Climate change was not to blame for the collapse of the Bronze Age

From the University of Bradford

Scientists will have to find alternative explanations for a huge population collapse in Europe at the end of the Bronze Age as researchers prove definitively that climate change – commonly assumed to be responsible – could not have been the culprit.

Archaeologists and environmental scientists from the University of Bradford, University of Leeds, University College Cork, Ireland (UCC), and Queen’s University Belfast have shown that the changes in climate that scientists believed to coincide with the fall in population in fact occurred at least two generations later.

Their results, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that human activity starts to decline after 900BC, and falls rapidly after 800BC, indicating a population collapse. But the climate records show that colder, wetter conditions didn’t occur until around two generations later.

Fluctuations in levels of human activity through time are reflected by the numbers of radiocarbon dates for a given period. The team used new statistical techniques to analyse more than 2000 radiocarbon dates, taken from hundreds of archaeological sites in Ireland, to pinpoint the precise dates that Europe’s Bronze Age population collapse occurred.

The team then analysed past climate records from peat bogs in Ireland and compared the archaeological data to these climate records to see if the dates tallied. That information was then compared with evidence of climate change across NW Europe between 1200 and 500 BC.

“Our evidence shows definitively that the population decline in this period cannot have been caused by climate change,” says Ian Armit, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Bradford, and lead author of the study.

Graeme Swindles, Associate Professor of Earth System Dynamics at the University of Leeds, added, “We found clear evidence for a rapid change in climate to much wetter conditions, which we were able to precisely pinpoint to 750BC using statistical methods.”

According to Professor Armit, social and economic stress is more likely to be the cause of the sudden and widespread fall in numbers. Communities producing bronze needed to trade over very large distances to obtain copper and tin. Control of these networks enabled the growth of complex, hierarchical societies dominated by a warrior elite. As iron production took over, these networks collapsed, leading to widespread conflict and social collapse. It may be these unstable social conditions, rather than climate change, that led to the population collapse at the end of the Bronze Age.

According to Katharina Becker, Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at UCC, the Late Bronze Age is usually seen as a time of plenty, in contrast to an impoverished Early Iron Age. “Our results show that the rich Bronze Age artefact record does not provide the full picture and that crisis began earlier than previously thought,” she says.

“Although climate change was not directly responsible for the collapse it is likely that the poor climatic conditions would have affected farming,” adds Professor Armit. “This would have been particularly difficult for vulnerable communities, preventing population recovery for several centuries.”

The findings have significance for modern day climate change debates which, argues Professor Armit, are often too quick to link historical climate events with changes in population.

“The impact of climate change on humans is a huge concern today as we monitor rising temperatures globally,” says Professor Armit.

“Often, in examining the past, we are inclined to link evidence of climate change with evidence of population change. Actually, if you have high quality data and apply modern analytical techniques, you get a much clearer picture and start to see the real complexity of human/environment relationships in the past.”



151 thoughts on “Climate change was not to blame for the collapse of the Bronze Age

    • I was thinking disease when I read the headline. Look at how the Black Death thinned the population and the 1917 flu epidemic, disease seems way more catastrophic.

    • When smallpox first made it to Europe is not well constrained, but may not have been present during the real Bronze Age Collapse, c. 3200 years ago.
      The BAC is associated with invasions and migrations, so while pestilence may well have played a role, it appears presently that war and famine were more to blame.

      • Disease does some interesting things as it does not discriminate by economic class. Mortality rates would have been 30 to 50 percent. All it takes is one strong leader or a ruling family to succumb to the illness to start a war with a neighboring tribe/nation. We might have some interrelation between the two. Same goes with economics. The sudden dying off of people in some areas could result in an economic loss to people far removed who depended on their farming/mining/whatever. This could also create instability. In other words, if you could sweep through any population led mostly by despotic dynasties and simply cull every second or third person at random, it could have a dramatic impact on political stability. And when you have an economy based on manual labor, there are economic consequences, as well. e.g. The family who commissioned a bridge to be built might now be dead and there are no longer enough available workers to build it.

  1. Colder is far more detrimental to civilization and the environment than warmer periods. The Alarmists are the ones with their heads in the sands and their arse’s “up in the air” for the greens on that point. +1C to +2C warmer than 1979 is a happy planet. Even higher is okay if, as TCR estimates suggest, it goes slow enough for ecological adaptation. The Earth has been starving for warmth and CO2 for ~3.2 MYA.
    As this research on the end of the Bronze Age shows, man and his environment has been living on the ragged edge of die-offs for far too long.
    And the prognosticators of a “tipping point” are about as reliable as an ouija board.

  2. Two generations…so what are we talking here…seventy/ eighty years?
    Wow they are so wonderfully precise with their measurements!

      • Exactly – so do we really believe they are pinpointing the date of collapse and the date when the climate changed with that accuracy?
        All this sound like is typical modern reductionism – there must be a single cause.
        Almost always there are multiple causes.

      • Tim Hammond
        November 18, 2014 at 1:16 am
        If only many involved (mainly on the ‘warmist’ side of the continuum) would learn and understand this.
        This blog has seen that there are many variables involved. Some – many! – are, very likely, of minor effect.
        Ahhh – but others may have a maximum of ten or even twenty per-cent effect (I guess, based on picking a few fingers).
        The science is – actually – not settled, as the system is decidedly complex.
        Slingo’s new counting box cannot model to even mile squares over a day.

    • My thoughts exactly.
      And for those just getting by it wouldn’t need to be the biggest signal (the steepest change in weather) that caused disaster. The first dampening may have spread blight that caused famine. So far that seems to still be reasonable.
      But where’s the press in that?
      Unified theory: First decline in weather led to poor harvest led to famine. Famine led to hoarding led to disruption of trade routes and alliances. Disruption led to war and new routes being pioneered. New communication routes led to the spread of smallpox and new technologies (iron).
      Now that’s how to do speculative science

      • The Irish added a major tax to the manufacture of bronze and other pollution generating sectors of their economy and at the same time raised the minimum wage which caused a significant number of wealthy to shift money and other resources to China so widespread unemployment and famine ensued.
        Social justice welfare just couldn’t support them all.
        China went on to build computers, smart phones, washers and dryers, etc.

      • mikerestin, now you sound like a historian! If no-one knows, you can just make it up, so they do. Your story is as good as any other story. Let them try and disprove it.

      • IMO climate was involved. Drought drove northern Indo-European-speaking peoples south into Greece, Anatolia (where there already were some) and Mesopotamia, then across the Med to Palestine (from Philistia, ie it’s named after the Aryan invaders) and Egypt as the Sea Peoples.
        Iron replaced bronze because it was cheaper. In its early forms, it didn’t make better weapons, just more of them for the same price. In later centuries metallurgy advanced and steel became better as well as cheaper.

