Comparative Stratigraphy of Bronze Age Destruction Layers around the World: Archaeological Evidence and Methodological Problems

Abstract of talk by Benny J Peiser

Liverpool John Moores University, School of Human Sciences, Byrom Street, Liverpool L3 3AF, UK. e-mail: B.J.Peiser[at]
Presented at the SIS Conference: Natural Catastrophes during Bronze Age Civilisations (11th-13th July 1997)

During the last two decades, researchers have found evidence for abrupt climate change and civilisation collapse as well as sudden sea level changes, catastrophic inundations, widespread seismic activity and abrupt changes in glacial features at around 2200±200 BC. Climatological proxy data together with sudden changes in lacustrine, fluvial and aeolian deposits are clearly detectable at the Atlantic-Subboreal boundary in the archaeological, geological and dendrochronological records from around the world. A survey of ~500 excavation reports, research papers and scientific abstracts on late 3rd Millennium BC civilisation collapse and climate change was carried out in order to assess i) the nature, ii) the extent and iii) the chronology of sudden climatic and social downturns at this particular chronozone. This comparative study shows a significant pattern of abrupt glacial, eustatic, lacustrine, fluvial, pedological and geomorphic changes at around 4250±250 cal BP in many areas around the world. In addition, the majority of sites and cities (>1000) of the first urban civilisations in Asia, Africa and Europe appear to have collapsed at around the same time. Most sites in Greece (~260), Anatolia (~350), the Levant (~200), Mesopotamia (~30), the Indian subcontinent (~230), China (~20), Persia/Afghanistan (~50), Iberia (~70) which collapsed at around 2200±200 BC, exhibit unambiguous signs of natural calamities and/or rapid abandonment. The proxy data detected in the marine, terrestrial, biological and archaeological records point to sudden ecological, climatic and social upheavals which appears to coincide with simultaneous sea- and lake level changes, increased levels of seismic activity and widespread flood/tsunami disasters. The main problem in interconnecting this vast amount of data chronologically is the application of incoherent and imprecise dating methods in different areas of geological and climatological research. It is hypothesised that the globally detected evidence for sudden downturns at the Atlantic-Subboreal boundary is chronologically interconnected and that chronological diviations are mainly due to imprecise dating methods. Neither a seismic nor a climatic explanation for these significant natural and social disasters appear capable to account for the diversity of ecological alterations and great variety of damage features as well as the global extent of these events. Extra-terrestrial bodies, on the other hand, depending on their cometary constitution and their cohesive strength, can have catastrophic effects on the ecological system in a variety of patterns which match the glaciological, geological and archaeological features documented in this study.

BENNY J PEISER was born in Israel and educated in West Germany. He is a historian and anthropologist with particular research interest in neo-catastrophism and its implications for human and societal evolution. Benny is a senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University and has been researching, writing and lecturing about neo-catastrophism in the fields of ancient history, archaeology, cultural anthropology (and the origins of ancient combat sports) since 1987. He has presented and published numerous papers on the historical, intellectual and cultural implications of neo-catastrophism. He is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society and is the editor of The Sports Historian, the journal of the British Society of Sports History.