Climate Change and State Evolution

Despite substantial evidence on the short-term effects of adverse climate shocks, our understanding of their long-term impact is limited.  To address such a key issue, research has focused on ancient societies because of their limited economic complexity and their unparalleled experience of environmental and institutional change.  Notably, ‘Collapse Archaeology’ literature has reported statistical evidence consistent with the mantra that severe droughts trigger institutional crises.  This view, however, has recently been challenged by literature summarized in the paper Climate Change and State Evolution by Giacomo Benati and Carmine Guerriero.

Ziggurat w Nippur (współczesny Nuffar, Irak), niegdyś centrum religijne południowej Mezopotamii. Nawet jeśli uznajemy wywołany przez przemiany środowiska upadek starożytnych społeczeństw, to aby właściwie ocenić pełny wpływ zmian klimatycznych i związanych z nimi zmian politycznych, musimy odpowiednio połączyć wyniki analiz nauk przyrodniczych i społecznych © G. Benati
Ziggurat of Nippur (modern Nuffar, Iraq), once at the center of a key religious Mesopotamian polity and cultic center. Even if the environmental induced collapse of ancient societies has attracted much attention, to correctly evaluate the full impact of climate change and inform policy intervention we need to properly combine natural and social sciences. 
©  G. Benati

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[INTERVIEW] Rolling in the deep – emerald mines in the desert

Some time ago we wrote about the ancient port of Berenike on the Red Sea coast. This time we had an opportunity to talk with dr Joan Oller Guzmán from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, who in 2020 and 2021 conducted an archaeological survey in the Mons Smaragdus region of the Egyptian Eastern Desert. This region was known in Antiquity as the only source of emeralds within the borders of the Roman Empire! 

We invite you venture further into this article, where dr. Guzmán tells us about exploring underground galleries and what they have found in the dungeons deep.

“Świątynia południowa” w Wadi Sikait, Egipt © J. O. Guzman
“South temple” in Wadi Sikait, Egypt
© J. O. Guzman

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Animal dung as a strategic resource in the kingdom of Mari

Kings of Mari controlled an important trade route in the valley of the Euphrates River in the 3rd and early 2nd millennium BCE. Although their country was situated in an area with unfavourable conditions for agriculture, the economy of the kingdom of Mari could support a big population. The key to understanding this paradox is animal dung.

The kingdom of Mari was the most powerful country of north Mesopotamia in the 3rd and early 2nd millennium BC. Its power is reflected both by the size of its capital (modern archaeological site of Tell Hariri), which occupied an area of more than 60 hectares – more than Cracow in the 13th century – and by the fact that six of its rulers were included in the Sumerian King List, that is a record of the dynasties that were regarded as those holding superior power in Sumer. The dynasty from Mari was the only dynasty from north Mesopotamia on this list. 

Sala tronowa w pałacu Zimri-Lima, ostatniego króla Mari fot. Herbert Frank (opublikowano na licencji CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
The throne room in the palace of Zimri-Lima, the last Mari king
Photo: Herbert Frank
(Published under CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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Suffocated with smoke. Massacre in Kan-Gohar Cave, Iran

The cruel commander Malek Ashraf attacked the town of Bavanat in 1342, during the civil war in Iran. The inhabitants of the town had hidden in a cave located nearby. Since their shelter was difficult to access the soldiers made a great fire at the entrance to the cave. The refugees could try to jump over the fire, straight into the hands of the attacking forces, but most were suffocated with the smoke. Modern archaeologists reveal tragic mysteries of the massacre by analysing burned bones found in the Kan-Gohar Cave.

Szczątki ludzkie (i kość zwierzęca) z irańskiej jaskini Kan-Gohar, obecnie w Ośrodku Medycyny Sądowej Prowincji Fars Fot. Mahsa Nadżafi
Human remains (and animal bone) from Iran’s Kan-Gohar cave,
currently at the Forensic Medicine Centre of Fars Province
photo: Mahsa Najafi

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