    • I was thinking the same thing. And the team used a new “statistical method” to determine this. We are talking 50 years difference at most for their “precise” dates. The population decline and climate shift must have occurred suddenly within a single year for there to be no overlap on errors of radiocarbon dating in events that took place within 50 years of each other over 1,000 years ago /s.

    • Using the latest in digital peat bog dating for sure. Note how they say they were using “…new statistical techniques…” for their radiocarbon dating. They used different math and got different numbers… that’s a new technique? I learned that in first grade, subtracting makes things smaller and adding makes them bigger. A single generation is NOT outside the error bars for carbon isotope dating.

  3. Whoa, hold on there! What’s going to happen to research budgets if – harrumph – they find things unconnected with climate change?

  4. “As iron production took over, these networks collapsed, leading to widespread conflict and social collapse.”
    No, the collapse of the trade networks was due to political unrest in the Med, which devastated the economies of communities in the Iberian peninsula and Ireland (and also the Aegean and the Levant). This had a cascading effect throughout all of Europe. The switch to iron was necessitated by the collapse of the Bronze industry. Once Iron metallurgy was established, positive feedback effects insured that it would eventually dominate.It was not until the Iron industry became quite mature, was it able to produce products that were superior to what was produced in Bronze.

    • Bronze continued to be used long after the introduction of iron. Iron supplanted it for workaday tools and weapons but bronze remained a prized material throughout historical times for applications where longevity was required. To this day many ship fittings are still made of bronze. The real problem seems to have been a shortage of tin. This lead to the Phoenicians having to sail to the edge of the world (Cornwall) to secure suppplies.
      Securing tin supplies seems to have been one of the reasons for the Roman invasion of Britain with trade in tin between Cornwall and the Mediterranean persisting up to the 9th century AD, long after the Romans left Britain. There was a collapse in demand around 1200 BC which most historians ascribe to the invasion of the Med by a group described as ‘The Sea Peoples’ . Only Egypt seems to have been able to resist them and they left quite good records of their dealings with those they called the Sherden.

      • The collapse of civilization in the med. could have been caused by good weather in China. Think about it, warm winters mean fewer mongolian horses die which means more mongols. The mongols spread west pushing the sycthians further west pushing the thracians south. The thraians drive the mycaneans onto barren islands where they turn to piracy and raiding. This disrupts Phoenecian trade and weakens them until they fall prey to the pirates(the sea peoples).

    • Yeah…but…but…you forgot that it rained in 750BC. Article says so, right here: ““We found clear evidence for a rapid change in climate to much wetter conditions, which we were able to precisely pinpoint to 750BC using statistical methods.”
      Can’t argue with those statistical methods. No Sireeee.
      And this part was even better:
      “Often, in examining the past, we are inclined to link evidence of climate change with evidence of population change. Actually, if you have high quality data and apply modern analytical techniques, you get a much clearer picture and start to see the real complexity of human/environment relationships in the past.”
      So first, he admits the prevalent “bias” in the first sentence…and then, sounding surprised!…states that if you have high quality data…you get a clearer picture!????

    • Actually, the time period of the collapse coincides nicely with the spread of the Hallstatt C culture from 800-500 BCE. These Iron age early Celts spread throughout Europe from western Hungaria to the Iberian Peninsula, and to Ireland and the British Isles. Known for their iron swords and horse culture, it is not a large leap to see them as a European “Mongol Hoard”. A decendent of this culture, Brennus, successfully sacked Rome in 398 BCE.
      Nothing new here. The usual suspects, war and conquest, not climate change.

    • We have no empirical evidence that explains why those societies collapsed. “Political” unrest is archaeological speak for “we found evidence of warfare.” If the evidence indicates that the unrestful parties were using weapons of the same make and model, then you conclude “civil war.” If the hatchets in the skulls are different from the ones in the dead men’s hands, the opponent was “external,” suggesting invasion. “Political unrest” would certainly cause problems in production and distribution, but conversely problems in production and distribution would also just as certainly lead to political unrest. Imagine the “unrest” if the water supply to New York City or Phoenix were cut in a serious and long term manner.
      Iron is known as the “poor man’s metal” because it was widely available as bog iron, magnetite and hematite, much more common than copper ores. Bronze in contrast was vastly more costly to produce. The copper is easy enough to find, but tin is a different tale. The wide spread trade networks needed to successfully yield an adequate bronze supply would also facilitate the spread of diseases among formerly more isolated populations.
      The Hittites seem to have tried to keep iron production methods “secret,” but all metallurgy has its roots in the manufacture of fire ceramics, and the first metal produced is copper because of that. Iron is produced in enough different ways prehistorically and classically to suggest that it to has multiple origins and very likely was the result of experimentation by creative thinkers, reasoning by extension that if doing “this” to “that” could yield copper, then what happens if we apply the same “this’s” to different “thats”. Since even the softest wrought iron has advantages over bronze, the historical results are predictable.

  5. Oh, obviously, the collapse in the population was caused by burning all that charcoal to smelt bronze and producing massive CO2 fumes, or, maybe it was all that driving round in bronze chariots powered by heavily farting oxen or horses. Oh, yes, 97% sure.

  6. “The impact of climate change on humans is a huge concern today as we monitor rising temperatures globally,” says Professor Armit.
    So maybe there was a group of quasi priests who forecast gloom and doom about record and rising temperatures and how this new fangled bronze tipped plough was stripping the earth of vegetation. So maybe the people listened to the forecasts of doom and voluntarily stopped producing food. And the climate cooled. And the people died. And now we know they died before it cooled.
    Looks like a correlation to me.

    • Professor Armit shows that the collapse was not caused by climate change. So what the $%^& is the rationale for then saying that the impact of climate change on humans is a huge concern today? It has absolutely zip all do do with anything in the paper!!!

  7. Theology and religious beliefs aside, a few stories in the Old Testament around the time of the judges and early kings of Israel (1000 BC) speak of large land animals such as lions and bears in Palestine, which would require adequate forests and food chains to support their existence. That certainly hasn’t been the case in more modern times.

    • Today, bears, cougars, and jaguars are found in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. European Lions probably persisted until around 100 BC in the Levant.

