Did ancient Egypt suffer from climate change?


Share post:

New details have emerged of a previously unknown queen of ancient Egypt — and if the professor behind the find is correct, it could be bad news for the rest of us.

Did ancient Egypt suffer from climate change?
Archaeologists recently unearthed the 4,600-year-old tomb of Khentkaus III – a queen of the Old Kingdom – in a necropolis 
of Abu-sir, southwest of Cairo. Now one expert believes the grave could reveal the kingdom was facing similar 
problems to our own, in the form of political unrest and climate change [Credit: EPA]

Reports surfaced in November of the tomb of Khentkaus III, a queen in the era of the Old Kingdom (2649–2150 BC). Discovered in a necropolis in Abusir, southwest of Cairo, she lay 650 feet away from her husband, Pharaoh Neferefre (also known as Reneferef), who ruled some 4,500 years ago.

The find helps color what project leader Professor Miroslav Barta calls “a black patch in the history of the Old Kingdom.” Despite holding the epithet “Queen Mother” — known thanks to graffiti scrawled on the wall of her final resting place — Neferefre’s principal wife was hitherto unknown.

As the team from the Czech Institute of Egyptology begin the long process of analyzing the contents of the tomb, Barta believes it may offer insights into a time not dissimilar from our own — and from which disaster struck and ruin ensued.

Inside the mummy’s tomb

Alongside human remains, archaeologists discovered pottery, woodwork, copper and animal bones — “her funerary repast,” explains Barta. These items, including the anthropological evidence in the human bones, could offer clues about her life.

Did ancient Egypt suffer from climate change?
A view from above looking down into the tomb of Khentkaus III [Credit: EPA]

“The scientific potential is rather huge,” suggests Barta when describing the contents of the tomb.

Carbon dating can help predict the age of the queen, if she suffered from any physical ailments and, depending on the condition of the pelvis, how many children she bore. A three-dimensional facial reconstruction will be “extremely difficult, if not impossible,” however, due to the body’s smashed skull, likely a result of tomb raiders.

A doomsday prediction?

Barta estimates it will take two years to make a full analysis of the tomb’s contents, but he’s optimistic it will provide a wealth of new information for Egyptologists.

Already, though, he notes some similarities between the world Khentkaus occupied and our own.

Professor Barta says that from the find, pottery is among the most important due to its “chronological sensitivity.”

Did ancient Egypt suffer from climate change?
The tomb of Khentkaus III contained about 30 utensils, 24 of which were made from limestone. These artefacts, including 
her bones, could offer clues about the queen’s life, death and the environment she lived in [Credit: EPA]

“(It was) a crucial period when the Old Kingdom started to face major critical factors: The rise of democracy, the horrific impact of nepotism and the role played by interest groups,” he says, adding that climate change also played a role in bringing an end to not only the Old Kingdom empire, but those in the Middle East and Western Europe at that time.

Within 200 years of the Queen Mother’s death, the Nile no longer flooded and drought consumed the kingdom.

“(This) contributed to the disintegration of the era of the pyramid builders,” Barta explains. “Without reasonable floods, there were no reasonable harvests and therefore very bad taxes; without appropriate taxes there were no sufficient means to finance the state apparatus and maintain the ideology and integrity of the state.”

The find is both a historical echo and a warning, suggests the project leader.

“You can find many paths to our modern world, which is also facing many internal and external challenges,” he argues. “By studying the past you can learn much more about the present. We’re not different [from them]. People always think ‘this time it’s different,’ and that ‘we’re different’. We are not.”

So are we too on the brink of disaster? It’s possible, says Barta. But with the findings, and hopefully the lessons we can learn from Khentkaus’ tomb, he hopes we can take another path.

“If we accept collapse as a fact, we will understand collapses as being a part of the natural course of things, and one of the needed steps in the process leading towards ‘resurrection,'” he argues.

“Then, we shall be able to do something about it.”

Author: Thomas Page | Source: CNN [February 02, 2016]



Related articles

Prehistoric structure in Golan Heights fuels mystery

Driving past it, one of the most mysterious structures in the Middle East is easy to miss. The...

On the origins of money: Ancient European hoards full of standardized bronze objects

In the Early Bronze Age of Europe, ancient people used bronze objects as an early form of money,...

Ancient Egyptians wore socks, arm warmers and even underwear!

Egyptologists and archaeologists specialising in Egypt do not often talk about the clothes worn by ancient Egyptians. This...

Mysterious holes drilled in Sudanese rocks supported makeshift shelters

Archaeologists believe they have deciphered the purpose of man-made holes drilled in rocks on the west bank of...

Unearthing the little-known ancient theatres of Greece’s Epirus region

Greece's Epirus region hosts 5 of the country's most important ancient theatres. Some are famous, but others little-known....

1,000 year old Viking toilet uncovered in Denmark

In a Viking settlement on Stevns in Denmark, archaeologists have excavated a two metre deep hole. But it...

Was North America populated by ‘stepping stone’ migration across Bering Sea?

For thousands of years during the last ice age, generations of maritime migrants paddled skin boats eastward across...

3,000-year-old footprint found in eastern Turkey

An ancient human footprint belonging to a civilization from 3,000 years ago has been uncovered at a castle...