Re: Sea Level and the Entry of Greek.

From: John Croft
Message: 3368
Date: 2000-08-23

Mark wrote
> Mainland Greece, it seems, was depopulated until the start of the
European Bronze Age. So. The model is one of immigration rather than
> --start quote--
> The sequence and material just summarized are consistent with an
almost complete gap in occupation in the mainland of Greece from ca.
3800-3200 B.C. ... Hence, on the present evidence, we may reasonably
suppose that the EBA inhabitants of Greece were immigrants who upon
their arrival enountered an almost completely depopulated land ...
> What might have caused such a depopulation in Greece? The rise in
global sea level may have played a significant part. As summarized
recently by Lambeck (1996), coastal sites in the Aegean would have
lost considerable arable land and this would have caused dislocation
and strife .... A relevant example is Halai in Lokris, which was
abandoned early in the Late Neolithic after losing much of its best
land to the encroaching sea ..
> --end quote--
> --John E. Coleman, "An Archaeological Scenario for the "Coming of
the Greeks" ca. 3200", Journal of Indo-European Studies, Spring-
Summer 2000, p. 131.
> Coleman gives some sources for this:
> K. Lambeck, "Sea-level Change and Shore-line Evolution in Aegean
Greece since Upper Palaeolithic Time", Antiquity, 70 (1996), 588-611.
> J.E. Coleman et al, "Halai", 1992-1994, Hesperia 68 (1999), 285-341.
> I don't have access to either of these journals.
> This is the first serious, learned reference to sea-level rise and
its impact on humans, tho' such things have been whispered here and
there on the net.
> Sea-level, so I've read, reached modern levels about 3200 BCE.
There may have been a pulse where it was even higher than today,
perhaps as much as five feet (I would like to document this
statement, but cannot; it's stuff I've read over the years). With
3200, we are at the advent of the Corded Ware Culture.
> This is also about the time the glacier that entombed Otzi, the
IceMan advanced over his body -- and did not retreat back until the
past decade or so. The climate got cooler.
> Sea level rises would have also affected the Black Sea, tho' not
quite so catastrophically as the transgression of 5500. This is the
time the Ezero culture manifests itself in Bulgaria; this culture the
Troad is dependant on.
> Obviously, the Baltic and North Seas rose too. Peoples would have
retreated southwards, or in Scandinavia, to the north.
> 3200 is also a commonly-cited date for the breakup of PIE.
> Fascinating stuff.

3,200 BCE is also roughly the period of the Early Dynastic stories of
the Flood of the Gilgamesh Epic, associated with the king of the 5th
Dynasty of the Sumerian King List - Utunapishtim. From 5,500 BCE to
3,200 BCE according to the latest evidence I have seen seas were up
to 5 metres higher than they have been in the recent past. This was
the "Atlantic Phase" of post glacial climates when temperatures were
significantly warmer than they have been any time since (except for
with the current anthropogenic global warming).

Sea levels began to fall after 3,200 causing coastlines to retreat.
This is found in "perched" or "benchline beaches" around the world,
in the emergence of the Fens in Norfolk and the Polders in Holland,
together with the appearance of land once under water on major river
deltas (Mesopotamia, Mississippi etc). The change in levels seems to
have been largely due to the final dissappearance of the small Fenno
Sacndian glacier, and the disappearance of the remnant Labrador and
North Western Laurentide glaciers, together with thermal expansion of
the oceans.

The cooling that followed, and the retreat of beaches that occurred
as sea levels fell, saw a worsening of conditions across Northern
Eurasia. The response was

1. a reversal of movements of people from the south to the north that
had been occurring for millennia.
2. adaptation of cultures that didn't move for conditions of greater

The first saw northerners appearing in the Mediterranean and the
Middle East. (I believe there is also evidence of Northerners in
China also at the time but my knowledge is more shaky there -
Guillaume, a ton avis?).

The second saw the development of cultural adaptations of kayaks,
skis and dog-sleds that opened up the Arctic Sea to Siberian Whale
Hunters, and to the second wave of Innuit settlement in the area.

In the Middle East and Sahara, 3,200 was a period in which climates
began to dry. From 4,000 BCE for instance Lake Chad was up to 60
metres deep and there were 4 other major Saharan lakes. By 2,000 BCE
these had all gone and Lake Chad was at its current level. In 2,000
BCE (during the reign of Pharaoh Unas, as the Nilometer records
show,) for a number of years the Nile itself was reduced to a line of
puddles. 3,200 was the beginning of the end of the Nilo-Saharan
catfish fisher folk and their wavy lined pottery cultures.
Henceforth they retreated southwards into the areas where Nilo-
Saharan languages are spoken today.

The increasing desertification also had major effects in other
places. Firstly it increased dependence upon irrigated crops, and
the centralised states capable of organising the corvee of canal
giggers (Egypt, the Indus and Sumer) were the only areas producing
food surpluses. These food surpluses gave these irrigation areas
strategic pre-eminence in long distance trade networks, so that lapis
lazuli from Badakhshan in Afghanistan found its way to Egypt, and
Mozambiquean tree resins are found in Akkadian tombs.

Secondly it increased te shift in marginal areas from a dependence
upon cropping to a dependence on Animal husbandry. This peaked in
the year 2,000 (the height of the dry spell) with the appearance of
tent dwelling Amurru (Amorites), speaking a West Semitic language,
throughout Mesopotamia. Amorite kingdoms brought the end to Sumerian
as a spoken language, and when climates began to improve after 2,000
BCE, not only do we find Indo-Europeans throughout the whole of
Europe and the steppe, but we also find the reappearance of Amorite
Empires of Shamshi Adad and Hamurabi in Mesopotamia.

The understanding of global climate change and its impacts upon human
history with the International Panel on Climate Change, is at long
last coming out of the closet to become respectable science again.