      • They are also in Chicago, Pullman WA and Jacksonville. Based on their poor records, they must all be toothless. 🙂

      • Durn critters are too adaptable!
        (Indeed, cougars/mountain lions/pumas have a wide range, from wet coast rain forest to dry areas in SW US.
        (Some in FL are darker brown on top, called Panther there. The three listed above are the same critter, minor colouring differences except in FL, whereas there is much more variety in South America where the NA variety probably came from.
        Jaguars are spotted but are not leopards, except about 6% are solid black, often called “black panther”.)

    • The account of the amount bronze used for Solomon’s temple, c. 942 BC, is that it could not be reckoned. The descriptions of the bronze sea on the bulls, the bronze pillars, capitals, and lattice work with pomegranates are hard to imagine. I have never seen anything quite like the lattice work in any excavations. They engaged in various shipping ventures with Tyre for gold also.
      The mining, trading, and metal work of the early Europeans and Med civilizations was truly extensive. I seriously doubt that economies were lost and destroyed for hundreds of years because the peasants lost their ruling elite. But this is the way some people write history, and that is what they have stated here. There just as easily could have been extensive free trade and social mobility, in which the protection and facilitation of trade, rather than its domination and control, was the job of the bravest leaders – perhaps heads of families. They call this the heroic society I think. And there were extraordinary innovations, and perhaps hundreds or even thousands of languages on the European continent.
      Because these patchwork of cultures were so interconnected by Phoenician sea trade and commerce, the total destruction of some of these ports and cities would have been devastating and periodically there were terrible ash clouds and tsunamis, and cooling, then agricultural losses and immigration. The severity of earthquakes around Italy is astounding.
      I just finished a book about the Dec. 24th 1908 Messina quake. It is hard to comprehend so much destruction in a few moments, followed by the immediate tsunami. Every town in the area on both sides of the straight were flattened in a single moment. There were definitely atmospheric precursors to this quake.

      • fyi – Solomon is mythical and his palace in Jerusalem never existed. (He is an appropriation of Amenhotep III who was the first Atonist, hence Sol – Amen.) However, I agree with your bigger point. The Sea People devastated the eastern coastal cities and this alone could lead to civilization collapse.

      • Caz, Just because you wish something to be true, doesn’t make it true. Just remember the archaeological saying, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. We are talking about things that happened 3 to 4 thousand years ago in an area that has been continuously lived in during all of that time, making our ability to find much of anything difficult at best.
        They said the same think about King David until evidence was found in one of the nearby kingdoms referring to him.

      • @MarkW
        Many books about the ancient cultures in the Fertile Crescent and Anatolia take great pains to begin by saying,
        “nothing, but nothing!, was known about
        the Hittites…
        the Assyrians…
        the Elamites…until archaeologists in the 1800’s discovered…”
        This happens a lot. However, these cultures (besides many others) are discussed in fair to wonderful detail in the Old Testament including their economies, gods, sayings, and leaders. It is amusing that this pattern of academic hubris continues.

      • Mark – David is mythical, too. he is a re-working of Tutmoses III. DVD in hebrew (no vowels) translates to TUT in Egyptian and yes, his steles and inscriptions are all over the place. DVD also means ‘peace’ so a reference to the house of DVD can just mean house of peace. Note that no other culture ever mentions David or Solomon, nor have any artifacts or archeological sites ever been found. The earliest bona fide real people of that time were Ahab and Jezebel.

      • Caz, it is clear that evidence for David and Solomon is mainly from word-of-mouth transmission of knowledge and not documents or physical remains extant from the time. As has been pointed out, lots of things are short of evidence from that long ago – but then the evidence is found. This may happen again in this case.
        Troy was real, who’d have guessed?
        More importantly, David and Solomon have as much influence on history as Antony and Cleopatra, as Alexander the Great and even as Napoleon. Even if they never lived, they are more important (more real in terms of effectiveness) than you or me will ever be.
        Unless you’re a gung ho nuclear submarine captain. I may have underestimated you.

      • There was archaeological evidence of Troy. If Solomon’s palace and temple were anything even remotely as depicted in the Bible, then there would have to be remains of them, but none have been found despite centuries of exploration and excavation around Jerusalem, this despite uncovering plenty of Bronze/Iron Age transition sites in the area.

      • Catherine Ronconi , it is a big leap from saying “there is no chance of a King with a hundred wives in that time and place (e.g. the Israelites exaggerated the magnificence and stamina)” to saying “there was no King”.
        The Temple lasted in Legend. The rebuilding of the Temple definitely happened and the documents show they thought it was a RE-building.
        This subject is one on which people feel passionately and so make over strong statements. There is evidence that the area couldn’t support the wonders associated with Solomon. That doesn’t mean that Solomon was a fabrication with no achievements at all. Someone overwhelmed the Edomites.
        And if Egypt or Babylon don’t record the area until they conquered it… well, they wouldn’t record a Kingdom they couldn’t conquer unless they were at war with it. Which the texts say was avoided.

      • I don’t feel strongly, but just look at the evidence.
        I don’t know if there were some petty kings in the southern Levantine highlands around 1000 BC with names similar to those or not. My personal opinion is that the OT goes from mythical through legendary to more or less historical, the latter phase starting around 800 BC. So the stories of David and Solomon fall in the legendary phase, which has a few verifiable historical elements.
        The earliest known apparent or possible Egyptian mention of the Israelites is the Merneptah or Victory Stele, from around 1200 BC, so there IMO should have been some mention in Egyptian records of David and Solomon, if they existed, but of course it might not have survived.

      • PS: The Edomites were overwhelmed both from north and south at various times, while also doing some overwhelming themselves. They were never completely wiped out however, and survived into Roman times, at least, as Idumaeans.

      • Catherine Ronconi, yeah – that makes sense. It seems we can agree on the certain facts (we don’t know about the minor powers in the region at the time and they weren’t an Empire) and accept that our uncertainties overlap.
        I personally think that there probably was a basis to the legend. The legend has had so many who accept it. And the legend is important. It has had more impact on the world than Tamburlaine – who was definitely real with an Empire.
        But then, I am a Christian (following a King of Kingdom not of this world) and so am inclined towards an obvious bias.

      • As you know better than most, that a lot of people have believed something for a long time isn’t a substitute for evidence.
        IMO science can be pretty sure that the empire of David as detailed in the Bible didn’t exist. Whether there were local kings possibly even named David and Solomon is of course harder to determine. No reason why there might not have been.
        By the time the books of the OT were written down, those petty kings would already have been legendary, however. This allowed the scribes to inflate the importance of ancestral Hebrew and especially Judean might and glory, but borrowing from the real power of their Egyptian contemporaries.
        Did the Queen of Sheba really visit Solomon to test his wisdom (as in the practically identical Books of Kings and Chronicles), or is it more likely that she journeyed down the Nile or Red Sea to Egypt, the empire which so dominated her region of Africa?

