The Catastrophic End of the Early Bronze Age – part 1

Synopsis of an ancient destruction

Collapses and ancient destructions of civilizations are historically blamed on conquest, stagnating bureaucracy and other causes essentially led by human hands. This article firmly blames the chaotic blends of nature Conquest and ineptitude were essentially side effects of the uncontrollable wrath of nature .A nature that was far more virulent than is seen in recent times.This example of the Early Bronze Age is but one in a series that decimated mankind.

The Catastrophic End of the Early Bronze Age

Testimonials from respected archaeologists Kathryn Kenyon, Ernest Wright, Claude Schaeffer, John Garstung, Paolo Matthiae ,Carl Blegen’s, Michael Rice

The sudden and dramatic collapse of the Early Bronze Age civilizations, around 3200 B.C., has puzzled many an Archaeologist. Highly respected academics such as Kathryn Kenyon and John Garstung have wondered over these unexplained phenomena. The consensus of academic opinion notes not only was it sudden and dramatic but that it was widespread in it’s geography, spreading from Europe, across Asia Minor to the Indus valley and beyond to China. There seems a high probability the Americas were involved.

Before we proceed I think it essential to review some of the academic opinions on the subject from the professional Archaeologist to the scientific investigator. Then I believe it constructive to find out what happened and what caused these events. In particular I would like to examine how much may have been caused by mankind’s misadventures (e.g. War, environmental misuse, religious fervour and weak leadership) and what proportion can we allot to events largely out of our control (e.g. Disease, famine, flood, climate, tectonic disturbance and cosmic events)

The Catastrophic End of the Early Bronze Age

Let us first move towards a consensus of what actually occurred. Our first witness is Kathryn Kenyon, excavator of both Jericho and Jerusalem

“The final end of the early Bronze Age civilization came with catastrophic completeness… Jericho was probably completely destroyed… Every town in Palestine that has so far been investigated shows the same break… All traces of the early bronze Age civilization disappeared.”

Next let us hear Ernest Wright’s testimony

“One of the most striking facts about the Early Bronze Age civilization is its destruction, one so violent that scarcely a vestige of it survived. We do not know when the event took place; we only know that there is not an early Bronze Age city excavated or explored in all Palestine which does not have a gap in its occupation between Early bronze Age 3 and the Middle Bronze Age. To date this gap, we know that it must approximately contemporary with a similar period in Egypt called the First Intermediate period between dynasties 6 and 11 (Ca. 2200 and 2100 B.C.”

Next we have Greece from Maria Gimbutas

“The destruction of the early Helladic 2 town at Lerna in the Eastern Peloponnese is an example of the widespread and violent destruction that occurred Ca. 2300 B.C. in the Aegean and East Mediterranean.”

According to Mellart

“In the period after the collapse of the early bronze Age the number of settlements is reduced to a quarter of the number in the previous period”.

Michael Rice helps darken the picture,

“In Eastern Arabia a sharp downturn in settlements and activity became apparent after Ca. 2000”.


In the Indus Valley we see Harappa and Mohen Jodharo overwhelmed, its inscriptions still unable to be interpreted. In all these areas a Hiatus exists between this close and the opening of the new era.

Thus we several distinguished authors noting a sudden end to this era. It was accompanied by widespread destruction and I will let Carl Schaeffer, Perhaps Frances most eminent modern Archaeologist, describe some of the accompanying phenomena. When first excavating Crete and Ras Shamira (Ugarit) he noticed six lines of demarcation separating the stratigraphy. However he was staggered that in other sites he examined in the Middle East and then Europe a similar separation occurred. More particularly when he examined Carl Blegen’s excavation in Troy they found that there was a carpet of Ashes sixteen meters thick covering the Troy 2 level. This is the one that corresponds to Old kingdom in Egypt (around 2200B.C.) I for clarity quote him

“There is not the slightest doubt that the conflagration of Troy 2 corresponds to the Catastrophe that made an end to the Habitations of Alaca Huyuk, AlisairTarsus, Tepe Hissar and to the Catastrophe that burned ancient Ugarit in Syria, Byblos, the that flourished under the Old Kingdom in Egypt, the contemporaneous cities of Palestine, and that it was among the causes that terminated the old Kingdom of Egypt”.

Schaeffers monumental work concludes that massive tectonic disturbances have visited the Middle East and Europe more than once, yet the one that caused such widespread destruction at the end of the early Bronze Age is of a kind that has not been seen since. Its destructive zone spreading from the very least Troy to Ugarit is 1000 Kilometers. Not even Krakatoa comes close to this. His final conclusion, which I will again quote, is enlightening since the accompanying phenomena start to make sense of the picture after the catastrophe. “In most countries the population suffered great reduction in numbers; in others settled living replaced nomadic existence”.


Schaeffer also noted that climatic change and massive race movements had accompanied this Hiatus between civilizations. What evidence do we have that such climatic change occurred? Recently their has been a Plethora of papers from scientists of many disciplines backing up the occurrence of a dramatic climate change around 2500 B.C – 2000 B.C. Changes in climate can be measured in several ways. Certainly tree ring growth gives good indication of drought or otherwise but perhaps more exciting is the total change in Flora that can occur.

For instance Marchant reports a marked increase in the level of palms around 3800B.P.We have another more curious measure of rainfall associated with cave speleotherms. Isotopic content gives an indication that rainfall up to 4.5 kyr ago was much wetter followed by a 30-50% drop for the next 800 years. This produced a marked increase in certain drought resistant vegetation in the area (Eastern Mediterranean). Climatic change also affected the flow of the Nile, the principle vehicle for support amongst the Egyptians. Two cores taken downstream in the central Nile delta show distinctive erosion wash down layers from Ethiopia. This is characteristic sediment from areas that have been subject to extreme drying and erosion. There are two horizon layers. One at 4250 cal yr.B.P and one at 4050 cal yr. B.P. The Author notes similar drought evidence at the same time across Africa and Asia. A similar period is noted in the Great Plains, Mid Western U.S.A.

Peter Mungo Jupp

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