Friday, June 17, 2022

Did the Jewish Kingdom of Himyar succumb to drought?

STALAGMITE STUDY: Megadrought Contributed to Fall of Jewish Kingdom in Arabia, Rise of Islam, Study Suggests (Ariel David, Haaretz).
Around 1,500 years ago, southern Arabia was hit by a multi-decade megadrought, a new study of ancient climate data has found. This likely contributed to the downfall of a once powerful Jewish kingdom that ruled over large swaths of what is today Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

The demise of the ancient kingdom of Himyar in the sixth century and the ensuing power vacuum in Arabia may have then favored the rise and expansion of Islam throughout the region less than a hundred years later, suggests the paper published Thursday in Science.


The underlying Science article by Dominik Fleitman et al. is behind a subscription wall: Droughts and societal change: The environmental context for the emergence of Islam in late Antique Arabia.

In Arabia, the first half of the sixth century CE was marked by the demise of Himyar, the dominant power in Arabia until 525 CE. Important social and political changes followed, which promoted the disintegration of the major Arabian polities. Here, we present hydroclimate records from around Southern Arabia, including a new high-resolution stalagmite record from northern Oman. These records clearly indicate unprecedented droughts during the sixth century CE, with the most severe aridity persisting between ~500 and 530 CE. We suggest that such droughts undermined the resilience of Himyar and thereby contributed to the societal changes from which Islam emerged.

For more on the late-antique Kingdom of Himyar, see here and links and here.

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