      • Although I really don’t think it matters…
        The Queen of Sheba’s visit to Egypt would have been recorded. It wasn’t.
        Her visit to Jerusalem was a big deal. No other state visits were recorded – legendary or real.
        That implies to me that there was such a visit and it was remembered bwecause it validated the importance of Israel (scale of the visit, not important. It happened and was remembered and hyped. I doubt she had a bird’s foot either).
        But the important thing is the story. It was the role models and the ideas that made and make David and Solomon important. That isn’t a question for history or archaeology.
        But it is quite possible that the strength of the story comes from a reality that could be supported by archaeology

      • The stories in Judges, Kings and Chronicles, as elsewhere in the OT, are indeed good stories. I meant to say that before, but now get to agree with you.
        As for Sheba, you’re right that as far as I know, no Egyptian record of such a visit survives, although of course embassies and tribute trains from throughout the region regularly visited Egypt.
        If, as some think, she came from Yemen rather than Africa, then it’s certainly possible that some elevated female figure traveled on a caravan route from southern Arabia to the Levant, whether to seek wisdom from a local potentate or not. It doesn’t take much to start a legend going.
        For example, there’s probably some actual figure behind the Robin Hood legend, which was first written down just centuries after the supposed events. However it’s unlikely that any source thief actually lived during the reign of Richard I, when archery was not common among the English. Indeed the Norman and early Plantagenet overlords probably would have discouraged it among their subjects if it had been.
        Had the yew wood longbow been known among the Anglo-Saxons over a century before King Richard, his ancestor William probably wouldn’t have been able to conquer them. The English already had one of the best heavy infantries in Europe. Had the best missile-armed light infantry been combined with the shield wall and the Dane ax-wielding Huscarls, the Norman heavy cavalry and light infantry would almost certainly gone down to defeat, as they almost did anyway. But I digress far afield.

      • There are really two human histories: that of monumental empires, and that of all of the non-monumental cultures. The non-monumental cultures did not prefer grandiose building materials or forced labor, etc.. and David belonged to the non-monumental strand of human history. (In fact, his legacy is musical.) These histories leave behind great ideas, not stone structures. My shorthand for these two strands of history is the “Ambo versus the Temple.” The power is in the words lived out faithfully, not in fancy structures.
        It is well to keep Solomon and the Temple in perspective.
        First, the desire for a king was considered a great failure for the Israelites. After 400 years in the land without one, they wanted a king “like the rest of the nations.” They were strictly warned by the prophets about the abusive behavior of royalty and the undesirability of a king. But because they persisted, their wish was granted (called the permissive will of God). It was an enormous lapse of faith. Likewise, they were reminded that God had never asked for vainglorious buildings, and instead, the Ark rested in a mere tent at Shiloh.
        Second, Solomon’s overtaxation, forced labor, and redistricting of the land to support his vainglorious building project resulted in the immediate collapse of the kingdom after he died.
        Third, Jeremiah brought the lonely message that the people should not trust in the building and say “the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” He told them if they did not amend their their hearts, and the way they actually lived their lives, God would remove the temple; – and it would become like the tent at Shiloh. So if you can’t find a trace of the tent at Shiloh, according to Jeremiah, you should not be able to find much left of Solomon’s temple. It is sincere and honest lives that He seeks. Some people can build and live in opulent palaces, but they cannot change their lives.
        ref: Jeremiah chapter 7

      • Except, Zeke, that the Bible goes to great lengths to extoll the grandeur of the supposed monumental architecture raised by David and Solomon, if not Saul. It also claims that they ruled far more territory than they could possibly have done. At least Kings doesn’t claim “from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates”, which clearly would have been too much of an exaggeration, to say the least. Sway over this Promised Land was supposed to be a fulfillment of God’s gift from Genesis, so it’s easy to see why a later writer would assert that David achieved much of the divine grant. Menachem Begin took this biblical hyperbole over Eretz Israel seriously, but in the event peace with some Arab states resulted.

      • Yes ma’am, well the Babylonians made short work of the cities they captured, and took people out of the land so that they would not rise up again.
        The Media-Persians, some of whom were Zarathustrians, sent them back to their homelands.

      • The Assyrians were the main population relocators. They carried away the 10.5 northern tribes of Israel in 722 BC. The Neo-Babylonians or Chaldeans took the 1.5 southern tribes of Judea into captivity much later, in deportations carried out in 597 BC, c. 587 BC and c. 582 BC. During the Babylonian Captivity, much of the OT was written or collected, plus a lot of Mesopotamian myth was picked up that found its way into the OT. Then in 539 BC the conquering Persians under Cyrus the Great freed the captive Judeans, perhaps because as Zoroastrians, they found some shared beliefs with the Jews.

      • Catherine, MCourtney – just have to make a comment re Sheba. Yes, there IS an Egyptian record of a Princess from Sheba going to Egypt to become the wife of Amenhotep III. His aunt (Hapshetsut) sent a trade delegation there, and the royal families remained in touch for several generations,. Like Solomon, Amenhotep had a big harem, and stable for 1000 horse. Like Solomon, he never went to war, instead presiding over an empire built by his father, Tut III. Like Solomon, Amenhotep had a big wooden palace built from Lebanese cedar.

      • Anyone else read “Bronze Age America” by Barry Fell, 1982. He was a Harvard prof. that wrote about the Europeans trading with the American Indians for copper centuries prior to Columbus et al. He documented many cases of inscribed stones here on US soil with ancient European languages.

      • Danged If I can get through any thread here without learning something new. So King Suleman’s mines probably were tin mines, and not diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires. Deborah Kerr was a tin digger; not a gold digger. So was Alain Quartermain.
        Thanx Zeke and Caz

      • “””””…..Tamburlaine – who was definitely real with an Empire….”””””
        Not so, and never seen it spelled that way. It was Tamerlane, a bastardization of “Timor the lame.” who hung out around Tashkent and Sammarkand. Probably the meanest sob who ever lived. But Ghengis Khan eventually burned Sammarkand to the ground. I’m told that Sammarkand is a totally beautiful place.
        The 19 year old Boston Marathon bomber that got his comeuppance was named by his mother after that sob. Well she called him Tammerlan.
        Interesting that the lucky prince in Puccini’s Turandot, was Prince Timor. She was also fond of putting peoples heads on top of stakes.
        It was Timor who spread Islam at the edge of a sword, until he outrode his supply chain.
        You could control just so much territory as you could ride a horse across in about 14 days. After that, you lost control over what the locals were up to on your property that you didn’t know about.
        So when the Ottomans cut him off at the knees, he was far too spread from Tashkent to Morocco.

