were to blame. A decade later the British

archaeologist James Mellaart fingered drought and migrations as the

culprit. Schaeffer's hypothesis seemed too fantastic for serious

study; Mellaart's, though less improbable, still depended on a deus ex


"Civilization on Crete and mainland Greece, like its neighbors,

collapsed in 2200 BC. The great cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa

in the Indus Valley collapsed between 2200 and 2100 BC. The

archaeologist Rafique Mughal of the Pakistan Department of

Archaeology blames shifting river courses, citing evidence that the

Indus River channels moved eastward, away from Harappan urban


"Could the collapses be coincidental? No.

There is no pattern of collapse in 2700 BC or in 2500 BC, only in 2200 BC.

Dry spells and drops in lake levels (occur) in the Sahel, the Sahara,

northwestern India, and western Tibet roughly between 2600 and 2200

BC. Lake Turkana in Kenya abruptly changed from an open to a closed

basin around 2000 BC. And around 2250 BC the level of the Dead Sea

reached a nadir. Sediments between Greenland and Iceland show a cold

peak around 2200 BC. Gulf of Oman: around 2300 BC dust suddenly

increased fivefold, the record during (the) Holocene. The dust peak

contains shards of volcanic glass." (The population of Finland

dropped to 1/3 somewhere between 2400 and 2000 BC. - TN)

Epilogue by TN

The Third Dynasty of Ur was the last attempt to revive

Sumer, after a chaos of 100 years

beginning with the destruction of Akkadian Sumer around 2200 BC.

During the Akkadian period wheat was the most important cereal and

its share of the harvest was about 20 %. During the years 2200-2100

BC the saltiness of the soil rose markedly, possibly because of salty

sea floods and, and after them, because of the following dryness that

evaporated the water leaving the salt behind. In the northern

Mesopotamia the wheat share dropped to 2 % and in the southern part

to zero. This change seems to coincide with the period when there

was no central authority.

Mesopotamia and other above-mentioned places were not the only victims of the 2200 BC event. As far away as in China, the Hongsan culture fell in pieces at this same time. This, if not anything else, is an indication of the mighty character of the event, and bolsters us to consider it as global.

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