Ancient Climate by Israel Finkelstein


I strongly believe that the two, possibly the two most important questions for future research regarding biblical history (the Iron Age) have to do with demography—populations on one side (and this can be resolved maybe by future DNA studies, ancient DNA studies)—and the climate. 

There has been a big debate in the last thirty, forty years, whether the climate of the last 5,000 years was stable or not.  There was one camp saying there was no change in the last 5,000 years.  Another camp said well, there were. 

We are now aware, I think, all of us, of the fact that there were changes, in the last 5,000 years, and the question is, first of all, how to identify them and secondly, how to date them.  And then, if you have evidence for climate, it helps tremendously to reconstruct history. And we have had a major achievement in the last few months. An article which Dafna Langgut, my colleague and I, and Thomas Litt from Bonn, University of Bonn in Germany, published an article on climate change at the end of the late Bronze Age, in which we show—we provide evidence, clear evidence that comes from palynology, looking at the pollen record of, in the sediments that we extracted from the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.  From the pollen record, we can identify a major crisis at the end of the late Bronze Age, which has to do probably with the collapse of the Bronze Age civilizations. 

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The power of what we are doing is that we work in unprecedented resolution, first of all, which means before us there were pollen studies but the resolution of a sample every two hundred years for instance. We are working in a resolution of twenty-five years.  And secondly, we have a very robust program of radiocarbon dating the cores that we extract from the bottom of the sea.


Israel Finkelstein

Israel Finkelstein
Professor, Tel Aviv University

Israel Finkelstein is professor of archaeology in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations at Tel Aviv University. He directs the Megiddo expedition and is co-director of the European research project “Reconstructing Ancient Israel: The Exact and Life Sciences Perspective.” He is the author of numerous publications, including The Forgotten Kingdom: The Archaeology and History of Northern Israel (SBL, 2013).

The stage of development during which humans used copper or bronze weapons; in the ancient Near East, approx. 3300 to 1200 B.C.E.

The stage of development during which humans used iron weapons; in the ancient Near East, approx. 1200 to 500 B.C.E.

The last part of the era during which humans used bronze weapons; in the ancient Near East, approx. 1550 to 1200 B.C.E.

The use of the molecular decay of carbon-12 and carbon-14 isotopes in an organic object, which happens at a predictable rate over time, to determine the date of that object.

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