    • Lions don’t live in forests. They’re social plains hunters, while the solitary tiger prowls woodlands. The Caspian tiger was extirpated by the Romans, who caught them for their circus games, to fight or eat prisoners in the arena.

  8. “We found clear evidence for a rapid change in climate to much wetter conditions, which we were able to precisely pinpoint to 750BC using statistical methods.”
    This date is remarkably close to the dating of an earth mini-catastrophe as postulated by Immanuel Velikovsky. He dates this as -747 = 748 BC. (Being a very devout, perhaps even orthodox Jew, he refused to use AD or BC in his dating.)
    Apart from this, there is a problem reconciling dates. I recall a “Scientific American” article of many years ago (when it was still a reputable magazine) which drew attention to discrepancies between radio carbon dates and calendric dates prior to about AD 1. No relevance to certain events said to occur then, that was just the date after which the two dating methods coincided.
    Before then, on the occasions when it had been possible to assess both a radio carbon date and a calendric one by counting tree rings back from known dates, there was always a consistent discrepancy, increasing in proportion as the samples were earlier and earlier. Radio carbon dates are based on a known rate of decay of carbon 14, in terms of current years (365 days and a bit). Tree rings are based on seasonal factors, and hence count the number of years. The discrepancy can be explained by supposing that either in those earlier ages the solar year was not the same length as it is now, or there had been a massive influx of carbon 14, so that the supposition in radio carbon dating that the amount of c14 ingested by a plant was constant throughout time, and hence time could be measured by its decay, was wrong.
    I cannot remember the solution that the article came too. However, it is possible that the researchers have been caught by this discrepancy. R Shearer may have got it right – but the discrepancy between radio carbon and calendric dates may be the reason the researchers put the cart before the horse, so to speak.

  9. Isn’t it odd how we view the past through the lens of current perceptions. Climate change dominates where perhaps it shouldn’t.
    I’m old enough to remember ‘Chariots of the Gods’ in which 1960s era space capsules and astronauts were seen in ancient images. No person born in last 30 years would perceive the same things looking at these exact same things.

  10. Good work to them, although I await Willis’ analysis of their “statistical techniques”. Wish there were a link to the paper. If the transition to cold wet is truly at 750BC over the broad area of Europe, the near East, and India, whose bronze age collapses are thought to be roughly contemporaneous at about 1200 BC, then collapse would precede climate by more like a couple dozen generations.
    I can completely believe that cultural hegemony from a technological advance could have lead to the collapse. History is all about hegemony. When the Halstatt civilization in the Balkans (Roman Thrace) first developed Iron swords that could hack through bronze swords, they would have shown no mercy. Nobody was mellow back then…even now.

    • People I am a college dropout, major military history. I see statements of population drop but no proof. I don’t care about bronze age or iron age, people will continue to make babies. A population drop is not going to occur because a trade wagon does not show up. Anything trade would bring at this point would mainly be luxury items NOT a thousand suits of armor. Ask instead about the population decline of established villages and towns. To put it simply there must be an outside source for the collapse of a stable society At this point climate is still the most likely culprit. Also when looking at any paper remember the threat of publish or perish. .

      • My gut feeling would be disease rather than climate change. People adapt to circumstance but loss of labour is much more damaging to a group of humans.
        C/W Black Death for example.

      • Regarding my comment here, maybe I should have added “always assuming the paper is correct, of course.”

      • People continue to have babies, but more of them die.
        Old people die earlier and even the healthy can be struck down by conflict or disease.

      • MarkW
        November 18, 2014 at 5:46 am
        It i s the survival rate that matters.
        See the 19th & 20th centuries, I suggest. Auto

  11. What? A paper that concludes that economic woes trump climate change when it comes to civilization collapse? Wow, how’d they get this past peer review? But hey, its published now, perhaps some politicians might pay attention to this when considering combating climate change with economy strangling regulations…
    On the other hand…. how long is “two generations”? Back then, 40 was an old person. “Within two generations” is a meaningless measure of time. Then they pin point the climate swing to wetter conditions down to a single year…. 750 BC. Really? The resolution of a peat bog down to a single year? But it gets worse. They conclude that climate change could not have collapsed an economy that stretched from Ireland to India. So a single peat bog in Ireland is a proxy for the climate of most of Europe and Asia? I find that one hard to believe. For this paper to be credible they would have to have climate data from all the critical trading points of the entire system. A climate disaster in one part of the chain could easily collapse the entire chain, without showing up in a peat bog in Ireland.

    • Perhaps it was taxed and regulated to such an extent that it became too expensive to use. Oh wait, that is the solution for coal, sorry.

  12. Funny at first they thought the problematic bronze age climate was colder/wetter but now the danger is due to warming. Hilarious.
    The reality is colder/wetter even in our “modern” time would still be a disaster.

  13. Even a small reduction in the seasonal growing period will have a marked effect on a purely agricultural society. Do these small effects show up in the geological record?

  14. When you’re holding a hammer everything looks like a nail.
    When you’re holding a hockeystick everything looks like climate change.

  15. We can see from the remarkable Bronze age remains on upland Dartmoor that climate deteriorated over a number of years only gradually turning windier and wetter and thereby compromising the growth of crops from germination to harvest and the keeping of livestock.
    This deterioration likely caused famine which would be a natural check on population and combine that with less fuel available as more is burned to create more agricultural land to compensate for reduced crop yield, animal husbandry expansion and to keep warm, and many of the ingredients for a population drop are in place.
    The numbers of people were small anyway and some of the battles involved large numbers of men. Combine this with the gradual introduction of the superior technology of iron and a population drop involving a number of inter-related factors over an extended period can be hypothesised.

  16. What time in the afternoon was it in 750 BC that they were able to ‘precisely pinpoint’ all the climate change to?

  17. Virus? Climate change? I don’t think so.
    Remember before bronze, swords didn’t exist and iron was an improvement over bronze.
    Although this catastrophic reduction of population is news to me, I think it was probably a widespread case of bronze and steel poisoning.

    • Umm… The Battle Hammer is as effective or more effective than the sword… And bows and arrows can be much better. Then there are spears and pikes and more. People have been killing each other very effectively with whatever they have to hand. Always have. Doesn’t need bronze or steel.

