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Egypt, the Old Kingdom collapsed about climate change?
New hypotheses cast doubt on theories about the end of the great pyramids.
The pyramid of Pepi II is now reduced to a heap of ruins: according to traditional theories of the so-called Old Kingdom would collapse soon after the death of this pharaoh around 2150 BC But now the Egyptologists are questioning this interpretation.
While in Paris was recently signed a new global agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, some archaeologists seem to reconsider the reasons for the fall of the Old Egyptian Kingdom, one of the most notorious cases in the antiquity of the dramatic effects that may cause changes climate.
For almost a millennium, without interruption, the Pharaohs had reigned over a rich and powerful country, building temples, palaces and above all the great pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, still symbols of the entire Egyptian civilization.
Prosperity of what was baptized Old Kingdom was essentially based on the periodic floods of the Nile, without which the fertile plains of Egypt would not be but a wilderness. Then suddenly, around 2200 BC – According to ancient texts – it would begin an inexorable decline, marked by invasions, epidemics and famines, serious enough to cause even cannibalism. Climate data collected and analyzed over the past decade, seem to confirm for the same period a period of prolonged drought: some historians this would be the main cause of the collapse.
A copper statue of Pharaoh Pepi I, one of the last kings of the Old Kingdom. His pyramid was plundered in the era of turmoil called First Intermediate Period.
But not all Egyptologists are convinced that the social and economic collapse of the Old Kingdom is attributable to drought. According to the theory most widely accepted today, the Old Kingdom did not collapse suddenly.
It is claimed that climate change would hit the country in different ways and times, and not always in a negative way. We have to take away from the head this idea of collapse. Throughout the last century, the idea that scholars had the so-called “First intermediate period” – the time including the end of the Old Kingdom and the beginning of the Middle – was based on a text, The Lamentations of Ipuwer, which tells of a society in turmoil, in which “the barley is over everywhere and the men were stripped of their garments, spices and oils.
Everybody says there is no one. The warehouse is empty and his guardian is lying on the ground. ” Ipuwer then complains that instead of an all-powerful pharaoh and wise there are plebeians to reign with boldness, throwing the whole country into chaos. The first version of this text appeared 800 years after the events. Another wrote tells of invasions by foreign peoples, but even that would be composed of at least 600 years later. That’s why many Egyptologists believe that these other texts which are not written propaganda in support of the power of the pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom, that with these dramatic narratives tried to warn his subjects about the possible consequences of the lack of a strong central government control.
A theme that still seems to echo today in modern Egypt. The Egyptians were were very fascinated by the concept of collapse. But these texts do not seem to tell true events. No doubt the last years of the Old Kingdom were marked by the economic and political decline, and perhaps changes in the course of the Nile influenced equally negatively. For at least two centuries they were not built temples or pyramids. The tomb paintings and inscriptions describe a more arid environment, with the desert ever closer to the river banks.
Climate data obtained from the study of the Nile Basin sediments indicate that around 2,200 BC the climate began to dry up. The drought manifested itself gradually, allowing the company to adapt without serious consequences. The center of power slowly shifted from the capital, Menfi, and the pharaoh to provincial leaders. Perhaps local officials responding to the crisis more quickly and more effectively than the sovereign away. We need to focus more on the role of the environment in the history of Egyptian civilization, but we need more data.
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