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Sci Adv. 2019 Nov 13;5(11):eaax6656. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aax6656. eCollection 2019 Nov.

Role of climate in the rise and fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

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Department of Earth Science, California State University, Dominguez Hills, Carson, CA, USA.
Institute of Global Environmental Change, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, China.
School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.
Mitre Corporation, McLean, VA, USA.
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA.
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL, USA.
Department of History, Social Sciences University of Ankara, Ankara, Turkey.
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Northern Iraq was the political and economic center of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (c. 912 to 609 BCE)-the largest and most powerful empire of its time. After more than two centuries of regional dominance, the Neo-Assyrian state plummeted from its zenith (c. 670 BCE) to complete political collapse (c. 615 to 609 BCE). Earlier explanations for the Assyrian collapse focused on the roles of internal politico-economic conflicts, territorial overextension, and military defeat. Here, we present a high-resolution and precisely dated speleothem record of climate change from the Kuna Ba cave in northern Iraq, which suggests that the empire's rise occurred during a two-centuries-long interval of anomalously wet climate in the context of the past 4000 years, while megadroughts during the early-mid seventh century BCE, as severe as recent droughts in the region but lasting for decades, triggered a decline in Assyria's agrarian productivity and thus contributed to its eventual political and economic collapse.

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