  18. I’m reading Eric H Cline’s “1177BC and the Collapse of Civilisation. ” It’s rather interesting. In it he mentions the Santorini volcanic eruptions which were originally placed at about 1258 BC. Cline makes the point there were about seven eruptions with the last about 1600BC. Some of these would have sent tsunamis over the northern coasts of Crete which may have successively damaged the Minoan trading empire.
    There were the usual wars and enforcements of tribute from the Hittite, Mycenean and Egyptian Empires.
    But about 1177, a wave or waves of immigrants from the West came into the eastern Med. They attacked Egypt and others. Egypt beat them off at great cost. These were called The Sea Peoples. (There is a carved note about this on one of the Pharoah’s tombs.) Some of these Sea People settled in Canaan (the Philistines).
    Also around these times, were thought to be substantial earthquakes. City mounds (Tells) in Palestine have been excavated and found to have been flattened and burnt. It could have been by invaders or by earthquake. Whole cities which, up to the destruction, had appeared highly prosperous, were completely abandoned.
    A “Little Ice Age” would be right on time at about 750BC, climbing into the Roman Warming which started around 250 – 200BC.

  19. Oh dear, yet another bunch of innocents(?) that thinks that noisy and fuzzy data can be miraculously cleaned up by “Bayesian methods”: Can anybody who has access to the paper check and tell what prior they used? Careful selection of the prior can gtve you practically any result you want with “Bayesian methods”.
    By the way separating what happened 800 BC and 750 BC by using radiocarbon dates isn’t possible. The method simply isn’t that precise..

  20. Precipitation may have been more important than temperature. I wonder if these researchers took into account the work of R. A, Bryson.

    • Climate is actually an important driver of human history.The Bronze Age suffered good times and bad times, monumental work and warfare according to the movement of its climate.
      Temperature is a reasonable proxy for agricultural plenty. Warmth equates to less cloud, sunny days which, if the precipitation doesn’t fail through the onset of drought, leads to good crop growth, which creates food surpluses. Food in plenty gives population increase and balmy climes with adequate food lowers the death rate. And all this gives an economic surplus for investment in monumental works, and wars.
      Prolonged drought OTH, is highly destructive. It leads to massive movements of peoples as the drought-stricken land is eventually abandoned. Of course, those who are settled in non-drought ridden land will defend it against it such invasion.
      It was the MWP which saw the economic surplus invested in cathedral building across Europe and support for the Crusaders in Palestine, which included ransoming a king or two. The defeat at Acre (1291) by the Mameluks brought the Palestinian adventures (ninth or tenth crusade) to an end. The Wolff minimum began over the following decade and the crop surplus across Eurape began to slump as the NH entered the start of the LIA.

  21. Dating or archaeological sites to within “a couple of generations” is rare and because the procedure is expensive good dates are seldom taken except from the best preserved remains – and good preservation needs burial and burial tends to occur as a result of occupation activity and therefore AFTER a period of occupation.
    Moreover, dating a decline in population at a time of changing society when people may be leaving one area for another rather than just disappearing is inevitably difficult.
    However, the link between climate and population in Scotland is clear from the 1690s famines which is reported as being colder (the Cairngorms retained its snow covering throughout the year) and wetter (according to evidence from lake sediments in Scandinavia). The book the “Ill years” details the quite horrific accounts of the period with people dying on the streets of Edinburgh and at the sides of roads everywhere over Scotland . Detailed investigations from Parish records suggest something like a 1/5 to 1/3 of the population of Scotland** died in this colder-wetter period.
    1690s A Global & US Event
    There’s also evidence of a relationship between witch trials and colder climate. In a recent documentary about the Salem Witch trials in 1692/1693 a very compelling argument was put forward that the Salem witch trials were a result of Ergot fungus poisoning. The Ergot fungus acts as a hallucinogen with many of the symptoms being similar to those described in the Salem witch trial and a plausible link to specific supply of grain also being made. There were similar such events throughout Europe. There’s also evidence from the Darien Scheme in central America, that the climate was distinctly worse in central America the late 1690s to what it had been a decade earlier when the advisor to the scheme had lived there amongst the natives.
    **or perhaps Highland population – the research is confusing.

    • I should add that Ergot fungus thrives in damp conditions.
      And the idea that the climate suddenly turned bad is quite bizarre. When I looked at the starting date for peat cores, I found a huge diversity suggesting that climate had been gradually getting worse over perhaps a thousands years with each site having a slightly different threshold where the damp-wet conditions crossed the threshold at which peat bogs start to form.

      • Mike,
        do you have references for peat bog formation. I’m particularly interested in Scotland, in my youth I spent a lot of time hill walking and rambling, and the difference in depth of peat over the remains of trees always interested me; the usual short of Why, When, What, Where and How questions.

  22. Just reading this cr&p makes me want to be sick. Taxpayer’s money is rushing down the drain. Please can we have governments that treat taxpayer’s money as their own ? Oh …… they do.

  23. Millions of people live like this right now. Millions, about 60 million in Ethiopia in mud huts. Some have power, most don’t. Charcoal, wood and dung are the main fuels for heating and cooking.

  24. Even Wikipedia can be helpful. It’s iron age article states the decrease in bronze was due to a shortage of tin. It seems iron was well known in the time period stated but smelting was difficult. It took the combination of scarcity plus innovation of cheaply making iron into steel that doomed bronze when tin became plentiful. I.E., by that time, iron was cheaper than bronze. One might say it’s one of the earliest examples of free market economics — the capitalism of the ancient world. How very refreshing.
    Meanwhile, lots of civilizations “collapsed”. Good examples abound. At least dozens of theories for each. Some even have “consensus”.

  25. I suggest a read of: 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Turning Points in Ancient History) It is an in depth analysis of the cultures and potential factors in the collapse of the civilizations at that time. The civilizations formed a complex and hence mathematically chaotic system. To say any one factor triggered their collapse is probably incorrect.

  26. So the decrease in population must have caused the climate change.
    Less population meant less cooking fires, thus less CO2. The drop in human CO2 production caused the climate to change to colder, wetter conditions.
    See the study is just more proof that human produced CO2 controls climate.

  27. Despite the investigations of rainfall in the article, two other facts are known about the end of the Bronze Age: The Sea People and their land-based associates like the Dorians devastated the eastern Mediterranean and likely the Black Sea cities, too. Why were the Sea People on the move? Persistent drought resulted in large portions of the population being sent off to other colonies. The Lydians are on record as sending off half of their people due to crop failures, and the Etruscans have been shown to be Hittites. So it rained heavily after 800BCE, but the scientists should look for signs of drought before that in eastern Europe, possibly causing massive migrations down the Danube and Volga.

    • I have long thought that the Dorian invasion of Greece that ended the Mycenaean era coincides nicely with the end of the bronze age and the discovery of a new and better material for making weapons, and the inevitable result for those whose technology was a little behind the times.

