Ancient trash mounds suggest climate change could have hastened fall of part of Byzantine Empire

Ancient trash mounds suggest climate change could have hastened fall of part of Byzantine Empire
View of Elusa trash mound. Credit: Guy Bar-Oz.

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Israel has found evidence that suggests rapid climate change might have been a factor in the fall of part of the Byzantine Empire. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their study of trash mounds outside the boundaries of the ancient settlement of Elusa and what they found.

The Byzantine Empire (often referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire) existed from approximately 330 to 1453 CE—its capital was Constantinople and its size changed dramatically over the course of its existence. At its largest, it included land in Greece, Italy, the Balkans, Asia Minor, North Africa and the Levant. The Empire ceased to exist when it was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453. Prior research has suggested that the Empire lost its hold on the Levant due to Islamic conquests in the seventh century. In this new effort, the researchers suggest the invaders might have had a little help from Mother Nature.

The researchers note that their study of the ancient of Elusa in the Levant (now in Israel) did not begin with studying trash heaps—it was only after they became curious about the large mounds just outside of what had once been the settlement's borders. A little digging revealed that the mounds were nothing more than trash heaps that had been formed from discarded material by the people of Elusa.

Ancient trash mounds suggest climate change could have hastened fall of part of Byzantine Empire
Shells from Elusa trash mound. Credit: Guy Bar-Oz.

The researchers excavated all the way down to the bottom of one of the mounds and found that it had been created in layers—this suggested that the trash dumping had occurred as part of a concerted effort. The researchers suggest it was due to the efforts of organized trash collectors. But they also found something else—the organized collection had ceased nearly a century before the settlement had been overrun by invaders. But why? The researchers suggest it was likely a sign that the settlement had fallen on hard times. If that was the case, what might have caused it?

Ancient trash mounds suggest climate change could have hastened fall of part of Byzantine Empire
Olive pits recovered from Elusa trash mound. Credit: Guy Bar-Oz

Other research has shown that a mini-ice age occurred, starting in 536 CE, officially referred to as the Late Antique Little Ice Age. It was set off by three volcanoes erupting and filling the skies with so much debris that much of Europe and Asia became colder. And that led to crop failures and hard times. The researchers note that Elusa's chief export at the time was Gaza wine, and while was not impacted by the little ice age, exports to major customers might have been. With customers drying up, the settlement of Elusa might have suffered both hard times and a shrinking population, making it easy pickings for the invaders when they arrived.

Ancient trash mounds suggest climate change could have hastened fall of part of Byzantine Empire
Excavation at Elusa trash mound. Credit: Guy Bar-Oz.

Explore further

Israel discovers large Byzantine-era wine press

More information: Guy Bar-Oz et al. Ancient trash mounds unravel urban collapse a century before the end of Byzantine hegemony in the southern Levant, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1900233116

© 2019 Science X Network

Citation: Ancient trash mounds suggest climate change could have hastened fall of part of Byzantine Empire (2019, March 26) retrieved 22 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-03-ancient-trash-mounds-climate-hastened.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
652 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Mar 26, 2019
And no fossil fuel evidence about..

Does this make CC in our generation FAKE news?

Still have not seen a single Gore prediction come true..

Mar 26, 2019
@btb
Still have not seen a single Gore prediction come true
you do realise that gore is a politician, right?

if you want to talk about predictions you need to reference the science, not gore
more importantly, you need to understand science, including, but not limited to:
the principles
proven physics
limitations
error margins

to date, the science predictions have been incredibly accurate, and they're getting more accurate with every passing year
And no fossil fuel evidence about
don't confuse climate change with anthropogenic global warming

this is essentially a lesson from history about rapid climate change and how it can affect civilizations

Mar 26, 2019
Yay ! NOT pay-walled !!

Hmm. THREE volcanoes 536~540 CE ?
IIRC, there's strong evidence for a 'tropical' eruption plus a high-latitude eruption, although the latter's location is disputed. Some ash-fall evidence suggests Icelandic, caldera perhaps lost to a much later eruption.
But three ?
When and where did #3 appear ??

Mar 26, 2019
@Nik_2213
But three ?
When and where did #3 appear ??
not sure myself, but I am looking through Sigl M, et al. (2015) (second reference) to see what correlates
PDF here: https://pure.qub....1467.pdf

he also lists Haldon J, et al. (2018) and Harper K (2017) as references for:
The LALIA is an extreme cold climatic anomaly of the last two and a half millennia, with its beginning anchored to a series of massive volcanic eruptions in the 530s and 540s CE
let us know if you find anything


Mar 26, 2019
research has shown that a mini-ice age occurred,,,,,,,,,,,, that led to crop failures and hard times.

Hmm..COLD climate leads to the end of civilizations. Who woulda thunk?

Mar 26, 2019
@ATG: Unless you have several years of harvest stockpiled and an effective distribution network, any rapid change such as drought, flood, storm, ash-fall, war, disease etc etc etc will collapse a maxed-out system.
IIRC, the Egyptians' long Nile Gauge records warned the Seasonal Rising could come early, late, high, low or not at all. Canny Pharaohs kept vast granaries filled, boasted of their fore-thought. Even so, a run of bad years still meant disaster...
ps: If you intended a :wink:, please, please show one...

Mar 27, 2019
They were vegans. They produced so much methane, climate changed and they disappeared. They should have eaten meat.

Mar 27, 2019
@ATG & @TB: Please read... https://en.wikipe...%27s_law

Mar 27, 2019
there were a number of causes for climate change.
From Whenever to Forever!
Careless fires assisted overgrazing in the expansion of small deserts into great deserts.,

The denierbots are not scripted with how refrigerators work.
So the pathetic dweebs go on & on about AGW.
Global Climate Change is a normal concurrence since forever.

What is the present concern is greedy morons reckless efforts to destroy the only Living World available.

GCC is nice, when moderate rains & sunshine help the crops grow.

However, thanks to the death cult of Mammon, we all. ALL OF US! Are endangered.
Trying to survive destructive extremes as in,
Too much wet here &
too much dry there.
When the Poles should be frozen ice?
They now get warming snow.
The Great Plains of North America & the Black Earth of Europe & the Red Earth of China needed that snowfall to protect the delicate Winter Wheat shoots.
Instead they got ruinous freezes & now floods to rot the crops in their fields.

Mar 29, 2019
research has shown that a mini-ice age occurred,,,,,,,,,,,, that led to crop failures and hard times.

Hmm..COLD climate leads to the end of civilizations. Who woulda thunk?
Do you really think such an obvious logical fallacy will fool most of the people who read this article? Most people know that two things can have superficially similar results. Are you that desperate to reconfirm your supposedly devastating wit?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more