Truth behind fall of Byzantine city unearthed from 1,500 year old garbage dump

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-27 13:20:05|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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WASHINGTON, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Based on the study of an ancient garbage dump, archaeologists recently offered a new explaination to the fall of a once prosperous city of Eastern Roman (Byzantine) empire.

As the researchers took a closer look at the municipal garbage dumps of Elusa, once a wine production hub of the empire, they realized the downfall of the city was caused by a quick and deadly climate change brought about by a succession of distant volcanic eruptions.

Their findings, which was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, contradict earlier beliefs that the city declined with the rise of the Ottoman Empire. Elusa lies in today's Negev desert in Israel.

Trash in the ancient city stopped building up in the middle of the sixth century, earlier than the period when the empire lost control of the region, but coincides with records of rapid climate changes, according to researchers led by Guy Bar-Oz, a professor of archaeology at the University of Haifa.

Unlike the architecture of an ancient city, which could be repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, landfills steadily accumulated over time, creating continuous records of human activity. Clues found in preserved garbage dumps could thereby reveal if a city was thriving or in trouble.

"For me, it was clear that the true gold mine of data about daily life and what urban existence in the past really looked like, was in the garbage," Bar-Oz told local media.