    • Most of that is fine… but… The Etruscan language is dramatically different from Hittite. Hittite is a direct and understandable Indo-European sort and reasonably attested. Etruscan is perhaps an isolate, or perhaps related to the language of Lemnos. It is an agglutinative language and attempts have been made to put it into a family (one named Tyrsenian another Raetic. While it MAY have originated from Anatolia, it just isn’t the same as Hittite. Neighbors perhaps, but not family…
      The general thesis, though, is ‘spot on’. When it gets too wet in N. Europe it tends to drought in the Levant. It isn’t just “rain everywhere” or “drought everywhere”. They need to be looking for migrations from both causes.

  28. I’m sure that the Bronze Age ended because they found something better. The Iron Age replaced it around 1200BC. No other reason is required.
    Remember, the Stone Age didn’t end because they ran out of stones.

  29. the Etruscans have been shown to be Hittites

    That’s new to me. I know the Hittites left Turkey and went somewhere but I never heard they went to Italy and founded Veii.
    I’m not disputing the fact I just want to know more. Do you have a reference? This interests me.

      • Thanks.
        The article implies they came from the Lydian civilisation, not Hittite – but they are both Anatolian and the genetic markers would be similar. Interesting idea.
        The Etruscans introduced the Chariot to Italy – so that fits.

      • M Courtney – yes, the genetic connection should be ‘Anatolian’ rather than specifically one civilization like the Hittites or Lydians. I think I read somewhere else that (modern) Tuscans and Armenians have close haplotypes, and even their cattle are more closely related than to other cattle stock in central Europe.

    • Of course, it is a bit contentious. (We all know science is never settled.) Some haplotypes map to Germans, but that connection could be a much older one, shared through the neolithic farmers who entered Europe ~8000 BC from the near east.

  30. I think that, with all the bounty of the bronze age, they came up with a theory of global warming and acted on it …

  31. “We found clear evidence for a rapid change in climate to much wetter conditions, which we were able to precisely pinpoint to 750BC using statistical methods.”

    What a funny thing to say….

  32. “Their results, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that human activity starts to decline after 900BC, and falls rapidly after 800BC, indicating a population collapse. But the climate records show that colder, wetter conditions didn’t occur until around two generations later.”
    The Late Bronze Age collapse was ~300 years earlier:

    • And the wetter conditions from around ~750 BC at the end of the Greek Dark Ages would have been a relief, not a cause for a population collapse.

    • You are correct. I was going to comment, but glad you already did.
      The BAC occurred in the eastern Med and Mesopotamia, c. 1180 BC, so the period Bradford U studied in Ireland was indeed centuries later.
      IMO the lowered demand for bronze after the BAC would have severely impacted the economy of the British Isles, so dependent on the copper and tin trade.

      • About the Bronze Age collapse being around 1200 BC agreed, but I skipped parts of the article and failed to see that the study was based in Ireland, thanks for pointing that out. So the ~750 BC wet event would then more likely be a separate cold period.

      • Yes, which is why I wouldn’t rule out a climatic component to the core collapse, since the classic BAC occurred far away and centuries previously. The end of the so-called “Minoan” Warm Period actually fits fairly nicely. That Warm Period IMO is not well named, since the Minoan Civilization was earlier, roughly 2700 to 1450 BC.
        The study involves non-archaeologists and non-historians evaluating evidence which is far from as precise as they suppose to explain a cultural phenomenon on the fringe of then European civilization that was first identified far away in both space and time.
        But by the standards of “climate science”, the paper isn’t all that bad, IMO.

      • It was precisely during what they call the Minoan Warm Period in the GISP series, the northern Frigid zone warmed as the northern Temperate zone cooled.

  33. University of Bradford. Ha, ha, ha.
    In Bradford, they teach students that the Sun sets into a muddy pool, that winged horses can fly (especially at night), and that Darwinism is the work of the devil. And if you do not know the reason for this, you should take a great interest in contemporary society.
    I would not trust any research that comes out of Bradford.

  34. Interesting conclusion – at least 2 generations later. Hmmmm, that would be about 30 to 35 years, I would guess, since it would have been about the age of 15 when the next generation would start. It is nice to know that they have so finely calibrated their proxies that they can actually be so certain of events that happen merely 30 years apart from 3000 years later. Mind if I don’t actually accept the calibrated proxies since they can’t decide what temperatures to calibrate them against to start with? It is always nice to see “scientists” using guesswork as facts.
    A comment was made about unlearning history. Yes, it truly IS hard to learn from history since it changes on a virtual daily basis based on virtual facts. I now understand why we keep doing the same things over and over – like devastating wars and spreading disease – since there appears to be no history to learn from in the first place, just an amorphous period of time that changes like a kaleidoscope as we look back at it.

  35. “precisely pinpoint to 750BC using statistical methods.”
    As others have ponted out, that’s a hoot and a half… An oxymoron of the first degree.
    More to the point, populations expand in warm good times. They reach the absolute carry capacity of the land. Then, at the inflection to cooler, the collapse begins. By the time the climate has fully swapped, you are into it 30 years (or more). Then eventually the population stabilizes at the lowest carry capacity of the cold non-productive phase. It starts to increase again at the inflection to warm and continues to increase to the peak. One can also have a similar cycle in temperate places based on dry (drying and dying) vs wet (growing and thriving) cycles. The cold / warm tends to dominate central to northern Europe, while the dry / wet cycle tends to dominate the Levant and into Egypt. Unfortunately, they often are in sync. Rain band moves north and central / northern Europe gets too cold and wet just as the Levant and Egypt get major drought….
    Attempting to capture that with a couple of proxies and statistics is madness…. They really ought to just read the history of the periods and places and leave making up fantasies to the archaeologists…

    • “precisely pinpoint to 750BC using statistical methods.”
      As others have ponted out, that’s a hoot and a half… An oxymoron of the first degree.
      I bet there was at least one computer involved …
      … so it must be accurate. (/sarc)

  36. “It may be these unstable social conditions, rather than climate change, that led to the population collapse at the end of the Bronze Age.”
    For some reason they were eager to replace a perfectly good explanation with a mystery.
    Some signal processing expert should look at what they’ve done with the radiocarbon dates. Probably they didn’t grasp the resolution constraints and worked with artefacts.

  37. Graeme Swindles, Associate Professor of Earth System Dynamics at the University of Leeds, added, “We found clear evidence for a rapid change in climate to much wetter conditions, which we were able to precisely pinpoint to 750BC using statistical methods.”

