What caused the Greek Dark Age?

The Greek Dark Age is a 'silent' period in Greek history where little or no archaeological traces are available. This period started at the very end of the Mycenean civilization at around 1100 BC and ended at the beginning of what is known as the Archaic age around 750 BC. So, history is missing for some 350 years (or there are 350 years without a documented history).
What disaster could have caused the end of the Mycenaean civilisation, the age we also know as the age of Odysseus, Penelope, Paris and Helen.

We know that, even before 1100 BC, the entire region was crumbling. The palaces and cities of the Mycenaeans were destroyed or gradually abandoned. At the same time, the Hittite civilization suffered serious disruption, and in Egypt the New Kingdom fell into disarray. No wonder that it took Odysseus ten years to return home after the Trojan War ended in 1218 BC.

Some of the Aegean regions were simply abandoned, while others were (re)populated and then destroyed or abandoned again. People went collectively in search for better and safer places to live.

Of course, there were several large-scale prolonged wars between kingdoms but one has to wonder if these were the cause or the result of the problem. Maybe there was another reason for the unrest. Maybe that reason was climatic in origin.

To prove that theory, archaeologists collected ancient sediment cores from Larnaca Salt Lake, near Hala Sultan Tekke in Cyprus[1]. A sharp decline in marine plankton and pollen from marine sea grass revealed that the lake had access to the sea until around 1450 BC, when the harbour transformed over 100 years into a landlocked lagoon. Pollen also revealed that by 1200 BC, agriculture in the area dwindled and didn't rebound until about 850 BC.

"This climate shift caused crop failures, scarcity, and famine, which precipitated or hastened socioeconomic crises and forced regional human migrations," the authors write in the paper.

Famine may have caused the huge migration of people — which may be the reason that the mysterious Sea People who invaded Egypt brought their families along.

I personally think that the constantly increasing population and the constant wars needed more and more wood to built houses and ships[2]. As more and more trees were felled, massive forests disappeared and erosion would have created dust that suffocated the land. That in turn would have resulted in crop failures and, in the end, the trigger for the prolonged regional droughts.

The Dark Age was so 'dark' that even the names of some of the islands were lost. Where exactly was Ithaca, Homer's kingdom or city state, situated? Was it even an island? No one knew and somehow a small rocky island near Cephalonia was chosen to carry that illustrious name.

[1] Kaniewski et al: Environmental Roots of the Late Bronze Age Crisis in PlosOne – 2013. See here.
[2] Hughes, Thirgood: Deforestation, Erosion, and Forest Management in Ancient Greece and Rome in Journal of Forest History - 1982

No comments:

Post a Comment