Falling down like dominoes. Why Great Civilizations Failed Mysteriously 3,200 Years Ago
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During the 13th and 12th centuries BC, many of the “great ancient civilizations” fell into decline. The once majestic cities of the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East were reduced to rubble, writing was destroyed, wars raged and cultures were wiped out.
Historians still vehemently debate the exact causes the so-called “collapse of the Bronze Age”, previously a relatively happy period in history, writes IFLScience. Then the culture as “civilization of the Bronze Age” was determined by its ability to produce bronze by melting down copper and combining it with tin and other metals.
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Bronze was the most durable and affordable metal at that time, which made it possible to gain a technological advantage in the field of weapons, engineering, etc. . For its part, this later helped to form large urban settlements, develop complex social class systems and create many writing systems.
Civilizations that flourished during this era include the Middle Assyrian Empire in Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Babylonia, the Hittite Empire in Anatolia, and the Minoan civilization in Crete. Although all these states were spread all over the world, they were closely connected by trade and migration. However, around 1177 B.C. this successful network collapsed.
One of the common explanations for the collapse of the then civilizations is the arrival of marauding invaders, known as the “sea peoples”. They left no monuments or written records behind them, so their identity is still unclear and controversial. There is an opinion that they were indeed representatives of many different maritime cultures that sailed around the Eastern Mediterranean. Be that as it may, these “sea peoples” created a real hell in Anatolia, Syria, Phoenicia, Canaan, Cyprus and Egypt, destroying or forcing them to leave countless ancient cities.
The arrival of these enigmatic seafarers is hardly the full story. Some argue that Bronze Age civilizations rotted from within due to a general systemic collapse. This theory suggests that many Late Bronze Age kingdoms had a “fatal centralized, complex and top-heavy” political structure that left them vulnerable to inequality and social instability. Another possibility is the advent of iron and changes in warfare, which meant that battles became increasingly destructive.
Another intriguing suggestion is that the decline of the Bronze Age is related to environmental upheavals. A 2013 study looked at pollen grains from ancient lake deposits in the region and found evidence of climate change around this time. These environmental changes, according to the authors of the study, have led to widespread droughts, food shortages and famines. The consequence of this was mass migration, social upheaval, and the fact that these once strong civilizations became vulnerable to invaders.
As always, the history of the decline of the Bronze Age cannot be explained linearly or by any single cause . Most likely, this is a complex combination of all the factors that played one role or another in different territories.
The decline of that period is a kind of reminder that no civilization should ever consider its position in the world permanent. With the right combination of climate change, war and technological advancement, even powerful societies can collapse.