    No, Swindles, you did not pinpoint anything with statistical methods.
    However, Swindles, I do not think you will Curry favour with the Pope, no
    matter how bright a light you think you Shine, you are leading Mann down the wrong Alley, and you will end up Keeling over.
    All names are plagiarized from and are
    copyright their respective parents.
    I suppose I should point out (for the Americans), that I am attempting here the weakest and most despicable form of humour, for which I do expect to be duly PUNished.

  38. There is one other factor to bear in mind here that has not been mentioned. The Early Iron Age fall in population corresponds with the calibration of C14. This was devised as a sop to Egyptologists who would not accept C14 methodology as it consistently came up with Egyptian dates that were too early according to their carefully worked out chronology. These dates were between a 100 and 200 years too early and were rejected by Egyptologists and a large body of academic historians. Universities had invested a lot of money in C14 laboratories and they came up with the calibration method to shut them up, or that is how it panned out as all of a sudden historians started to accept C14 dates and there was never a glimmer of opposition. Now and again something goes wrong. For example, the destruction of Assyrian Nineveh by the Medes is well known. It occurred around 610BC. However, calibrated C14 dates came up 150 years earlier. Mainstream always finds excuses and this was put down to a high fish diet. That sounds fishy but this was the mainstream response. In other words, raw C14 dates may be more reliable and Egyptian dates may need to tumble by 150 years and there may have never been a drastic drop in population in Early Iron Age Europe. If dating methodology has created a dark age, or a phantom century or two, there would be no evidence of human activity. One solution to think about

    • Very interesting. It is reminiscent of Firestone’s ideas about the decline of the megafauna in North America. the Lesser Dryas being due to calibration jump in the Carbon dating – jumping us straight back into the a previous cold period.
      In this case the argument is that the C14 was always s right and the calibration was wrong. But where did the Pharaohs go? Anarchy or forgotten Pharaohs who aren’t recorded?
      It should be possible to calibrate on alexander’s time. we have good records from then and that’s over 2000 years ago.

    • Carol says, “Egyptologists who would not accept C14 methodology as it consistently came up with Egyptian dates that were too early according to their carefully worked out chronology. These dates were between a 100 and 200 years too early and were rejected by Egyptologists and a large body of academic historians.”
      The dates in the ancient world set by early historians were syncronized with Egyptian dates. So errors in Egyptology are deeply built into all other histories.
      The same problem appears with the Etruscans. I have 20 books on the subject, and though few mention it, the Etruscan dates are all calibrated to Greek history. But this guarantees that Etruscans are always “borrowing” and copying Greek material. It is a kind of circular logic. For example, the alphabet was originally developed by the Phoenicians and adapted by the Greeks. Historians say the Etruscans borrowed it from the Greeks and gave it to the Latins. (Often they omit the fact that the alphabet came from the Phoenicians.) But as the Etruscans were great sea farers, traders, and probably from Anatolia, there is no reason to assume that there was a Greek intermediary; they would have simply adapted it themselves. Here is an Etruscan ink well:
      So anyway the circular way things are dated always favor Egypt and Greece, two obsessions of the Enlightenment.

  39. The Wiki article is to do with the collapse of the LB in the Aegean and western Asia (and possibly coincides with end of Shang in China etc). The article concerned is the end of LB in Europe which is somewhat later and dated between 800 and 600BC. Archaeological terms date differently from region to region. In the west and central parts of Europe Iron technology came after Iron technology in western Asia although there is good evidence the Hittites used iron before the Iron Age proper. Meteoric iron was used all the way back to the Neolithic but of course had a limited use so the use of the term is somewhat confusing. In archaeological contexts it is a term used to date different strata. Whereas bronze artifacts were often ceremonial or solely used by the elites, iron differed in that it was quickly employed by farmers and bloomeries crop up even in the most remote of places. The Americans introduced mass production to the world and the Iron Age was similar in that the use of flint and stone completely went out of fashion (as one obvious example) although wood was still employed as handles and ornament etc. C14 plateaus occur at various points in the past and this was one of the reasons given for inventing the calibration method – but why would it concern just the one plateau and ignore all the others. There was even a plateau event in the 14th century AD (which is very recent) described in Mike Baillie’s book on climate and the black death. Over time these plateaus appear to flatten out as C14 between plateaus appears to adjust to normal conditions – and yes the Younger Dryas does involve a long plateau event. I don’t know how that affects the length of the Younger Dryas – if at all.

  40. Sorry I didn’t see this sooner. Regarding all this amateurish denial of a real David and Solomon, we do have Edomite sources within OT itself: Gen 36:
    31. Now these are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the sons of Israel.
    32. Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom, and the name of his city was Dinhabah.
    33. Then Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah became king in his place.
    34. Then Jobab died, and Husham of the land of the Temanites became king in his place.
    35. Then Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the field of Moab, became king in his place; and the name of his city was Avith.
    36. Then Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah became king in his place.
    37. Then Samlah died, and Shaul of Rehoboth on the Euphrates River became king in his place.
    38. Then Shaul died, and Baal-hanan the son of Achbor became king in his place.
    39. Then Baal-hanan the son of Achbor died, and Hadar became king in his place; and the name of his city was Pau; and his wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, daughter of Mezahab.
    Interpretation: “Israel” refers to the Northern Kingdom independent of Judea, which conquered Edom under David. That is, this is a list of Edomite rulers before Jeroboam declared independence. Accordingly this list includes at least two kings who ruled over Edom from the vicinity of Judea: Saul and David. Of particular interest are Samla, Shaul, and Baal-hanan. Samla is Samuel, Shaul is Saul, and Baal-hanan is David. David’s real name went the way of Baal worship itself; where Yahweh and Baal could bear no equation Baal names could not persist. At 2 Samuel 21:19 it is Elhanan rather than Baal-hanan who kills Goliath, and this is not to be taken as evidence that David was not the original hero, but evidence that Baal had fallen out of the pantheon by the time the legend was written down: Baal-hanan was changed to Elhanan because Baal became associated with Canaanite worship. But that David and his clan were once unashamed of Baal worship (whether or not it was synonymous with YHWH worship) is seen at 2 Samuel 5:20 where the place name Baal Peratsim is credited to David (Baal-hanan).
    There is considerable variation between the two strands of Davidic legend preserved in Samuel, apparently due to independent transmission within the two kingdoms before and after their division. But much of what the two strands have in common is reliable even if they do not preserve David’s lately pagan name. We are not certain David was a Yahweh worshiper and Psalmist but if he was one he was the other. He certainly did exist, for which the Edomites hated him, and rebelled against his successor Solomon. –AGF

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