"1,500-year-old garbage dumps reveal city’s surprising collapse"

"Some 1,500 years ago, the city of Elusa was thriving on the southern edge of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) empire, in what is now Israel’s Negev desert. The city of up to 20,000 residents featured a theater and public baths, churches and craft workshops, and innovative water management systems that enabled Elusa’s citizens to cultivate their most famous export: Gaza wine, a prized white vintage that was shipped across the Mediterranean to ports as far as France.Within two centuries, however, the Byzantine city of Elusa (also known as Haluza) had collapsed, leaving behind ancient buildings picked apart by later generations or simply buried beneath shifting sand dunes."

It was thought that the arrival of Islam with its prohibition of alcoholic drinks was the culprit, but that appears not to be the case.

"The end of trash management at Elusa does, however, correlates with new developments in climate science, which show that the middle of the sixth century was actually a horrible time to be alive in most of Europe and Asia.

In 2016, a group of scientists led by Ulf Büntgen, a professor of environmental systems analysis at the University of Cambridge, defined an overlooked periodof rapid climate change: the Late Antique Little Ice Age, which lasted from 536 to about 660.

By looking at tree ring data and particles trapped in ice cores, Büntgen and his colleagues found that a cluster of volcanic eruptions—in 536, 540 and 547—blotted out the sun and triggered an exceptionally cold period in the northern hemisphere. (Scientists have yet to pinpoint the location of the volcanoes that erupted in those years; last year a group of researchers claimed that the 536 blast may have occurred in Iceland.) Food shortages and famine followed.

The researchers suggested that the climate events may also be associated with major social changes that started in the middle of the sixth century, from the expansion of Slavic populations west into much of continental Europe, to the collapse of the eastern Turk Empire in northeast Asia. The Late Antique Little Ice Age may have also facilitated the world’s first recorded pandemic outbreak of the bubonic plague, known as the Plague of Justinian, which spread throughout the Mediterranean beginning in 541."