Eco-ruin caused the fall of Bronze Age Argaric civilisation

November 15th, 2007 - 5:49 pm ICT by admin  

London, November 15 (ANI): A new study has suggests that the fall of the Bronze Age Argaric people in south-east Spain, Europe’s driest area, was caused by the exhaustion of precious natural resources resulting from the early civilisation.

The researchers behind the study say that data provides evidence for cultural collapse in ancient times caused by humans meddling with the environment.

They have revealed that their findings are based on pollen preserved in a peat deposit located in the mountains of eastern Andalucia, Spain.

During the study, a sediment core from the Canada del Gitano basin high up in Andalucia’s Sierra de Baza region was drilled.

The researchers say that studying the abundances of different pollen types and other indicators preserved in sedimentary deposits may help understand what kind of vegetation covered the area in ancient times.

By compiling a pollen sequence to see how vegetation changed over thousands of years, the researchers can obtain clues to how human settlement and climate affected ecosystems.

The Argaric culture, which emerged in south-eastern Spain 4,300 years ago, was one of the first in Western Europe to adopt bronze working. The ancient civilisation inhabited small, fortified towns.

However, according to the archaeological record, the culture mysteriously vanished about 3,600 years ago.

“Archaeologists are convinced that something happened in the ecological structure of the area just prior to the collapse of the Argaric culture. But we previously lacked a high-resolution record to support this,” the BBC quoted Professor Jose Carrion of the University of Murcia as saying.

The study of the pollen sequence revealed significant amounts of charcoal about 4,200 years ago, just after the Argaric civilisation emerged. The authors say that this is a sign that Bronze Age people were setting fires to clear the forests for mining activities and grazing.

According to the study, the diverse forest ecosystem disappeared and was replaced by monotonous and fire-prone Mediterranean scrub about 3,900 years ago.

The researchers reckon that this ecological transformation might have taken place in little more than a decade. About 300 years after this transformation, the Argaric civilisation disappeared, they add.

Professor Carrion also acknowledges that climate played a part in bringing the Argaric civilisation to an end. He says that the conditions started to become progressively arid from about 5,500 years ago onwards, with forest cover and lake levels reducing significantly and plants adapting to dry conditions.

He, however, added: “The climatic influence began millennia prior to the appearance of the Argaric culture. It’s not critical to the change in the landscape we see about 3,900-3,800 years ago. What appears to be critical is the evidence of burning, which in our opinion is man-made.”

The findings were presented at the recent Climate and Humans conference in Murcia, Spain, and appear in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews. (ANI)

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