AN ADVANCED civilisation that ruled large swathes of the Middle East 4,000 years ago may have been wiped out by a spot of bad weather.
The Akkadian Empire flourished during the Bronze Age and new evidence suggests their sudden demise was brought about by catastrophic dust storms.
These storms made it near-impossible to grow crops, triggering widespread famine, according to a group of researchers in Japan.
The Akkadian Empire ruled parts of ancient Mesopotamia in what is now Iraq and Syria from the 24th to 22nd Century BC.
Based in the ancient city of Akkad, the group rose to prominence through innovations in farming and irrigation.
However, they mysteriously abandoned their settlements around 4,200 years ago.
It’s thought that infighting and invasions from other empires contributed, and now it seems a brutal season of storms also played a part.
Scientists studied 4,100-year-old coral fossils in Tell Leilan in northeastern Syria, once the centre of the Akkadian Empire.
They showed a sudden and intense dry spell during the period just before the Akkadians disappeared.
Evidence of strong winds associated with dust storms were also found within the fossils.
The Akkadian Empire – key facts
Here’s what you need to know…
- The Akkadian Empire was the first ancient empire of Mesopotamia
- It was based in the ancient city of Akkad in what is now Syrria
- The empire ruled the city and surrounding region from the 22nd to 24th Century BC
- Some consider it to be the first true empire in world history
- It stretched from what is now Iraq and Syrria all the way to Jordan and perhaps even Cyprus
- It exelled in innovative farming and irrigation techniques
- The empire mysteriously vanished around 4,000 years ago
“Our fossil samples are windows in time showing that variations in climate significantly contributed to the empire’s decline,” said Dr Tsuyoshi Watanabe from Hokkaido University in Japan.
“Further interdisciplinary research will help improve our understanding of connections between climate changes and human societies in the past.”
He noted that the “official mark of the collapse” of the Akkadian Empire remained the invasion of Mesopotamia by other populations
Dust storms and dry weather would have led to problems growing crops, researchers said.
This would likely have sparked famine and social unrest.
“The abrupt intensification of surface winds would have caused aridification during winter in the Mesopotamia region,” researchers wrote in their study.
“Here the winter season is critical for agriculture even today.”
The research was published in the journal Geology.
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