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Study suggests that collapse of Hittite Empire was accelerated by drought

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A study on tree rings by Cornell University and using isotope records has suggested that the collapse of the Hittite Empire was accelerated by drought.

The Hittites were an Anatolian people who established an Empire stretching across most of Anatolia, parts of the northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia, centred on the capital of Hattusa near modern Boğazkale, Turkey.

Before the arrival of the Hittites, the region was inhabited by the Hattian people known as the “land of Hatti” around 2000 BC. The Hattians were absorbed into a new Hittite state either by conquest or gradual assimilation, but the origins of the Hittites are divisive, with some academics speculating a connection with the Yamnaya culture of the Pontic–Caspian steppe, the Ezero culture of the Balkans or the Maykop culture of the Caucasus.

Most of what we know about the Hittites comes from cuneiform text written in either Akkadian (the diplomatic language of the time) or in the various dialects of the Hittite confederation, and from diplomatic and commercial correspondence found in archives in Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt and the Middle East.

The collapse of the Hittite Empire in the Late Bronze Age has been blamed on various factors, from war with other territories to internal strife. Now, a Cornell University team has used tree ring and isotope records to pinpoint a more likely culprit: three straight years of severe drought.

In a paper published in the journal, Nature, archaeologists studied samples from the Midas Mound Tumulus at Gordion, a man-made 53-metre-tall structure located west of Ankara, Turkey.

The mound contains a wooden structure believed to be a burial chamber for a relative of King Midas, possibly his father. But equally important are the juniper trees – which grow slowly and live for centuries, even a millennium – that were used to build the structure and contain a hidden paleoclimatic record of the region.

The researchers looked at the patterns of tree-ring growth, with unusually narrow rings likely indicating dry conditions, in conjunction with changes in the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 recorded in the rings, which indicate the tree’s response to the availability of moisture.

Their analysis finds a general shift to drier conditions from the later 13th into the 12th century BC, and they peg a dramatic continuous period of severe dryness to approximately 1198–96 BC, plus or minus three years, which matches the timeline of the Hittite’s disappearance.

“We have two complementary sets of evidence,” Manning said. “The tree-ring widths indicate something really unusual is going on, and because it’s very narrow rings, that means the tree is struggling to stay alive. In a semi-arid environment, the only plausible reason that’s happening is because there’s little water, therefore it’s a drought, and this one is particularly serious for three consecutive years. Critically, the stable isotope evidence extracted from the tree-rings confirms this hypothesis, and we can establish a consistent pattern despite this all being over 3,150 years ago.”

At three consecutive years of drought, hundreds of thousands of people, including the enormous Hittite army, would face famine, even starvation. The tax base would crumble, as would the government. Survivors would be forced to migrate, an early example of the inequality of climate change.

Severe climate events may not have been the sole reason for the Hittite Empire’s collapse, the researchers noted, and not all of the ancient Near East suffered crises at the time. But this particular stretch of drought may have been a tipping point, at least for the Hittites.

Cornell University

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This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Trove of Roman objects linked to feasting found at Ostia antica

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Archaeologists have uncovered a trove of Roman objects linked to ritual feasting at Ostia antica.

Ostia Antica is an ancient harbour town located at the mouth of the Tiber River. The harbour served as the main port for Rome, transporting goods and people from the coast along the Via Ostiensis.

Archaeologists recently excavated the area of Regio I – Insula XV, a “sacred area” or precinct housing several temples and sanctuaries. At the centre is the temple of Hercules,  a 31 x 16 metre monument which dates from the Republican Era.

Excavations have revealed a substantial well situated at the base of the temple of Hercules. Upon draining the well, it was discovered to hold a significant collection of objects dating from the 1st to 2nd century AD.

Among the objects are various ceramics, miniatures, lamps, glass containers, fragments of marble, and burnt animal bones (pigs and cattle). According to the archaeologists, the trove corresponds with ritual feasting associated with cult at the temple.

In a press statement by the Ministry of Culture: “The discovery of burnt bones confirms that animal sacrifices were carried out in the sanctuary, while the common ceramics, also bearing traces of fire, indicate that the meat was cooked and consumed during banquets in honour of divinity. The remains of one or more ritual meals were thrown into the well, the last ones probably when their function had ceased.”

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Culture

Sources : Ministry of Culture

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Labyrinthine structure discovered from the Minoan civilisation

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Archaeologists have discovered a monumental labyrinthine structure on the summit of Papoura Hill in Crete.

The discovery was made during the installation of a radar system in preparation for the construction of a new airport in the area.

According to experts, the structure dates from between 2000 to 1700 BC shortly before or at the start of the palaeopalatial Minoan period.

The Minoan civilisation was a Bronze Age culture that emerged on the island of Crete around 3100 BC. The culture is known for the monumental architecture and energetic art, and is often regarded as the first civilisation in Europe.

Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

The chronology of the Minoans is characterised into three distinct phases – Early Minoan (EM), Middle Minoan (MM), and Late Minoan (LM).

The palaeopalatial structure is part of the MMI – II grouping in the Middle Minoan, a period in which the first palaces were built and saw the development of the Minoan writing systems, Cretan hieroglyphic and Linear A.

The structure comprises of 8 concentric stone rings that converge on a central circular building. The entire diameter of the complex measures 48 metres and covers an area of approximately 1800 square metres.

Within the central structure are four designated zones in which radial walls intersect vertically and form a labyrinthine structure. Zones A and B appear to be have the main concentration of human activity, evidenced by the presence of large amounts of animals bones.

According to the experts, this residential area likely had a truncated cone or vaulted appearance and is the first monument of this type excavated in Crete. It can perhaps be paralleled with the elliptical MM building of the Chamezi Archaeological Site, as well as with the so-called circular proto-Hellenic cyclopean building of Tiryns.

The Minister of Culture, said: “This is a unique and highly significant find. Solutions are in place to ensure the completion of the archaeological research and the protection of the monument.”

Header Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

Sources : Greek Ministry of Culture

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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